Now in its 21st year, the Good Housekeeping Institute results reveal that Marks & Spencer and Waitrose & Partners both claim the number one spot as joint winners of our 2020 Christmas taste test.
This year may be different from any other, but the taste test team know that Christmas is vital, no matter what is thrown our way! From June this year right through to mid-August, our panel were busy sampling over 420 products, from pigs in blankets and meat stuffings, to show-stopping desserts, Champagne and festive liqueurs, to find the very best Christmas food and drink for you to enjoy this year.
While our Christmas plans may be a little uncertain at the moment, one thing you can rely on is our taste tests. We know how important effortless shopping needs to be this year, so we’ve carefully selected 52 retailers that are easily accessible online, as well as readily available in store, so you won’t have to go far to find exactly what you want this Christmas.
We saw a strong range of brands claiming first and second place, with top scorers including PAUL, Costa, Farmison & Co and Piper’s Farm. However, it was a tie this year, with high street supermarkets Waitrose & Partners and Marks & Spencer nabbing the most winning spots for 2020. Both supermarkets triumphed to first place in three categories, closely followed by Sainsbury’s, Farmison & Co and Costa, winning two categories each.
Waitrose & Partners is your best option for desserts and fizz, with winning spots in the Christmas cake, Yule Log and Champagne categories, whilst Marks & Spencer is your one-stop shop to buy your overall Christmas Day meal. It was the top scorer in the Christmas pudding, frozen turkey & crowns, and onion gravy categories.
No mince pie was left un-nibbled and no Prosecco was left un-sipped! And now, let us reveal the top Christmas food and drink products available this year...
Christmas doesn’t really begin until you take your first bite into a warm mince pie. Scooping the top spot in this hotly contested category are Costa’s All Butter Mince Pies, achieving an impressive score of 90/100. They were praised by our panel for their crispy, golden pastry and zesty citrus filling with a mixed spice flavour.
For something a little different, PAUL’s Mince Pie Croissant was our testers' favourite in the 'mince pies with a twist' category, scoring an impressive 92/100. The flaky, buttery pastry from the croissant was utterly delicious, combined with the apple-y, fruity mincemeat filling. Meanwhile, Costa's Gluten Free Mince Pie came first place for the second year in a row in the 'gluten-free mince pies' category, scoring 73/100. This mince pie is also suitable for vegans, and we enjoyed its melt-in-the mouth pastry against the zesty mixed peel filling.
For a delicious, fail-safe, meat-centric main, and for the second year running, the Marks & Spencer British Stuffed Oakham Turkey Crown (£28 for 2kg) is our winner, scoring a whopping 92/100. The flavour of this smoky bacon-wrapped turkey crown was enhanced by the delicious, sweet onion and sage stuffing, and it has incredibly moist meat with crispy bacon.
You can’t have a turkey without some gravy, and Marks & Spencer's Cook with Onion Gravy (£2 for 350g) came out on top with a score of 81/100. Softened slices of onion in a rich and meaty stock – it’s the perfect accompaniment to your turkey and sides.
Our testers were thrilled with the variety of vegan and vegetarian options on offer this year. It was Lidl’s Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Tartlets (£1.69 for 2x120g) that won, scoring 82/100 with its winning combo of flaky, buttery puff pastry, creamy goat’s cheese and sticky, caramelised red onion. Waitrose & Partners Vegan Festive Swirls (£6.99 for 480g) was the runner-up, scoring 79/100 thanks to its flavoursome mix of caramelised tomatoes, red peppers, spinach and plenty of herbs wrapped inside a crisp, golden filo pastry case.
In the meat stuffing category, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 6 Pork, Chestnut & Bacon stuffing Parcels (£7 for 252g) and Farmison & Co Free Range Pork, Plum Pudding & Apple Brandy Stuffing (£6.95 for 450g) shared first place with scores of 82/100. Our tasters were impressed by the smoky-salted flavours of the Sainsbury’s parcels, while the spiced plum and fruity sweetness of the Farmison & Co stuffing had our mouths watering.
