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Ethical shopping guide to mince pies

Our new guide to mince pies ranks 18 brands, from the biggest names in the market to supermarket own-brands and independent brands.

Organic? Palm oil free? Vegan? There's plenty for an ethical consumer to consider when choosing which mince pies to buy. 

This guide explores the ethics of various companies and examines what each brand offers in terms of ethical mince pies.

This guide highlights the massive difference between smaller more ethical brands and large supermarkets for their mince pies. In general, the supermarkets tend to score in the bottom half of the table.

However, there are differences between supermarkets so if you do have a choice of supermarkets, read on to find which are better ethically and environmentally.

What to look for when buying mince pies?

  • Is it vegan? Dairy cows (used to make butter) often have very poor standards of welfare, and farming cows has a significant negative impact on the climate.
  • Is it organic? Organic farming avoids harmful chemicals, GMOs and is generally far better for our ecosystems. If you are not opting for a vegan mince pie, organic also means somewhat higher animal welfare standards.

Best buys in this guide

Riverford, Roots & Wings, and Authentic Bread Company are our best buys. As well as being at the top of the table they are all organic companies and also all scored 100 for company ethos.

Recommended brands

Abel & Cole are also recommended as, while the company as a whole (including its parent William Jackson Food Group) did not score as highly, its mince pies still tick a lot of ethical boxes. It also offered a gluten-free version (but not suitable for anyone with a very severe allergy). 

For more mainstream options available on the high street, we recommend vegan options from Co-op, Greggs, M&S and Waitrose as they all scored higher on the table (but poorly for animal rights).

You may also have a local independent bakery that makes mince pies. As well as it being good to support smaller businesses, it also means you can ask them directly about their ingredients. Or you can have a go at making your own.

You may notice that Daylesford, while scoring highly, has not been listed as recommended. This is because the company is linked to the Bamfords whose activities may be considered controversial by many of our subscribers. Please see the company profile further down for more information.

Things to avoid when buying mince pies

  • Are there poor workers’ rights in the supply chain? Mince pies contain a lot of ingredients, many of which, such as sugar, are a high risk for workers’ rights abuses in the supply chain.
  • Does it contain unsustainable palm oil? Try to go for palm oil-free options or, when not possible, avoid companies still using uncertified palm.

Brands to avoid

We recommend avoiding Aldi, Asda, and Tesco

Asda and Tesco are two of the top three supermarkets by turnover in the UK and two of the bottom three scoring on our table, scoring zero in multiple categories. 

Aldi also came out in the bottom three on the table.

Screenshot of scoretable for mince pie brands. Information is in the main text or separate pdf.
Our new score table.

This guide is presented using a revised version of Ethical Consumer’s new scoring system. This means we have rated companies on eight categories, including those most relevant to mince pies, such as palm oil and animals. It is not presented in our usual guide style as it is a beta test. 

You can read more about this at the end of the guide.

Vegan mince pies

Mince pies have gone on a real journey when it comes to animal ingredients. They used to be made with actual meat (hence the name), but most swapped the meat for fruit in the late Victorian era (though they still generally contained suet which can be from animal or plantbased sources). 

Not to be left behind the times, many mince pies are now becoming vegan.

None of the brands in this guide are part of fully vegan companies, but the majority appeared to offer a vegan version, with the exception of Booths, Daylesford, Iceland, Mr Kipling, and Roots & Wings. 

Greggs was the only company that appeared to only offer vegan mince pies, but it did sell a lot of other meat products.

All the companies in this guide sell a significant amount of animal products, and most of them are supermarkets with huge ranges but without adequate welfare policies.

Riverford, Roots & Wings, and Authentic Bread Company scored 30 for animal issues because all of their animal products were covered by policies which, to some extent, mitigated the suffering of the animals concerned. 

For these companies, it was because their entire range was certified organic, which includes standards for animal welfare. With Riverford this is true apart from the sale of some wild fish, which it said was line caught in small boats. Abel & Cole and Daylesford were largely organic but sold farmed salmon so only scored 10.

We also rated companies for agricultural practices. 

We looked at what actions companies are taking to reduce, or even reverse, the damage done to biodiversity and ecosystems by agriculture. For supermarkets, this looks at their own-brand policies only.

Despite run-off from farms, particularly non-organic and factory farms, being a major pollution risk for our soils and ever-declining river health, we could not find any clear policies around this issue among any of the non-organic companies. 

One UK farm which supplied M&S, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose was fined £35,000 for polluting waterways with slurry.

Riverford and Daylesford scored full marks as they had multiple policies beyond their organic focus. Authentic Bread Company, Roots & Wings, and Abel & Cole also scored well. 

The Pesticide Action Network ranked supermarkets on their approach to pesticides – those ranked in the bottom five lost marks in our rating. 

These were, from highest to lowest, Tesco, Lidl, Asda, Aldi, and Iceland. Aldi, Booths, Greggs, and Iceland did not appear to have any policies for reducing pesticide use in their supply chain.

