Christmas Adverts 2017 – It’s Started!

Every year, it’s fun to see the Christmas adverts rolling out. It’s big business these days, we’re long past the day of Woolies sticking their prices on a song and dance on stage…now we have elaborate animations and productions, multi-million pound adverts purely focused on brand building rather than products. Christmas adverts are becoming a whole cottage industry, and keeping websites like this going with content for weeks on end.

So on that note…first for 2017 is:

Very.co.uk

Now, Very do seem to like these animation styled adverts at the minute, and it’s quite pleasant. But maybe I’m feeling jaded, it’s not exactly iconic is it.

Next up we have Asda…

This is obviously inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s very good. I’m not convinced the music is the right choice, but it is fun and bouncy and I wanted it to go on longer.

Now for Argos…

Feels inspired by Arthur Christmas in the set up, but it’s a good advert.

Next it’s Vodafone, with their “A Christmas Love Story” and starring Martin Freeman. This is a series of 6 adverts, not all of which appear to be on Youtube yet, so go here to watch them as a single film:

http://www.campaignlive.com/article/vodafone-a-christmas-love-story-ogilvy-mather/1448884

In all honesty, I really am not a fan of this. It’s only vaguely Christmassy, it’s incredibly cheesy and although the first one is really sweet, the rest of them are just properly meh.

And that’s all for this post…more to come over the next couple of weeks.

 

REVIEW: Lime Tree Pantry Mince Pies

Now…look…I know you’ve not heard of them…but check out the website here:

https://www.limetreepantryfoods.com/

I picked up a box of these from the Hardwick Hall Food and Drink Festival where the Lime Tree Pantry folk had a stand. I was told by the lady on the stand that these pies are the very same as those you can get from a Thornton’s Cafe. Which, depending on your point of view, could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Let’s crack on anyway…

Packaging
Let’s just say this is on brand for Lime Tree…

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It’s not Christmassy, the end.

At least there is a window to the pie so you can see what you’re getting.

4/10 – It’s a local type of bakery, feels harsh to criticise too much.

Presentation
One of the interesting things about these pies is the total utter lack of a tray. That’s right, there are six pies in the box, completely loose.

Is that something worth marking them down for? I’m not sure, but let’s take a look at the pies themselves:

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All six totally identical, extremely pretty with the star on top and a nice sprinkle of icing sugar to colour it up.

It’s a very even looking bake too, very evenly baked.

9/10 – Would have been perfect with a tray I think…even a cheapo red one!

Filling
This is a very full pie.

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You can see on the picture above, the filling is filling up the pie and the star sits on top, no air gaps in these things.

The mincemeat filling is very chunky, doesn’t have a particularly potent boozy smell, but it looks substantial.

8/10 – An excellent amount of filling with what appears high quality filling.

Taste Test
This is it then…how do they taste…

Not boozy. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, they are cafe mince pies really and supposed to appeal to a wide audience and go well with a flat white.

The pastry is solid and tasty, there is a buttery edge but it’s not the kind of pie that sticks in your mouth and needs washing away.

The filling is fruity and tasty, but as I say, misses a real kick but it’s very pleasant.

In the house though, there was a mixed opinion, I was a little more enthused than others who thought it was a little tasteless.

16/20 – It’s good, but lacks some punch in the filling

Overall
A local bakery with a mince pie, apparently used in the Thorntons cafe’s, that scores well is definitely a good thing. Stunningly good quality baking, if they could drop a little bit of brandy or some other warm and fuzzy alcohol flavour…this would be top drawer.

As it is, it’s still right up there!

37/50

League Tables Update

Here it is then, the most up to date league table of Mince Pies. I’m going to add a note to this over the next few days indicating what year the review is from. At the moment, only the Sainsbury’s Ice Topped are from this year.

Remember, there is a link at the top of the website directly to this league table and I’ll keep that page up to date all the time.

