The Mince-tel Pie Tasting Awards 2022: a tale of sugar, spice highs, and cost of living price lows

December 1, 2022
4 min read

What makes the ultimate supermarket mince pie? Shortcrust pastry which is soft, buttery and devoid of tonsil-tickling, floury dryness? Perhaps it’s mincemeat that resonates with warm spice, rather than Old Spice? Or maybe a pastry lid motif that more resembles a festive star than the agonised face in Klimt’s The Scream?

Well, in Mintel’s London office, on a bleak afternoon muted with 100 shades of grey, 100 mince pies were sacrificed to a multinational gathering of Mintel’s food analysts in order to answer this question. They had gathered for Mintel’s inaugural Mince Pie Taste Awards, and their aim was to identify the UK’s finest supermarket mince pie. The competition was created by UK food and drink analyst, culinary connoisseur and Yotam Ottolenghi groupie, Alice Pilkington. And also Director of Mintel Food & Drink, Alex Beckett: a man who despises mediocre mince pies.  

Eight different standard quality private label offerings were scored for taste and texture, appearance and bang for buck (value for money). And while the price of each six pack was shown, the retailers’ identities were known only to the stern-faced organisers, to guarantee a fair fight and eliminate bias.

Mintel analysts engage in a heated discussion over the best mince pie. Image source: Mintel.

The pies were brutally cut up into bite-sized quarters by the tasters in a futile attempt to control sugar intake. Scores were debated and knives glinted and clanked on plates under the spotlights. Gradually, the noise level increased, provoked by rumours of number four’s aniseed aftertaste, three’s claggy base, and nutmeg being a potential hallucinogenic.

While 82% of UK cake consumers remark that the taste of cakes is more important than their healthiness, the rapid intake of thickly sweet mincemeat was creating some consternation.

“They are just all so sweet, and I can’t taste anything anymore,” sobbed one wild-eyed analyst.

But, as mugs of strong tea and coffee were drained to offset the sweetness,  the taste buds of many of the analysts were detecting key differences.

“You go in thinking a mince pie is a mince pie, but there are really notable differences for the same standard of product,” bellowed Emma Clifford, Associate Director, gripping her scoresheet with pride.

Finally, it was time for the score sheets to be collected. It was Aldi who claimed ultimate glory; the Crown of Crumbs. The discounter scored superbly on taste (the apple note sparking unbridled joy) and texture but also for value for money, with the six pack priced at a heart-warming £1.09. Indeed, the tasters were semi-dazed in a miasma of sugar and spice, yet  they were also keenly aware of the need to consider the cost of living crisis and the value-for-money scores. An ambitious glühwein seller in one of Europe’s energy-crisis-hit Christmas markets would be impressed by such quality mulling.  

Sainsbury’s had two entries, one of which was its Plant Pioneers vegan offering. While the mincemeat held up positively, the dry pastry texture of the plucky vegan contender was its downfall. “I’d enjoy it if I was a vegan,” chirped one logically-minded soul.

Waitrose fared well but the filling triggered some division owing to the glacé cherry content. Asda’s offering was pastry-heavy, and would have benefited from an oven blast. Morrisons’ lattice lid was pretty and differentiating, and the filling was spiced well although a smidgen dry, possibly owing to the aerating effect of the lattice. Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer provided us with a buttery pastry, elegant design and pleasing, mush-free mincemeat texture, all of which were applauded by the tasters. The butter factor was most passionately appreciated by the French tasters.   

Uproars are expected once results are revealed after an afternoon of blind-tasting. Image source: Mintel.

What constitutes the ultimate supermarket mince pie? 

Tangible qualities like buttery pastry, sugar crystal distribution and wholesomely spiced mincemeat evidently impressed our tasters. And with production and ingredient costs sky high for the manufacturers, these qualities also seemed to dictate the price – even for the non-premium ranges. Aldi beat our expectations, but it was helped by us knowing the price. And it’s that fleeting moment when the brain registers the price just as the taste and texture reveal themselves en mangeant when expectations are delighted, or more often than not: merely satisfied. A satisfaction, however, that is edged with delirium, after scoffing six pies in 40 minutes!

Meet the authors

Alex Beckett
Director – Mintel Food & Drink

Alice Pilkington
Food and Drink Research Analyst

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