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Sainsbury's beats Heston in the 2013 Christmas mince pie test

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Sainsbury's has fought off competition from last year's winner Heston Blumenthal for the top spot in this year's mince pie taste test.


Mince pies from Sainsbury’s have triumphed in the 2013 lovemoney.com taste test, beating upmarket versions from Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

Last year’s winning pies from Heston Blumenthal, one of the most expensive pies included, plummeted to bottom place.

Morrisons, Asda and the Co-operative fought off tough competition and all placed in the top five when judged by the lovemoney.com team on filling, pastry and appearance.

Sainsbury's in first place

Sainsbury’s stormed to the top of the taste test table with a score of 183 out of a possible 320 with its Taste the Difference all-butter pies, priced at £2.50 for a pack of six.

Our testers were impressed with the traditional Christmas appearance, sweet and citrusy filling and the golden colour of the pastry. “This is a good version of the classics” said one tester, while another said the filling was “actually really interesting with hints of something extra such as marzipan or strawberries”.

It was followed by Morrisons in second place with 147 points and the Co-op and Asda in joint third with 145 points each.

Heston's pies fail to impress

For the past two years Heston Blumenthal’s mince pies for Waitrose took the winning spot in our taste test, but this year they placed last scoring a lowly 72 points.

We included the puff pastry variety, which won in 2011, but our testers were not impressed. The filling was criticised for being too boozy, but the majority of complaints were about the puff pastry. “I’m not a fan of this form, it’s wrong,” exclaimed one tester, while several others made reference to an unpleasant similarity to savoury sausage rolls.

One tester said: “I could hardly taste the filling because it felt like I was eating a disappointing sausage roll,” while another said: “The mincemeat struggled to overcome the bulky pastry.”

The test

This year we ploughed through eleven different varieties, giving each pie a score out of 10 for filling, pastry, appearance and what we thought of it overall.

There were eight testers so this meant each pie had the potential of being awarded 320 points in total. As always the test was conducted blind and the pies were only identifiable by number.

We tried to include as many well-known supermarket brands as possible. We also added in several upmarket chains, such as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Riverford.

After a lot of mincemeat and pastry eating, here are the final results.

Rank by score

Pie

Number in pack

Total price/price per pie

Total score (out of 320)

1 Sainbury's all-butter mince pies 6 £2.50/42p 183
2 Morrisons mince pies 6 £2/33p 147
3= The Co-op deep filled mince pies 6 £1.65/28p 145
3= Asda extra special luxury mince pies 6 £2.00/33p 145
5 Greggs sweet mince pies 6 £1.50/25p 113
6 Lidl Snowy Lodge mince pies 6 £1.79/30p 112.5
7 Waitrose shortcrust mince pies 6 £2.50/42p 104
8 Riverford mince pies 6 £4.95/83p 99
9 M&S all-butter mince pies
4 £4/£1 97.5
10 Tesco Finest mince pies 6 £2.00/33p 90
11 Heston puff pastry mine pies
6 £3.50/58p 72

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The winners

Sainsbury’s was a clear winner. In second place the Morrisons mince pies attracted some mixed results.

Some testers said the filling was too strong and overpowering, while others applauded the boozy flavour and enjoyed its kick. “It’s a good all-rounder,” said one tester while another said: “It has a lovely flavour  and packs quite a punch.”

The mince pies from the Co-op were scored in joint third place with Asda but the comments weren’t that encouraging. One tester said, “they need more filing,” and another said they were “basic looking and tasted quite cheap”. But on the whole the comments were positive. One tester said: “It’s a proper mince pie and the pastry has the perfect crumble.”

Testers said the Asda pies had a strong flavour, with point out its "nice golden colour” and mentioned that it “looks traditional and festive”.

The losers

The testers this year did not agree with Heston’s puff pastry pies and were totally against the mixing up of this traditional Christmas pie.

Tesco, which has fallen from sixth place, scored the lowest among the supermarkets with 90 points. The comments emphasised how bland the pies were, with most saying it was “uneventful” with a “very sticky pastry”. 

Marks & Spencer, which came in seventh place last year, was third from the bottom. The pies were described as having a “brittle pastry” and in “need of more mincemeat filling”.

Value for money

Our taste test is about exactly that – finding the mince pies which will taste the best when you actually get to eat them. However, we also worked out which provided the best value for money by dividing the total score with the cost of an individual pie.

Top of the list for value for money were the Co-op’s mince pies, followed by those from Greggs, Morrison and Asda. The winners Sainsbury’s came in fifth place and the losing pies from Heston were in ninth.

Bottom of the pile for value for money was Marks & Spencer, selling packs of four pies for £4, followed by Riverford with packs of six pies for £4.95 or 83p per pie.

Conclusion

The scores from our taste test have shown that the supermarkets are strong contenders this year. The big names, such as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda are all featured in the top end of the results along with the likes of Greggs and Lidl.

On the other end of the scale the more expensive brands did not score highly. From these results it’s clear money doesn’t equal quality when it comes to mince pies.

However, our test isn’t the most scientific around and with something like mince pies, personal preference is key.  The results are based on the tastes of a small selection of our colleagues and we obviously haven’t included every brand in the country.

When looking at the cost making your own mince pies will always be cheapest, and our sister website lovefood.com has a great recipe to get you started.

Do you agree with our results? Or is there somewhere better to get your mince pies? Let us know in the Comments box below.

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