No. Name Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Tesco Finest All Butter 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 6 10 8 17 41
3 Aldi Specially Selected 4 9 8 19 40
4 Iceland Luxury 6 6 9 19 40
5 Coop Irresistable Luxury 8 7 7 16 38
6 M&S Christmas All Butter 6 5 8 17 36
7 Greggs Sweet 6 6 7 17 36
8 Spar Luxury All Butter 8 8 7 12 35
9 Tesco Mince Pies 9 2 4 17 32
10 Waitrose All Butter 5 5 7 14 31
11 Sainsbury’s Iced Topped 9 5 4 10 28
12 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 5 1 4 10 20
13 Coop Puff Pastry 6 6 1 5 18
14 Heston Spiced with Lemon 3 9 3 1 16

 

Supermarkets and Christmas in July

Considering the amount of money spent by the supermarkets on these press events to launch their Christmas food, there is a real lack of publicity out there.

I’ve been trawling the Internet, relatively unsuccessfully it must be said, to find what all of them are planning. I’ve found a couple of bits and pieces though and a few journos have put stuff on their Instagrams.

Starting here:
http://qualityfoodawards.com/news/uk-supermarket-christmas-in-july-previews-26-07-2017/

This is a good link, with a nice short preview of what all of the players are up too, and there definitely sounds like a fun mix. The fashionable drink of the last year or so, gin, looks like being heavily involved in the Asda approach to Christmas, and this automatically means they are the early favourite to win the season for me.

The big loser from what I can see on that link is Iceland and Co-op.

At least Tesco have a video on Youtube:

Mouth-watering it is too…

I’m massively excited by this offering from Aldi:

a huge jeroboam of Giotti DOCG Prosecco

I had to look up “jeroboam” on Wikipedia. It’s 3 litres. THREE!

This’ll be no doubt well priced, probably decent tasting and a must have for Christmas lunch. The big question is how many people should I share it with (if any)?

UPDATE: This is a nice write up of the Aldi Christmas event: https://www.mrsmummypenny.co.uk/aldi-christmas-july-2017-special-preview/

 

Final Christmas Advert Roundup

So…this might be a long post, full of Youtube links that’ll expire in about 2 months (or two days if we’re really unlucky). I’ve scoured Youtube (once more, doing work so you don’t have to, you are very welcome).

Let’s start with John Lewis. I already said, this advert sucks and it’s really disappeared this year and has proven utterly unmemorable. Also, somehow John Lewis have scored some product placement/free advertising on SkyHD as the making of the advert sits there in the on demand Christmas section. Bonkers.

Sainsbury’s then up next. I’ve declared my love for this, but then I’m seemingly one of the few on the Internet that likes James Corden (bring it on keyboard warriors). I guess the message is a little bit strange, but I think the advert is good all the same.

Marks and Spencer genuinely nailed it perfectly too this year with this absolutely outstanding effort.

Waitrose pulled short one of the bag too with a sweet effort about a Robin on his travels.

Lidl…the brand I get told off for being snooty about…had a good go this year:

All credit to Aldi, they’re definitely trying hard here. I just object to the use of the Home Alone soundtrack.

This is the Co-op Food advert. Paints a lovely picture of Christmas, and gets the brand message away perfectly. I shop here every other day, so maybe I’m biased, but I do like the Co-op.

Curve ball alert. House of Fraser…boom. Great to see them getting all relevant! Upbeat, full of energy, I think this is great.

This was always going to be eclectic collection of adverts I’ve pulling together here and the fact we’re going from the rich shop to the lack of credit score shop sums that up. Very have done a nice little advert here.

Argos had a bit of a go this year.

There have been a few more of course but I think that’s a good cross section of the main ones of the year.

There has been some truly dire efforts too, Tesco, Debenhams…we’re looking at you.

Still, that’s the adverts done for 2016 I think.

The DFS sale ones are already starting.

Mr Kipling Winter Whirls

So, these popped up yesterday at home and I was ordered to examine them.

Being nothing if not professional about these things, I agreed. The things I do for science.

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Let’s start by noting the packaging. I’ve not really looked at much by Mr Kipling on here but I’ve seen them lying around, unloved in piles in the shops.

