We compared mince pies from Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, and Woolworths – and we have a new champion and one clear loser

Business Insider SA
Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.
  • The mince pie is a Christmas staple in many South African homes – found in most grocery stores, they're either massive hits, or complete duds.
  • This year’s mince pie shoot-out was hotly contested with a 0.6% difference between the winner and runner-up. 
  • There was also a clear loser.
  • For more stories visit Business insider South Africa. 

They say Christmas is the time for sharing. But there are some things you don’t share and that’s your last mince pie, especially when it’s a good one.

As we at Business Insider have found out, the precious dessert has formed a notorious rep for being either a massive hit or a dud.   

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

With 2019 being a tough year economically, at least 2 retailers have ramped up the prices of the humble treat by R4 per six pack.

This year’s table included mince pies from Woolworths, Checkers, Spar, and Pick n Pay. Regardless of the price, we asked 11 tasters to score the pies out of 10 in the following categories: presentation, filling, flavour, pastry texture, aroma and overall taste.

The testers had no idea where the mince pies came from and were asked to judge them unlabelled. 

Disclaimer: taste testing is subjective and we bring in a variety of testers, from self-proclaimed mince pie connoisseurs to noobs, to get a fair reading.  

We’ve also compared how they scored last year, to this year, to see if any of our retailers have improved on their grading:

The loser was Checkers, almost 11% off its closest competitor.

This year’s price: R36.99

Last year’s price: R34.99

Last year’s rank: 4th

Mince pie weight: 64g (2019) vs 52g (2018) 

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

Our tasters did not take a liking to the Checker’s Limited-Edition Festive Fruit Mince Pies, with one even going as far as saying that it could be anything but a mince pie.

Most found the pastry to be doughy and dry and one tester said “it looked very sad".

Come what may, it still had some redeeming features. It came in tied as one of the cheapest mince pies and has only increased in price by R2 from last year. Of the batch we tested, it also came in as the heavier of the pies, weighing 62 grams (g) up from last year’s 52g weigh-in.

In the end the mince pie was given firm “nee dankies” and scored an average of 44.3%, slightly up from last year.

Average: 44%

Last year: 42% 

Pick n Pay’s Deep Filled Mince pie was average.

This year’s price: R39.99

Last year’s price: R35.99

Last year’s rank: 1st

Mince pie weight: 52g (2019) vs 74g (2018)

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

Last year’s Pick n Pay Deep Filled Mince pies had a lot to boast about. They were good value for money and weighed in with almost double the amount of filling for the same price as its competitors. This was enough to make it last year's winner.

But this year they did not shine as bright, coming in 3rd place scoring an overall 55%. The average score was not too far off the pace from its competitors at the top of the rankings. But the mince pies suffered a 20% drop in ratings.

Our testers said it lacked a home-made feel and one said their mince pie smelled a bit like cheese.

They also noticed immediately a lack of fruit filling. Which is telling because the mince pies averaged 55g, with the lowest coming in at 52g - almost 30% less that what it weighed last year at 74g.

Cost wise the mince pies are now R39.99, up R4 from last year.

We have contacted Pick n Pay for further comment regarding the weight.

Average: 55%

Last year: 76% 

Spar’s Fruit Mince Pies came in a close 2nd.

This year’s price: R36.99

Last year’s price: Cost us R32.99, although on the packaging it was marked at R36.99.

Last year’s rank: 3rd

Mince pie weight: 66g (2019) vs 54g (2018)

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

Spar delivered a mince pie that our tasters quite liked. It was a beefed up version, almost 10g heavier than last year.

It was R4 more expensive than what we paid for in 2018, which was R32,99. But, the price on the packaging said it was R36,99, which makes it is the only mince pie not to have had a price increase.

Our tasters enjoyed the pastry’s really soft texture and found the filling to be quite pleasing on the pallet.

“Love the caster sugar on top, probably closest to the real deal,” said one taster.  

“Soft and melts in your mouth. Tastes homemade,” said another.

In the end the naysayers’ vote scored it slightly lower on taste and was strong enough to affect the overall ranking. Spar’s overall rating improved by over 10% from last year.

Average: 60.4% 

Last year: 49% 

The overall winner was Woolworths, but only just.  

This year’s price: R39.99 (On their buy 2 take R10 off deal its R34.99)

Last year’s price:  R35.99 (On their buy 2 take R10 off R31.43)

Last year’s rank: 2nd

Mince pie: 52g (2019) vs 54g (2018)

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

With a filling that was a little bit spicier than the rest, Woolworths has dished up the overall favourite mince pie. 

This is despite their mince pie’s approval dropping some 10% from last year’s taste test. The ratings were enough to get it over the finish line in first place by a mere 0.6%. The retailer will surely be ecstatic after having narrowly lost out on first place last year by a few percentage points.

Jay Caboz
Photo Jay Caboz/Business Insider South Africa.

Our tasters said it had good balance, nice presentation and flavour.

Weight wise the mince pie comes in at a consistent 52g, virtually the same as last year.

Their price has increased by R4 which makes it still one of the more expensive mince pie 6 packs out there. But, with their buy 2 get R10 off deal, it may be enough to win over consumers hearts as the pies work out to be R34.99 for per 6 pack, but then you have to buy 2. And let’s be honest there’s always room for more dessert come Christmas eve.  

Average: 61%

Last year: 71% 

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