Plate of mince pies

Are there palm oil free mince pies?

Roots & Wings and Riverford were entirely palm oil-free companies. 

Abel & Cole’s mince pies were all also palm oil free.

In the past, Daylesford has sold mince pies with palm oil, but more recent examples appeared to all be palm oil free. 

Iceland reintroduced palm oil for some products due to the supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine. But all its mince pies appeared to be palm oil free.

Aldi, ASDA, M&S, Waitrose and Tesco also appeared to offer a palm oil-free option. 

Supermarkets and larger companies often use palm oil as a replacement for butter, so if buying from such brands your choice is likely between vegan or palm oil free.

How we assess companies for palm oil

Our palm rating only applies to own-brand products, not the other products sold by these retailers. 

Palm oil is a problematic ingredient and we explore more about the impacts of palm oil in a separate article.

Greggs was the only company to receive marks for having over 95% of its palm certified through segregated supply chains. Segregation means that the actual palm oil contained in your product has come directly from a certified source. 

The Co-operative just missed out on these marks with 93.3% of its palm supply certified this way.

Aldi was the only supermarket to have less than 50% of its palm supply certified through segregated means and scored lower because of this.

Iceland famously was the first and only supermarket to go palm oil free a few years ago. However, in 2022 it announced that it had to temporarily start using some palm oil again due to the war in Ukraine, which has affected the supply of sunflower oil. Unfortunately, the company did not appear to have any palm oil sourcing policies in place, nor had it reported to the RSPO. As a result, it scored 0 in the palm oil category.

Companies could receive marks for bring transparent about which mills their palm comes from. Previously we found that none of the supermarkets were doing this, but it appears progress is being made: Tesco listed some suppliers (including some mills), and Sainsbury’s disclosed importers (but not yet mills).

Organic mince pies

All the mince pies from Abel & Cole, Authentic Bread Company, Daylesford, Riverford, and Roots & Wings were organic. 

Waitrose was the only supermarket to offer an organic range. Sainsbury’s had done previously but it didn't in 2023.

What about fair trade mince pies?

While mince pies contain many ingredients that can (and should) be sourced fair trade, such as sugar, spices, and dried fruits, it doesn’t seem that there are any options for buying ready-made fair trade mince pies.

Who sells what?

The table below is a summary of all the options for mince pies at the time of the research (6 December  2023).

Brand Palm oil free Vegan Organic
Abel & Cole All Some All
Aldi Some No No
Asda Some Some No
Authentic Bread Co. All Some All
Booths No No No
Co-op Some Some No
Daylesford All No All
Greggs No All No
Iceland All Some No
Lidl No  Some No
M&S Some Some No
Morrisons No Some No
Mr Kipling No No No
Riverford All Some All
Roots & Wings All No All
Sainsbury's No Some No
Tesco Some Some No
Waitrose Some Some Some

Only Abel & Cole, Riverford and Authentic Bread Company offered the holy trinity of a mince pie that is palm oil free, vegan, and organic. (Authentic Bread Company make the mince pies for Abel & Cole and Riverford but to each brand’s recipe). Authentic Bread Company also offered a gluten-free version.

Mince pies and packaging

We have often received requests from subscribers to rate companies on plastic and packaging, so this guide seemed a good opportunity to try this out. For larger companies, marks were awarded for quantified dated targets to reduce plastic packaging, reduce overall packaging, increase recyclability of packaging, and increase the recycled content of packaging. Marks were also given when companies demonstrated that they had taken clear steps on these four aspects.

For small companies, we looked for aims and action on the same factors but did not require these to be as quantified as larger companies. Top marks would be given for companies with more radical approaches to packaging such as zero plastic or packaging free. Marks were deducted for third-party criticisms.

Abel & Cole had a detailed page on its website outlining each type of packaging and explaining how customers can return or reuse it. The company will take back and reuse or recycle pretty much all of its packaging. This was fairly similar to Riverford.

Lidl scored the best of the supermarkets, but it should be noted this rating covers Lidl GB only as it reported separately. Asda, Authentic Bread Company, M&S, Morrisons, Mr Kipling, and Tesco all scored zero in this category. In practice, the Authentic Bread Company may be doing better, but it had very little information on its website and did not respond to our questionnaire – with most of the other ratings, the fact that it was 100% organic addressed many issues, but this is not the case with packaging.

How well are companies doing on environmental action?

Three companies got full marks for this category: M&S, Premier Foods (Mr Kipling), and the Co-op. We were looking for discussion on what they had already done to cut their carbon impact, and how they will reduce it in future, focusing on the supply chain which usually counts for over 90% of emissions. They also had to report on their full emissions, have adequate reduction targets, and have no major criticisms.

Abel & Cole would have done better on its own, but its parent company did not meet any criteria. We found little discussion of climate impact from Authentic Bread Company and Roots & Wings, but as small companies they were not expected to meet such stringent criteria so still scored 40 each.

