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The proof is in the pudding (or in this case, mince pie)

Packaging can influence our purchase decisions and brands can take advantage with colour, imagery and logos. We conducted a blind mince pie taste test, to determine the quality of a product when packaging wasn’t an influencing factor, and the results were surprising.

December is here, and office Grinchs everywhere are waving their white flags to surrender to the holiday season. It’s officially acceptable to listen to Christmas music in the office, wear your most festive jumper and devour mince pies on the daily.

To honour the best month of the year (in my humble opinion), we took on the task of conducting an extremely important piece of market research – a mince pie taste test.

We bought a selection of middle-range supermarket mince pies (ranging from £1-£2.50) and asked a number of our Teamsters to participate in a blind taste test. Each mince pie was scored from 1-5 on various criteria including presentation, pastry, filling and given an overall taste score.

Once the mince pies had been demolished (or disposed of in some cases), we asked our tasters to rate the brand packaging design from 1-5 to determine whether you should or shouldn’t judge a pie by its packaging.

The Team brand and communications agency mince pie taste test

The results…

Iceland – 1st for taste. 2nd for packaging.

M&S – 2nd for taste. 5th for packaging.

Morrisons – 3rd for taste. 9th for packaging.

Aldi – 4th for taste. 6th for packaging.

Tesco – 5th for taste. 8th for packaging.

Sainsbury’s – 6th for taste. 7th for packaging.

Lidl – 7th for taste. 3rd for packaging.

Asda – 8th for taste. 4th for packaging.

Waitrose – 9th for taste. 1st for packaging.

The Iceland mince pies took the crown not only for being the tastiest but also coming second for the best packaging. Our Team-Tasters loved the overall presentation of the pie and described the pasty as “buttery” and the filling as “spicy and sweet”. The packaging is understated – with the Iceland logo featuring as a silver foil-embossed addition in the bottom left corner – festive, with a little nod to the Iceland red – dare we say classy?! With independent, online reviews reinforcing that the Iceland mince pies are a top runner this year, I’m starting to think that Iceland are ‘winning’ Christmas 2018…

The Team brand and communications agency mince pie taste test Iceland mince pies

Now let’s look at the bottom end of the league table for taste… Waitrose – for me, a massive shocker. These mince pies came first for packaging – the design is beautiful, minimalist and delicate, evoking all of those warm and precious moments of the season through the splash of red and illustrated robin scene. The design lets the product feature front and centre with a huge viewing window, so you can see the real product – not a studio version which has been styled and edited to the point of being unrecognisable. What a shame that the taste was such a letdown – I’m not kidding when I say that the commentary on these mince pies were NSFW (not safe for work). There was something not quite right about these pies – the flavour wasn’t recognisably ‘mince pie like’ but there was an overriding flavour that The Team did not like yet couldn’t put their finger on – the taste of disappointment maybe?

The Team brand and communications agency mince pie taste test Waitrose mince pies

When it comes to packaging, our Teamsters favoured designs that featured the product whether through imagery or by showing the product itself (as Waitrose did); particularly for those brands which we don’t naturally associate with quality – “show me the product so I know what to expect inside”. With mince pies going through a bit of a radical reinvention each year and innovation being front of mind for lots of brands, we’re faced with even more purchase decisions in store: flavours – traditional or unconventional? Pastry – classic or lattice? Toppings – icing sugar or royal icing (the latter should be illegal in my opinion).

We have a set of behaviours when we buy seasonal items such as mince pies, we’re creatures of habit and we know what we do and don’t like. Packaging can absolutely influence our purchase decision and brands can take advantage by helping us as consumers to navigate the busy Christmas aisles – colour, imagery and logos can all play a part at the point of purchase. But, and it’s a big but – packaging can only help us so far… the proof really is in the pudding (or in this case, pie) and if you can get both right, you’re on to a winner. Merry Christmas, I’m off to Iceland!

The Team brand and communications agency mince pie taste test 2

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