Load cells and mince pies: it’s all under the lid

Published On: December 19 2018


Load cells play an integral part in almost all food manufacture and production, from batch hopper weighing to food filling, from packing to bottling, and almost every stage in between.

Load cells help ensure that packaged foods comply with all kinds of regulations, including that packets are filled to the correct weight. The accuracy of load cells also ensure that manufacturers can fill efficiently and effectively, with minimal overfill required.

The mince pie air gap dilemma

So it came as a bit of a surprise to discover that one of the nation’s favourite Christmas foods, mince pies, have a tricky problem that can’t be solved with more filling – the air gap. This is the gap between the pastry lid and the filling inside the bottom pastry case, and it’s been an issue ever since mince pies were first manufactured at scale.

Luckily, a team of food developers decided to do something about it. It’s all to do with the pressure applied when you pop the pastry lid onto a filled mince pie pasty case in its foil case.

  • Too little pressure, and the air pocket remains.
  • Too much pressure, and (presumably) you’ve got a squashed mince pie.


Load cells under the lid?

The team developed a system that reduced the air gap, allowing a better bite and less pastry falling on the plate/floor/into the dog. We reckon load cells must be involved somewhere in the measurement of a consistent, ideal ‘lid to pie’ pressure, but the company behind the innovation certainly are keeping it under wraps!


Mince pie facts to mull over

In the UK, we buy an estimated 370 million mince pies every Christmas. That’s around 27 mince pies each.

  • For Christmas 2017, a record 220 million mince pies were made and sold by just one company, Premier Foods.
  • The Daily Mail says that this year, us Brits had already spent £4million on mince pies by mid October!!
  • However, Hubbub reckons we actually throw out 74m of the Christmas treats uneaten. Not surprising if they had been bought way back in October and you’d had a quick taster and tried to seal up the box again….


Who makes the best tasting pies?

Of course the answer is, whoever bakes them in your family! However, given that the closest most of us get to raw pastry or mincemeat is watching soggy bottom disasters on The Great British Bake Off, thank goodness for the annual Good Housekeeping Institute. Every year, a panel of experts taste nearly every mince pie sold, which is probably enough to put them off the pastry treats until mid-March. For 2018, they voted the top three tastiest pies to be:

  • No 1: Morrisons The Best Mince Pies – 83/100
  • Joint 2 and 3: Pret’s Mince Pie and M&S The Collection 6 Mince Pies – 79/100


Go large!

This year, supermarket giant Asda launched a giant mince pie that really is a handful. It measures seven inches in diameter and weighs in at 435g. Ciara Loker, Asda product developer said:

“Mince pies are a staple of the festive season… Following feedback that one was never enough, we wanted to create a delicious dessert guests can enjoy, one slice at a time.”

Given that one mince pie is never enough, we don’t quite see how one slice would be either….


How to eat a mince pie

The Guardian has written a tongue in cheek guide to how to munch your mince pies. It’s certainly well worth a read with a cuppa and a hot mince pie. Yes, hot. The article insists it needs to be hot to ensure, quote:

“You will not have to eat a cold, stodgy puck of a pie, its pastry dry and brittle, its filling claggy, its aromas and flavours as faint as the chances of Theresa May’s Brexit deal passing in parliament.”


A mince pie for Santa

Remember to leave out a mince pie, a glass of milk or sherry, and a carrot for Santa and Rudolph on Christmas Eve. They’ve got a lot of work to do – about 26 percent of the world’s population in 2018 are aged under 15 years old. That’s 1,908,204,831 present to deliver, in one night.

And if you fancy making your own mince pies yourself for the Big Man this year, this looks a tasty bake


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all

We’ve had a great year helping our customers with all kinds of load cells projects and we look forward to doing it all again next year too!