Best mince pies for Christmas 2012

Rebecca Rutt
by Lovemoney Staff Rebecca Rutt on 15 November 2012  |  Comments 17 comments

Heston wins our mince pie test again but is closely followed by the budget supermarkets.

Best mince pies for Christmas 2012

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year and along with the usual traditions such as advent calendars, mulled wine and carol singing, the annual Lovemoney mince pie test has now become a favourite in my festive diary.

It’s an annual tradition at Lovemoney HQ to try out mince pies from all the leading brands and report back to you the best for quality, taste and value for money.

This means we’re doing the hard work for you - taste testing 14 different pies ourselves so you’ll be better informed when heading out to the shops.

This year Heston Blumenthal’s pies for Waitrose won for a second year running, but pies from the likes of Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl weren't far behind the premium brand.

Previous tests

Last year the premium brands dominated the top spots with Heston’s puff pastry pies voted number one. These were priced at £3.29 for a pack of six and the most expensive tested.

Second place went to Marks & Spencer, another luxury brand, with a box of six pies set at £2.69 a pack. At the other end of the scale the budget pies, from Asda, Tesco and Lidl scored poorly.

Interestingly, these results varied wildly from 2010 when budget pies from Asda and Lidl came out in top while Marks and Spencer and Waitrose were further down the list.

The test

This year we had 14 different brands competing for the top spot from a range of different retailers.

There were the usual well known supermarket brands, such as Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, along with budget shops such as Aldi and Lidl.

Premium brands such as Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason were also tested along with some smaller bakeries such as Euphorium and organic food company Riverford.

The test was conducted blind and the pies were only identifiable by a number. Tasters, made up of 12 generous members of staff, were asked to score each out of 10 for overall appearance, filling taste and pastry quality.

With the 12 testers this meant each pie had a potential 360 points.

The results

So after some intensive eating and much discussion, here are the final scores.

Rank by score

Pie

Number in pack

Total price/price per pie

Total score (out of 360)

1

Waitrose: Heston Blumenthal’s irresistible butter crust mince pies

4

£3.29/82.2p

257

2

Euphorium: single mince pie

1

£1.60

233

3

Morrisons: mince pies

6

£2.00/33p

224

4

Aldi: mince pies

6

£1.69/28.1p

217

4

Greggs: mince pies

6

£1.40/23.3p

217

5

Lidl: Snowy Lodge mince pies

12

£1.89/15.7p

215.5

5

Harrods: limited edition Cointreau and orange mince pies

6

£9.95/£1.65

215.5

6

Fortnum & Mason: almond mince pies

6

£9.95/£1.65

211

6

Tesco: Finest mince pies

6

£2.50/41.6p

211

7

M&S: ultimate all butter mince pies

4

£2.99/74.7p

209

8

Sainsbury’s: mince pies from the bakery

4

£1.00/25p

195

9

Riverford: mince pies

6

£4.95/82.5p

190

10

The Co-op: irresistible butter crust mince pies

6

£2.00/33.3p

189

11

Budgens: mince pies

6

£1.50/25p

168

Filling, pastry and appearance

In the table above you can see the overall winners and when it comes to the filling, Euphorium scored the highest marks with a score of 83 out of a possible 120, while the Co-op was lowest in this category with 57.

When it comes to pastry, Waitrose was top with 82 while Budgens came in last with 49 while for overall appearance Riverfood was last place with 55 and the Waitrose pies were again in top with 94 points.

The winners

Top for the second year running was Heston Blumenthal’s mince pies for Waitrose. Priced at £3.29 for a pack of six or 82.2p, these are one of the most expensive pies on offer but clearly a firm favourite with the Lovemoney staff who seemed particulary fond of the cinnamon flavour.

These were followed by pies from the Euphorium bakery, with a score of 233, another premium brand with one pie costing £1.60, which one taster said had a "very juicy filling".

Third place knocks the trend a little with Morrisons getting a score of 224, beating the likes of supermarket rivals such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco and also high-end brands such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. The Morrison pies "feel homemade in a good way" according to one taster and another said they had the "best pastry" out of all those tested.

