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King’s Hawaiian, Now’s Your Time

With calls to boycott Martin’s potato rolls over contributions to a far-right politician, King’s Hawaiian rolls are about to become the hot buns of the summer

A bowl of slider buns on a kitchen counter King’s Hawaiian

Last month, Philadelphia publication Billy Penn reported that Jim Martin, the executive chair of Martin’s, the packaged bread company known for its potato rolls, had donated over $100,000 to far-right gubernatorial candidate and Pennsylvania senator Doug Mastriano. What are some of Trump-endorsed Mastriano’s favorite issues? No-exceptions abortion bans, 2020 election fraud, COVID vaccine denial, Christian nationalism. You get the gist. Cool.

As is typically the case when it comes to light that people with a lot of money are doing reprehensible things with that money, calls for boycotts of and disinvestments from Martin’s soon followed. Shake Shack, the burger business with over 250 locations, has been using Martin’s rolls since it opened nearly 20 years ago, and even with growing pressure from food media luminaries to stop serving its sandwiches on the potato rolls, Shake Shack has decided to stay out of it, saying in a statement: “We continue to be in active conversations with Martin’s to express our concern.” (Philadelphia-based Federal Donuts says “they are working on it.”)

Anyway, all of this is sure to result in at least one thing: Mastriano’s supporters buying even more Martin’s, weaponizing the boycotts in the opposite direction. (When beer baron Dick Yuengling endorsed Trump in 2016, he proudly declared that the resulting boycott did not hurt his sales. Remember that photo of Ivanka Trump holding a can of Goya beans next to her head? I could go on.) But while we wait for Mastriano devotees to react, summer barbecues are already starting. Many may be wondering: What are we supposed to do without potato rolls?

Might I suggest King’s Hawaiian?

King’s Hawaiian is a family-owned bakery business that’s been around since the 1950s — you probably know them best for their Hawaiian sweet rolls, which come fused together in grids of 12 displayed like a set of abs in bright orange packaging. King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls are divine complements to pulled pork sandwiches and ham-and-cheese sliders and pretty much any savory thing you want to throw on them. Last year, Guy Fieri became a spokesperson for King’s Hawaiian, and he makes cheesesteak and hamburger sliders in a commercial that promotes something he calls “Slider Sunday.” Slider Sunday, you say? Sounds pretty great. No notes.

On a recent research trip to my local grocery store, I picked up every kind of King’s Hawaiian roll I could find and compared them to the other name-brand roll companies. It’s no wonder King’s Hawaiian secured the mayor of Flavortown to promote its breads: unlike the overly tangy, ridiculously artificial taste of its competitors, the flavor of King’s Hawaiian buns rules. The texture is soft without sacrificing structure. And like most industrially-produced bread, one of the ingredients in King’s Hawaiian’s Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls is potato flour. So technically these are potato buns, too, no? No??

As King’s Hawaiian continues to expand its product line (which it will even more if we start subbing its buns for Martin’s at every barbecue this summer), I only have one request: King’s Hawaiian, can we get a regular, adult-sized hamburger bun? The brand currently sells an array of slider-and-roll-sized sweet buns, pretzel buns, sandwich bread, and rolls with a variety of savory options like jalapeno, but the only current choice for a regular hamburger bun is of the sweeter variety. Don’t get me wrong: I will be celebrating Slider Sunday with sweet Hawaiian slider rolls. But sometimes you want a big burger and a subtly flavored, butter-y, potato-y bun to go along with it. Now that Martin’s is out of the picture, King’s Hawaiian can take its rightful place in the... bun.