Some of the supermarkets lost marks for external criticisms: Tesco was challenged by the campaign group Feedback to look more at supply chain emissions, Asda had installed air conditioning that used a refrigerant with high global warming potential, and Lidl was rated Least Climate-Friendly Supermarket by DeSmog.

Workers' rights

We looked at what companies were doing to uphold the rights of workers in their supply chains. For example, we looked at whether a company had an adequate code of conduct that was aligned with the standards of the International Labour Organisation, whether it publicly disclosed its suppliers, and whether it was doing anything to promote living wages in its supply chain. We also took account of any significant and reputable third-party criticism that related to these issues (for example, evidence that workers in a company’s supply chain had been paid less than minimum wage), which would lead to a company losing marks.

Small and medium-sized companies were not expected to have as robust policies as larger companies.

The highest scoring companies were: Authentic Bread Company, Riverford, Roots & Wings, and Waitrose. Those at the very bottom of the pile were Asda and Iceland, both of which scored 0 in this category. Abel & Cole’s rating included that of its parent company, William Jackson Food Group, which lacked adequate policies in this area.

How ethical is Greggs?

Greggs is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to ethics. It gets full marks on its approach to tax, is the only large company to score above 40 (out of 100) for palm oil, and was also one of the higher scorers in the climate rating. However, it still needs to put a lot of work into ensuring workers in its supply chain are treated fairly. 

It scored zero in the agriculture rating. It also scored zero in the animals column, showing that while it might be able to hit the headlines with a vegan sausage roll, it is not doing enough to ensure welfare of the animals in its wider supply chain. 

Company behind the brand

Bamford Collections Ltd owns Daylesford Organics, which on the face of it appears to be a small company doing a lot of the right things – not only is it organic but it is also working to restore wetland and creating an agroforestry project on its farmland.

However, Bamford Collections is owned by Lady Carole Bamford, who is married to billionaire Lord Anthony Bamford, director of family business JCB. Bamford Collections lists a number of dormant companies with the JCB name amongst its subsidiaries. But because there is no evidence of a formal link to the wider JCB group, Daylesford still scores well on our tables. 

JCB has received heavy criticisms for human rights due diligence failures which allowed its machinery to be used to demolish homes in occupied Palestine

The Bamfords have been long-time donors to the Tory party, and more recently both Lord and Lady Bamford have made headlines for helping to bankroll Boris Johnson’s post-PM lifestyle.

Make your own

Making your own mince pies can be a good way to ensure you know where all the ingredients came from, as well as requiring less packaging than pre-made pies. 

You can buy a jar of mincemeat and make the pastry or vice versa, or make both elements. You could buy fair trade sugar, and organic flour for example. 

See below for a recipe for homemade mince pies.

Vegan mince pie recipe

It is possible to make your own mince pies, either making your own mincemeat and pastry, or just making one part and buying the other. Here's one recipe to try.


  • 500 g mixed dried fruits (e.g. sultanas, raisins, dates, currants)
  • 25 g almonds (chopped)
  • 25 g candied peel (chopped)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small apple – peeled and grated
  • 130 g muscovado sugar
  • 130 g vegetable suet
  • 3 tsp of mixed ground spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice)
  • 75 ml brandy or orange juice (check out our juice guide)

Mix all the ingredients except the brandy or orange juice in a pan and heat until the sugar and suet have melted. Then mix in the brandy or orange juice. Store in sterilised jars and in a couple of weeks it will be ready to use.


Rub the fat into the flour and then mix in the water to make a dough. You want to keep the pastry cool and don’t knead it beyond forming into a ball. Chill it in fridge before using.

Combining the pastry and mince

On a floured surface roll out and then cut two thirds of your pastry with a pastry cutter and place into a cupcake tin. Fill with mincemeat and chill in the fridge. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out the lids (you can make stars or full circles). Add these onto your mince pies. Brush with a little vegan milk.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for around half an hour or until golden.

Our new trial rating system

You'll notice this guide is different from our usual guides, for example cereals or bookshops.

This is because we are changing the way we rate the brands in our guides. Under the new trial system used for this guide:

  • companies start at 0
  • the overall total score is out of 100 (rather than 20), which allows for greater nuance and is easily understandable
  • marks are gained for good policy or practice but can also be lost if we find reports of bad practice
  • score tables now have eight categories (rather than 20), each of which is scored out of 100, which allows us to create more nuanced and in-depth ratings on specific issues.

You can view a spreadsheet of the company scoring.

You can see all the detailed scoring under each category in the pdf version of this guide. Normally this would be available only for our subscribers, but for this guide we're making it freely available to everyone (well, the spirit of Christmas!).

View the new guide to mince pies as a PDF.

Your feedback

We really want the views of our subscribers, so please send your feedback on this new style of guide and scoring system.

You can use this online questionnaire to fill in a short survey

Or if you prefer, send your feedback by email to:

This guide appeared in Ethical Consumer Magazine 205.