Cadbury in Easter egg row after Church of England accuses it of ‘airbrushing faith’

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has criticized a charity for allegedly downplaying references to Easter for seasonal egg hunts as being "absolutely ridiculous."

The National Trust, which works to preserve landscapes and buildings in the U.K., has a partnership with Mondelez-owned Cadbury to run chocolate Easter egg hunts on its land. A logo promoting the events features a white rabbit and purple egg with the words "Join the Cadbury egg hunt," and a website states: "Join us over the Easter holidays to run through muddy woodlands, around mystical lakes and along nature trails on a Cadbury Egg Hunt."

But this year Cadbury has been accused by a senior member of the Church of England of dropping "Easter" from communication about the egg hunts, something the National Trust and Cadbury have denied.

An online image promoting the Cadbury egg hunt at National Trust properties
Cadbury | National Trust
An online image promoting the Cadbury egg hunt at National Trust properties

Speaking to ITV News this morning Prime Minister May said: "I think the stance they've taken is absolutely ridiculous and I don't know what they're thinking about.

"Easter's very important. It's important to me, it's a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world.

"So I think what the National Trust is doing is frankly just ridiculous."

Her comments follow an accusation from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, that Cadbury has removed "Easter" from its Easter egg hunt.

"To drop Easter from Cadbury's Easter Egg Hunt in my book is tantamount to spitting on the grave of Cadbury," he said in an emailed statement. The Archbishop called founder John Cadbury, along with confectionery business owners Joseph Rowntree and Joseph Fry, the "trinity of chocolate," and a spokesperson for the Church of England added in an emailed statement:

"Alongside the Rowntrees and Frys, the Cadburys were motivated by their Christian faith to be champions of social reform. The connection between faith-based motivation and business was very clear for them.

"They stood out in their commitment to those they employed investing in the lives of their workers in building parks, leisure facilities and providing pensions.

"Their faith and their work were inseparable. This marketing campaign not only does a disservice to the Cadburys but also highlights the folly in airbrushing faith from Easter."

A branded jacket for an Easter egg trail at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, U.K.
National Trust Images | Robert Morris
A branded jacket for an Easter egg trail at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, U.K.

A National Trust spokesperson said in a statement on its website: "It's nonsense to suggest the National Trust is downplaying the significance of Easter. Nothing could be further from the truth. We host a huge programme of events, activities and walks to bring families together to celebrate this very special time of year.

"A casual glance at our website will see dozens of references to Easter throughout.

"Our Easter events include our partnership with Cadbury, which has been running Easter Egg Hunts with us for 10 years. They've proved consistently popular with our members and visitors. As part of its wider marketing activity at Easter, Cadbury will always lead on the branding and wording for its campaigns."

In an emailed statement, Cadbury said that it is "simply not true" that Easter does not feature in marketing or on its products, saying that it had used the word "Easter" for more than 100 years, and that it appeared on promotional materials, its website and on its chocolate eggs.

"Our Easter partnership with the National Trust is also synonymous with Easter, and we make it clear throughout materials that it is an egg hunt, for families, at Easter.

"We want to reassure consumers of our commitment to Easter, which is very prominent within our activity. We will continue to use 'Easter' prominently in our commercial campaigns as we do now and in the future."

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