As the festive season gets into full swing, it’s time for Moneywise to find out which of the supermarkets’ classic bakes and drinks will make you merry and which are only worth their weight in tinsel.
There’s nothing like a mince pie to get you into the Christmas spirit. They’re so popular that some supermarkets started stocking them in September.
But when offering their classic mince pies, supermarkets are eternally engaged in a battle between quality and value – our test aims to reveal which pie has the best balance.
For our festive drink test, we chose Buck’s Fizz, the cocktail made of two parts Champagne to one part orange juice, which is a classic for Christmas morning breakfast and is a little lighter on the stomach and the wallet than prosecco or Champagne! Thirteen members of the Moneywise team put in the hard graft to find out which mince pies cut the cake, and 12 tasters tested which Buck’s Fizz went down a treat.
How we scored the tests
The mince pie test included eight major UK supermarkets’ products. For the Buck’s Fizz test, five major supermarkets entered their own-brand products for testing. On each test, we scored the products on looks and taste.
For looks, we considered the design of the packaging and the bottle, which is important if you’re planning on taking a box of pies or a bottle to a Christmas party, plus the appearance of the pie itself.
The aggregate scores on looks and taste for each product gave us our winner.
THE WINNER: MINCE PIES
Marks & Spencer (M&S) won in a close-run contest. While M&S mince pies ranked second for both taste and looks, on balance the all-round quality of the product won out.
One tester remarked on looks that it was “a great gold box, and lovely star and snowflake pastry combination”. Another commented that the taste was “interesting and slightly spiced; it seemed almost homemade”. The M&S mince pies come in at £2.50, which is at the top end of the price range and can be bought online or in store.
Second on the list were the Aldi mince pies, which only came fourth in the looks scoring, but won out for taste and are also a great value purchase at just £1.49. One taster commented that it was “buttery and fruity, and I can taste a bit of booze!”
Bottom of the pies were Morrison’s, unfortunately named “The Best Mince Pies”. Several tasters commented that the pies looked “burnt” and that the pastry was “too sweet, and dry”. One commenter added: “The box doesn’t look very festive.”
WINNER: M&S Mince Pies
GREAT VALUE: Aldi’s Specially Selected Mince Pies
WOODEN SPOON: Morrison’s The Best Mince Pies
|Overall Rank||Mince pies||Price||Availability||Ranking on taste alone||Ranking on looks alone|
|1||M&S The Collection 6 Christmas Snowflake Mince Pies||£2.50||Online and in-store||2||2|
|2||Aldi's Specially Selected Mince Pies||£1.49||In-store only||1||4|
|3||Sainsbury's All Butter Mince Pies||£1.80||Online and in-store||3||1|
|4||Tesco Finest Mince Pies||£2||Online and in-store||5||3|
|5||ASDA Extra Special 6 Luxury All-Butter Mince Pies||£1.85||Online and in-store||6||6|
|6||Waitrose Christmas All Butter Mince Pies||£2.50||Online and in-store||4||7|
|7||Lidl Luxury Mince Pies||£1.49||In-store only||8||5|
|8||Morrison's The Best Mince Pies||£2||Online and in-store||7||8|
THE WINNER: BUCK’S FIZZ
The Buck’s Fizz contest produced something of a controversy.
The M&S Buck’s Fizz got the top score on the look of the bottle, but it came last for taste. With its blood orange and cranberry mix, it’s marketed as “a new twist”. One tester commented: “Festive label. But not very nice. Tastes a bit medicinal and very sweet.” For that reason, we’ve had to award it the wooden spoon: Looking great only to be very disappointed on flavour is a big no-no. The M&S bottle was also the priciest of the range, coming in at £6.
Therefore, our pick must be the Waitrose Premium Bucks Fizz which came second for taste, and second for looks, making it an overall good value product. Appreciative comments from testers included: “Quite a classy label” and “good balance of orange and fizz”. A bottle will set you back £3.99 online or in store.
The winner for best flavour was Sainsbury’s Clementine Bucks Fizz. Tasters appreciated that it “tasted like natural orange juice was used” and “quite fruity and not too sweet”. The product did, however, suffer criticism of its looks: “The label looks cheap”. One of these will set you back £4 and can be bought online or in store.
WINNER: Waitrose Premium Bucks Fizz
BEST FLAVOUR: Sainsbury’s Clementine Bucks Fizz
WOODEN SPOON: M&S Blood Orange & Cranberry Bucks Fizz
|Overall Rank||Drink||Price||Availability||Ranking on taste alone||Ranking on looks alone|
|1||Waitrose Premium Bucks Fizz||£3.99||Online and in-store||2||2|
|2||M&S Blood Orange & Cranberry Bucks Fizz||£6||Online and in-store||5||1|
|3||Sainsbury's Clementine Bucks Fizz||£4||Online and in-store||1||3|
|4||Aldi Bucks Fizz||£2.30||In-store only||4||4|
|5||Tesco Bucks Fizz||£2.50||Online and in-store||3||5|
Cut your supermarket costs
This year’s taste test has shown than you can find quality, even at lower prices, as the Aldi mince pies attest. The M&S mince pies showed a strong combination of looks and flavour, good enough to take to any Christmas party this December.
This year’s selection showed a much smaller variation in price. In 2016, the cheapest mince pies cost £1 (Tesco) and the most expensive cost £2.99 (Aldi). This year the tables have turned somewhat, with the cheapest at £1.49 (Aldi and Lidl) and the most expensive at £2.50 (M&S and Waitrose). The supermarkets are trying to compete more closely on cost, and that makes knowing what quality you can get for the price even more important.
Regarding the Buck’s Fizz, we learnt that looks can be deceiving. While the M&S bottle commands a premium price (£6) and looks attractive, the results of the taste were disappointing. At the cheaper end, Tesco’s and Aldi’s offerings (both £2.50) were unsatisfactory, but it appears that those in the middle ground – Waitrose and Sainsbury’s (£3.99 and £4 respectively) – were judged elegant enough, and tasty to boot.