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.
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.
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.
So after some intensive eating and much discussion, here are the final scores.
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.
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 99p 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.
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 Aldi, Greggs and Lidl which all 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".
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 Aldi and then Greggs. 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.