In joint fourth place were more budget brands. Greggs's mince pies, which were praised for their "old fashioned appearance" shared a spot with Aldi, priced at £1.40 and £1.69 respectively for a pack of six.

Joint fifth place was a bigger surprise with Lidl and Harrods claiming the same spot. The Lidl pies cost just 15.7p each, while those on offer from Harrods are £1.65 each but both were awarded the same overall score.

The losers

Bottom of the list overall was budget supermarket Budgens, which scored a measly 168 points in total, 89 below the mince pie in the top spot. These pies were described as "tasting stale" and although they were one of the cheapest on offer, at £1.50 for a pack of six or 25p each, this is still more expensive than those from Greggs and Lidl which both took spots in the top five.

Next was the Co-op’s, irresistible, or maybe not so according to us, mince pies with a score of 189 which one tasters said had too much sugar on top.

To show that price doesn’t always count when it comes to quality, the organic food company Riverford, was in the next spot from the bottom with 190 points. It prices its pies at £4.95 for a pack of six or 82.5p each, but someone in our office said "they tasted slightly cheesey".

Conclusion

Now firstly, I’d like to clarify this isn’t the most scientific of taste tests. To start, our results are only based on a selection of colleagues and their personal preferences for mince pies.

Also, when it comes to cost, it’s almost always going to be cheaper to make your own pies, but as not everyone has the time to bake them from scratch, we opted for shop-bought versions only.

Within the test we haven’t included every shop in the country selling mince pies and the type of pie from each, be it a basic or luxury brand, does vary.

However, despite this, the main conclusions is that price doesn’t count for everything when buying mince pies. When dividing the overall pie score by the cost of an individual pie, Lidl gets the top spot for value for money followed by Greggs then Aldi. At the bottom end of the scale is Fortnum & Mason, followed by Harrods and then Euphorium.

Heston’s pies for Waitrose took the top spot once again, but there is a fair mix of budget stores in the top 10. Morrisons, Aldi, Greggs and Lidl were all scored above the likes of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. The price varies wildly between these brands but the quality of pie, according to us anyway, is not that different.

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

Want to make your own? Try this mince pie recipe on our sister site lovefood.com

More on Christmas

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Rachel Allen's Christmas cake recipe

Mince pie recipe

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Comments (17)

  • trolleyfan
    Love rating 5
    trolleyfan said

    Not sure how much you know about mince pies but you don't know how to arrange a league table. With 14 entries how come the last one was 11th? With joint 4th, 5th and 6th places, these should have been 4th, 6th and 8th, with the rest being 10th to 14th.

    I expect better from Lovemoney!

    Report on 15 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jennysue19
    Love rating 6
    jennysue19 said

    I won't buy these overpriced treats. Instead, I buy a big jar of ready made mincemeat, not the cheapest, but not the luxury one either, and throw in a glug of brandy or rum and Cointreau (which I have in the drinks cupboard already). That gets to sit from about now up till Christmas. Making your own mincemeat is also surprisingly simple and you can choose to make it veggie with vegetarian rather than beef suet and buy your dried fruits from Aldi or Lidl if you like.

    I use Sainsburys all-butter dessert pastry or make my own,, replacing some of the flour with ground almonds which makes it lighter and crumblier. Make a big batch, freeze and cook from frozen when guests turn up.

    Report on 15 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  5 loves
  • nigpd
    Love rating 0
    nigpd said

    A good cross section of brands tested, but where is the representative from Mr Kipling? surely such a well known brand should have been included?

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • marram
    Love rating 49
    marram said

    I don't celebrate Christmas so I will eat mince pies any time of year! But one thing I never do is buy them ready-made. They all taste like cardboard to me.

    @jennysue19, I'm going to try the almonds - what a great idea! I bet it would make lovely apple pie or a peach or apricot flan, too. I often add some semolina to make it more like shortbread, but the almonds - wow!

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • ameslyne
    Love rating 2
    ameslyne said

    I have to make my own. Pastry and filling. My husband is allergic to nuts. All nuts, not just peanuts. Makes me wonder why he married me!

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • wustpisk
    Love rating 6
    wustpisk said

    I don't know if the mince pies from Aldi were the luxury ones, but if not then the luxury ones would surely claim top spot - they are fabulous, as is all Christmas stuff in Aldi (Christmas puddings, Stollen, Glühwein, etc).

