THE Co-operative Group's Premium Christmas Pudding has been chosen as one of the best buys by the consumer magazine Which? in a taste test that puts it on a par with that produced by Prince Charles's estate.
The festive survey is featured in this month's edition of Which? and was carried out by three pudding experts, who did a blind tasting of 13 luxury puddings and six for special diets.
The Co-op's own-label premium pudding came joint second out of the 19 and scored seven out of 10 ? the same as the Duchy Original Organic Christmas pudding from the Prince's Cornwall estate ? and well ahead of more expensive upmarket puddings from Harrods and Marks & Spencer.
Co-op Premium Christmas Pudding with cider, brandy, sherry and rum, 454g, priced £ 4.29, was described as being "like Christmas again." The expert panel added: "It was dark in colour, yet had a light crumbly and moist texture with a very fruity and alcoholic flavour."
The pudding was also given special recognition as being the only one suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians.
Roger Marshall from the Co-operative Group, who buys the puddings for more than 2,000 Co-op stores, said: "We are delighted that our Premium Christmas Pudding has been chosen as a best buy by Which?
"The results of the survey reinforce the high quality of our own-label products and show that consumers really don't have to spend a fortune to find a top product."
Meanwhile the Co-operative Group has announced several new additions to its Truly Irresistible range in time for Christmas.
Six new products have been added to the range that was launched in July this year with the aim of encouraging customers to re-appraise the Co-op's image while reinforcing its commitment to offering customers unique products close to home at their local store.
The Co-operative Group believes that these products represent "mouth-watering, indulgent food and drink." All are mainstream enough that people will want to try them, but they also have a story, twist or angle to make them innovative and different.
This may be a particularly noteworthy ingredient, they may be sourced from a specific region or have a unique recipe created by a chef working in close partnership with the Co-op's suppliers.
The Co-operative Group's Susan Bromley said: "We are delighted that we have been able to launch the latest phase of Truly Irresistible products in time for the festive season. These delicious foods are ideal for this time of the year and provide a unique alternative to traditional Christmas fare.
"The new products reinforce our commitment to innovation and the range has performed exceptionally well since the launch and went down a storm at the recent BBC Good Food Show."
The new additions to the range are available in selected Co-op stores now. They include: Chargrilled Mediterranean-Style Vegetables with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing; Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Kentish Cider Butter; Beef Wellington; Lincolnshire Pork and Bacon Parcels with Bramley Apple and Mustard Relish; Italian-Style Chicken Fillets and Chicken Fillets with Mushroom and Marsala Sauce.
In a further boost for shoppers over the festive season many of the existing Truly Irresistible Range products are available at up to a third off until 4th January.