This year, we tested over 40 different canapé offerings from the grocers. Special mention goes to the Aldi Specially Selected Vegan Roses (£2.99 for 170g) in two flavours – one filled with an aromatic ginger and lemongrass flavour, and the other a spiced turmeric curry taste – as well as to Waitrose & Partners’ N’duja Croquettes (£6 for 300g) with their juicy and pleasantly spicy meat, and the Marks & Spencer Marmite & Cheese Rarebit Crumpets (£7 for 250g), for a savoury and umami flavour in one mouthful.
Another win against 14 other contenders was Farmison & Co’s Free-Range Pork Luxury Crushed Chestnut, Apricot & Winter Sage Pigs in Blankets (£6.95 for 300g). Scoring 86/100, testers loved the complex flavour profile of the tender pork sausage, crispy salty bacon, sweet apricot, and fragrant sage.
Your Christmas morning is bound to kick off well this year with Booth’s Scottish Gravadlax (£6 for 100g), scoring an impressive 95/100 in our 'flavoured smoked salmon' category. It was also our highest scorer across all products tested for Christmas 2020.
To find the winners in this year's dessert categories was no easy task. We were presented with over 100 sweet treats that bring together classic and modern flavours. For a traditional pick, the top-scorer in our Christmas puddings test was the Marks & Spencer Vintage Christmas Pudding (£15 for 800g) with a remarkable score of 92/100. It's a deeply rich sponge, packed full of juicy vine fruits, Christmas spices and booze-soaked nuts. Meanwhile, it was Sainsbury’s that clinched the number one spot in the 'Christmas puddings with a twist' category with its Taste the Difference Salted Maple & Pecan Christmas Pudding (£6 for 400g), which combines an irresistibly nutty, salted caramel-like sauce with sweet yet tart vine fruits, scoring 86/100.
For something less traditional and more on the indulgent side, our winning centrepiece dessert was Morrisons' The Best Chocolate Orange Pudding (£6 for 500g). It scored 86/100 for its moist and light sponge, gooey chocolate-y centre, and fresh orange flavour. The enticing combination of flavours and textures really wowed our testers.
A first for 2020, we also worked our way through over 132 food and drink products to find you the perfect Christmas hampers for gifting this year. Whether your budget is £80 or up to £260, your recipient (or you, if you’re spoiling yourself) will not be disappointed. A special mention goes out to cheese experts Paxton & Whitfield with their Piccadilly Hamper (£100 for 11 items), which we couldn’t fault thanks to its exquisite cheeses, moreish crackers and well-balanced condiments that will elevate your cheese and cracker combo. Another hamper that we thoroughly enjoyed was Hotel Chocolat’s The Absolute Classics Hamper (£100 for 6 items). Their chocolates are smooth, rich and creamy, and their hamper contains everything you'll want to end your Christmas Day on a high.
In our supermarket own-label Champagne test, Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut NV Champagne (£23.99 for 75cl) impressed our panel most with its smooth bubbles and beautifully balanced, rich and fruity flavour, scoring 84/100. In our supermarket own-label prosecco category, however, it was Abbazia Fiorino Prosecco d.o.c. (Ocado, £9.99 for 75cl) that blew our panel away with an impressive 90/100. This easy drinking Prosecco has a juicy pear and baked apple flavour with fine, lively bubbles and a smooth finish.
New alcoholic drinks categories for 2020 saw us try over 14 festive liqueurs and 8 pre-mixed Negronis to jazz up your usual drinks trolley selection. Our panel were won over by the warming, festive ginger spice and creamy richness of Tesco Finest Gingerbread Latte Irish Cream Liquor (£10 for 70cl), which came out on top in our test, scoring a staggering 90/100, whilst the bitter citrus flavours and moreish herbal notes of Primo Aperitivo Negroni (£27 per 50cl, Primo Aperitivo) won our pre-mixed Negroni taste test with a score of 83/100.
When it came to the ports, Adnams Finest Reserve port (85/100, £13.99 per 70cl) came top of the ruby, reserve & crusted category with its concentrated black fruit flavours and smooth, well-balanced finish, and Graham’s LBV 2015 (85/100, Waitrose, £13.99) hit the sweet spot with our testers to win in the Late Bottled Vintage category.
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