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • NickH
    Love rating 0
    NickH said

    "I don't know if the mince pies from Aldi were the luxury ones, but if not then the luxury ones would surely claim top spot"

    I'm not sure if lovemoney knows either wustpisk. . The table shows them at £1-69 for six and the article says 99p ! I agree about the Aldi luxury ones though-have to buy loads to have any chance of any still being around for guests at Christmas.

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Rebecca Rutt
    Love rating 0
    Rebecca Rutt said

    Hi NickH and wustpisk,

    We tested the 'Specially Selected' mince pies for £1.69 a pack.

    Thanks,

    Rebecca

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • muira
    Love rating 30
    muira said

    so if you add cinnamon you can win a pie contest?

    well not for me,i place jennysue 19 top of pile.

    and feel desperate to try a brandy or rum /cointreau variant

    or anything else she has in underused drinks cupboard.

    now dreaming all kinds of concoctions..maybe bushmills whisky

    or what about southern comfort?..now there's a thought!!!

    no mention of cream here..cannot have a mince pie without cream

    any thoughts on cream?..single..double..clotted ?

    wonder if mr bloomingheck can win the cream category?

    and jenny ,,ready to turn up when you are..you are clearly the best 2012..

    not fussed if you change the flour/almonds ratio,,and the glug becomes a steady pour!

    i'll buy the beef suet,dried fruit etc from aldi or lidl..just need to sort out the cream problem now..

    i think my morgans spiced rum double whipped cream with your mincemeat pies

    would replace the cinnamon craving that has somehow won over the judges of this

    here contest..and would be totally original..

    failing that just whack a load of cinnamon into the mix,to pacify future pie testers..

    Report on 16 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • benvenue 5
    Love rating 0
    benvenue 5 said

    mk45 1hl

    from stuart osborne

    Report on 17 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jillyg
    Love rating 0
    jillyg said

    Interesting article but although you may have got your pack price and pie price right for Heston Blumenthal's pies, in the summary section you go on to contradict earlier information by saying there are six, not 4 in a pack. I don't know which is correct as I haven't yet looked at mince pies, but if there were six, the price per pie would obviously be lower!! Which would make them even better.

    Report on 18 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • orangecat
    Love rating 6
    orangecat said

    I recently bought M&S mince pies, and they were the worse I had tasted, Greggs take some beating, this year and last, although prices vary in different areas, but in my home town they are £2 for two packs, which includes six in each pack, in turn working out at 16.5 each.

    Report on 19 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jerodequin
    Love rating 2
    jerodequin said

    What happened to Asda??

    Report on 20 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Grobbendonk
    Love rating 28
    Grobbendonk said

    And how do they rate for vegetarians (or "difficult gits" as I like to call them)?

    We've got a lot of friends who won't touch a mince pie because so many of them have beef or pork fat in them, and they don't know where they come from (Aldi seems to put pork fat in almost everything - we've given up on their prepared food because of that, and their poor labels).

    I wasn't too worried at first, until I realised that the vege mince pies tend to taste less sickly, and have a less stodgy feel to the pastry. When buying mince pies now, I actively look for the "vegetarian" marker, simply because it's an indicator of a better pie.

    Report on 21 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • coloratura
    Love rating 81
    coloratura said

    I tried the Co-op mince pies - not their best effort I'm afraid (unusual as Co-op have been quite good in the past). I think I will be getting my next batch from elsewhere.

    Report on 21 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Aliciafox
    Love rating 2
    Aliciafox said

    I make my own. I buy the mincemeat and doctor it with either candied peel soaked in Cointreau or glace cherries soaked in Amaretto. Then I make it in to filo pastry parcels to make it less stodgy. Or I do 'proper' mince pies with the doctored mincemeat but with shortcrust pastry made with all butter, self-raising flour (to make it lighter and more crumbly!) and add the juice and zest of an orange and some cinnamon. Just as good as Heston's!

    Report on 22 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Meduza78
    Love rating 18
    Meduza78 said

    i dont eat mince pie anyway...

    Report on 22 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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