The packaging is actually kind of nice, pretty patterns in the background, pleasant colours, it’s every inch the corporate machine of pie pack making. And, every single different thing Mr Kipling makes is on brand, the packaging is identical. It’s good for brand recognition, but bad for when your 90 year old, dotty little old lady wants some Mr Kipling Gingerbread Whirls and comes back with these, these vile creations.

And here we go…

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They look innocent enough right. Don’t let the looks fool you.

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The filling is a bit lop sided, but honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a viennese whirl from Mr Kipling that isn’t like this. What I can’t show, what I can’t demonstrate…is the taste.

It was so bad I almost had to throw it away halfway through.

The description on the back says this:
Winter Whirls with buttercream and a mince pie flavour filling.

MINCE PIE FLAVOUR. THIS DOES NOT TASTE LIKE MINCE PIE.

In fact, it tastes what I imagine a cinnamon spiced Yankee Candle would taste like. You know, a candle, that you light…yeah, rancid.

Part of the ingredients describes it as a “spiced apple jam“.

Mr Kipling, you are messing with us here!

Is it Spiced Apple or is Mince Pie flavour? Mince Pie definitely isn’t spiced apple so this is ridiculous.

Let me tell you, if you buy these you’re literally being robbed. Had to have a Twinings Camomile (and spiced apple ironically enough) tea to calm down and take the taste away. What an absolutely ridiculous mess these are.

I’m starting to rethink this whole endeavour, nothing is worth eating these things again.

Father Ted – Christmas Lights

In just 1 minute with this clip, I laughed more than a whole series of “Not Going Out”.

December 1st – Now let us really get started!

One of the most exciting dates of the year today…for about an hour until you realise, it’s still a normal day at work, the weather is just dull as usual. The only thing is, it’s the first day of the year that it’s socially acceptable to have a proper chocolate sweet for breakfast.

But, anyway, what have we got today…

Day 1 of Advent

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Today’s gag of the day:
Q. What happened to the guy who shoplifted a calendar at Christmas?
A. He got 12 months.

Phrase of the day:
Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.

Winter Season
Tomorrow, I’m going to start discussing the weather as today is the day when lots of seasonal forecasts arrive too. That’s because today is the start of the meteorological Winter season.

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If you’re a cold weather fan…December is looking gooooooood!

The Mince Pie – League Table Update

You can always get the Mince Pie League Table by clicking the link at the top, but here’s the latest update. We’ve now reviewed 13 different mince pies, I have a couple more to go and that will probably cover it for this year. December starts very soon and next weekend it’s time for the Christmas Radio Times.

Just so it’s clear, the ratings are: Packaging, Presentation, Filling, Taste Test and then Overall Score. The first 3 are out of 10, taste test is out of 20 (it’s the most important right) and that makes overall score out of 50. Simple as that!

No. Name Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Tesco Finest All Butter 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 6 10 8 17 41
3 Aldi Specially Selected 4 9 8 19 40
4 Iceland Luxury 6 6 9 19 40
5 Coop Irresistable Luxury 8 7 7 16 38
6 M&S Christmas All Butter 6 5 8 17 36
7 Greggs Sweet 6 6 7 17 36
8 Spar Luxury All Butter 8 8 7 12 35
9 Tesco Mince Pies 9 2 4 17 32
10 Waitrose All Butter 5 5 7 14 31
11 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 5 1 4 10 20
12 Coop Puff Pastry 6 6 1 5 18
13 Heston Spiced with Lemon 3 9 3 1 16

Honestly, any of the top 4 will make you happy I think and based on price, quality and taste, right now I’m planning on stocking up with Iceland Luxury Mince Pies for my Christmas this year.

One test I haven’t done yet, is warmed up with custard…and I won’t do that till the evening of December 25th after my cheese and crackers with a big movie.

This weekend…

It’s been quiet on the blog I know last couple of days. I’m about to make up for it though.

Keep an eye on the blog over the weekend, there will be reviews of M&S Star Mince Pies, Tesco Finest Mince Pies, Iceland Luxury Mince Pies, Greggs Mince Pies and…a really special treat after being unavailable the last few years…Cooplands Brandy Butter mince pies.

