Visit Wigan: Mint Balls

(Source: Manchester Evening News)

Workers at Wigan’s famous Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls sweet factory were in party mood as they watched the two billionth mint ball roll off the production line. The landmark moment was heralded by an electronic countdown at the firm’s factory.

John Winnard, fourth generation sweet maker and managing director at Uncle Joe’s, caught the sweet as it popped off the end of the line. But the mint avoided a sticky end because it will now feature in a special exhibition at the Museum of Wigan Life.

Mr Winnard said: “I’m really, really proud. I never thought that day was going to happen in my lifetime. It will take more than 30 years for us to reach the three billion landmark.”

The mint balls were first produced at Ellen Santus’s kitchen in 1898. They were popular with miners and went on to sell in major department stores in London and New York.

The Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls factory was started in 1919 and the sweets are still made by hand using traditional methods.

An estimated 160,000 mint balls are made each day – which amounts to a 35,000,000 a year. Only two people know the recipe and it is mixed in secret.

There were celebrations when the special mint came off the production line at 1.21pm and 34 seconds.

The mint will now go on display at the museum from today until 17 May. The company should produce its three billionth mint ball in 2041.

Sugar-boiler Neil Causey, 42, said: “I remember going to watch Wigan rugby when I was a boy – I always had a bag of Uncle Joe’s in my pocket. It wouldn’t taste the same if it wasn’t hand made. I don’t know the secret ingredient but, if I did, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

Denise Banks, 49, who has worked at the factory since she left school 33 years ago, said: “This is a great place to work and the factory is part of the heritage of Wigan. I’ve never found out the secret ingredient in all those years and I don’t think I’ll ever find out – even on the day I retire.”

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