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Brexit uncertainty is driving record sales for Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls as Britons seek ‘comfort food’

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The sweet firm which makes Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls claims Brexit uncertainty has led to its best-ever sales figures as weary Britons treat them as ‘comfort food’.

Bosses at William Santus and Co Ltd say demand for 50p handy packs mirrors similar sales peaks during the financial crash in 2008 and the Winter of Discontent from 1978 to 1979.

John Winnard, Joint Managing Director of the firm based in Wigan, Greater Manchester, revealed latest sales of its Mint Balls were up by 10 per cent in October 2019 compared to October 2018, which itself was a record figure.

Bosses at William Santus and Co Ltd say demand for 50p handy packs (pictured) mirrors similar sales peaks during the financial crash in 2008 and the Winter of Discontent in 1978 to 79

Bosses at William Santus and Co Ltd say demand for 50p handy packs (pictured) mirrors similar sales peaks during the financial crash in 2008 and the Winter of Discontent in 1978 to 79

In nearly 125 years they have become the world's most famous mint balls, with sales still increasing

In nearly 125 years they have become the world’s most famous mint balls, with sales still increasing

The sweet firm which claims Brexit uncertainty has led to its best-ever sales figures as weary Britons treat them as 'comfort food'. Pictured: Company boss John Winnard (right) and his brother Antony (left), with Prince Charles (centre) earlier this year

The sweet firm which claims Brexit uncertainty has led to its best-ever sales figures as weary Britons treat them as ‘comfort food’. Pictured: Company boss John Winnard (right) and his brother Antony (left), with Prince Charles (centre) earlier this year

He said the increasing uncertainty in the lead up to Boris Johnson’s failed Brexit Day of October 31 left people turning to sweets for an inexpensive way to lift their mood.

He said: ‘We put it down to all the uncertainty with Brexit. We always do well when there are difficult times and we think it is because sweets are like a comfort item.

John Winnard, Joint Managing Director of the firm based in Wigan, revealed latest sales of its Mint Balls were up by 10 per cent

John Winnard, Joint Managing Director of the firm based in Wigan, revealed latest sales of its Mint Balls were up by 10 per cent

‘At a time when people can’t afford to buy luxury items or are wary of spending a lot of money, they see a bit of a sweet treat as an affordable indulgence.

‘October is a busy month normally as it is leading up to Halloween and Bonfire Night, but it has been super busy this year.

‘We have just ploughed on, continuing to make our quality sweets, chasing different markets and keeping our heads down but Brexit has definitely led to a peak in sales.’

Mr Winnard said the company’s sales also saw a huge increase when rationing stopped after the Second World War, for the same reason.

In July the company revealed the face of Uncle Joe’s was not based on a real person.

For decades it was thought the friendly-faced man – dressed in a top hat and tails on the tin – was a relative of the Santus family who first made the minty treats for miners in Lancashire.

Mr Winnard said the increasing uncertainty in the lead up to Boris Johnson's failed Brexit Day of October 31 left people turning to sweets

People use them as an inexpensive way to lift their mood

Mr Winnard said the increasing uncertainty in the lead up to Boris Johnson’s failed Brexit Day of October 31 left people turning to the sweets (pictured) for an inexpensive way to lift their mood

The boiled sweets, first made in the kitchen of a Victorian terraced house, are today known around the world, from America to Japan, and beyond

The boiled sweets, first made in the kitchen of a Victorian terraced house, are today known around the world, from America to Japan, and beyond

How did Uncle Joe’s become so popular?

The boiled sweets were first made in the kitchen of a Victorian terraced house in the North West in 1898.

William Santus’ wife Ellen started boiling up sugar in the kitchen of her home in Acton Street, Wigan.

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It is thought that the company's founder, William Santus (pictured), invented Uncle Joe

It is thought that the company’s founder, William Santus (pictured), invented Uncle Joe

They soon became a local favourite and their fame spread as did the slogan ‘They keep you all aglow’.

Over the decades the sweets have achieved legendary status. Immortalised in cartoons and poems, there has even been a song written about them.

They now grace the shelves of upmarket stores and speciality shops, including Harrods and Harvey Nichols in London and New York.

But after years of research company bosses discovered the truth –  they cannot find anyone in the family called Joseph, let alone a kindly uncle.

The brothers believe William Santus may have taken the name for his sweets from a local Lancashire greeting.

Mr Winnard said: ‘There was a nicety that was used in the streets and between miners as they were coming up from their shift.

‘When they were crossing over with the lads heading to the coalface and saw somebody they didn’t know by name they say “Alreet Joe”.

William Santus and Co Ltd is a privately-owned traditional sweet company established in 1898 and the ownership has been passed down through the family generations.

The Mint Balls are still manufactured using the same traditional methods as when Mrs Santus originally made the sweets in her kitchen in 1898.

In April this year HRH Prince Charles enjoyed a tour of the Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls factory in Wigan to celebrate the centenary of The Toffee Works.

He saw how the sweets were manufactured and met Joint Managing Directors Antony Winnard and John Winnard MBE, the great, great nephews of the company’s founder, William Santus.

Each year 33million sweets are made in the same way as the first ones back in 1898, when William Santus' wife Ellen started boiling up sugar in the kitchen of her home in Acton Street, Wigan. Above: Production moved to The Toffee Works in Wigan 100 years ago

Each year 33million sweets are made in the same way as the first ones back in 1898, when William Santus’ wife Ellen started boiling up sugar in the kitchen of her home in Acton Street, Wigan. Above: Production moved to The Toffee Works in Wigan 100 years ago

An old photograph shows a female worker making the Mint Balls. They became popular with miners in Lancashire to start with

An old photograph shows a female worker making the Mint Balls. They became popular with miners in Lancashire to start with 

The mint balls (pictured, being made) are made from pure cane sugar, oil of peppermint and cream of tartar

The mint balls (pictured, being made) are made from pure cane sugar, oil of peppermint and cream of tartar

The company also now produces flavoured sweets using rhubarb and ginger, sugar free ones and a variety of other treats. Pictured: A female worker feeds the ingredients into a machine which will mould them into the shape of balls

The company also now produces flavoured sweets using rhubarb and ginger, sugar free ones and a variety of other treats. Pictured: A female worker feeds the ingredients into a machine which will mould them into the shape of balls

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