I might even find a few other bits and bobs to post as well.

A busy weekend in store as we build up to the start of December and then the real fun begins.

 

M&S Christmas Biscuits

Can’t really review biscuits…but I figured I’d draw these out. It’s the middle of November after all and this is the inevitable lull before Black Friday and the madness of December really kicks off.

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So this lot then, as my daughter said, is this really Christmassy? Well, it’s a good question, but I can see the word Santa, Mistletoe etc so they’ve had a go.

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There is a good selection here, but it’s not much different to the Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and the rest doing their Christmas biscuits. Same weight to, but these set me back £5.25 and some of the others can be picked up for £3 so value isn’t really here.

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There are 3 wrapped ones though. I always use the amount of wrapped ones as a barometer of quality. 3 is a high bar.

They’re very tasty.

Honestly, you know when you set out to review something and halfway through you realise, you’ve got nothing to say.

These are nice, don’t get me wrong, but stick to the supermarket own-brand versions of the same thing and save your money.

Or better still, buy a box of McVities Victoria biscuits and have something that is really a once a year treat.

 

Twisted Roses

I mentioned this briefly previously…so, in the interest of pure science and nothing else, I’ll be purchasing me a tub of Roses this weekend to examine the new packaging.

In case you haven’t heard yet. Cadbury’s have switched the Roses sweets from twist wrapped to something called flow wrapped. Twist wrapping is that lovely thing where you pull the sides and it untwists and the sweet falls on the floor for the dog to eat. Flow wrapping though, means you now rip the wrapper open from the jagged edges, likely dropping a bit and finding part of the Dairy Milk wrapper down the side of the sofa cushion on the annual big house clean day in April.

How much difference does this make.

Well, my wife indulged in a tub that someone brought into the office, but she failed to take a photo. She did rant and rave though about how it looks like there is loads more in the tub, but there is less and they are rubbish to open. It’s feedback, but I need to see for myself. So, I’ll be following up this post on Saturday with some photos and real insight. What I’ll do for science eh?

In the meantime, I found this pretty interesting article in the Torygraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11620574/Why-have-Cadburys-Roses-changed-their-wrappers.html

My honest thought right now is that this is an error by Cadburys, change for changes sake and probably driven by people, fresh out of University, trying to make an impact in their jobs.

I’ll definitely try to be unbiased when I review these things though.

Mince pies last year!

So, I suppose I should do something mince pie related, as that’s the name of this blog and all. 

https://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/institute/food-reviews/mince-pies

Last year this was my starter for 10 on mince pie tasting. We were seeking something more interesting than our local coop pies, so a quick search gave me this list.

The most decadent pie purchase last year was the Fortnum and Mason pies, £15 for 6, outrageous. Lots of pie for the money, but actually more like mince cake than a pie.

Anyway, we are building up for the pie tasting, starting from November sometime. We started early last year, and frankly I was a bit pied out by Christmas Day, so this year I won’t overdo it…honest!

Public Information Service: Last Posting Days

Boring post alert…I mean who sends letters now right?

So, the Royal Mail website here: http://www.royalmail.com/greetings has all of the really useful dates and I’ve dropped a bunch of the dates into the calendar that’s on the right hand side of this page. Unless you’re on mobile, then I can’t help you.

Anyway, some highlights:
Surface Mail

  • Middle East surface mail: 29th September…Yep, you’ve missed it already SUCKER!
  • South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA and Canada: 13th October
  • Eastern Europe, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Malta and Iceland: 3rd November
  • Western Europe: 17th November

I’ll let you browse the website for the Airmail dates, I just couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of MiddleEast surface mail is already too late for Christmas.

More importantly I guess, within the UK 2nd class last day is 20th December, 1st class is 21st December…but worst comes to the worst, you can do a special Saturday delivery on the 23rd December that’ll arrive Christmas Eve.

Anyway…told you this post was boring, but it’s a Monday and that’s the mood I’m in!

Woolworths at Christmas

I miss Woolies: