Avanti West Coast Train Manager, Helen May

Avanti West Coast serves up special brownie with taste of Wigan delicacy

Bespoke bake celebrating popular sweet recreated by local suppliers for Avanti West Coast customers. 

  • Train Manager’s recipe recreated as a treat for customers on West Coast
  • Brownie celebrates popular traditional sweet first made over 120 years ago
  • Avanti West Coast helps create the perfect batch with suppliers local to its route   

Avanti West Coast has teamed up with local suppliers to recreate a recipe by one of its staff that champions a traditional Wigan delicacy which will be served on board.

Working with Flintshire bakery The Pudding Compartment (who supply cakes and biscuits to Avanti West Coast) and traditional sweet company, Uncle Joe’s, the intercity operator has produced a bespoke bake - Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls Brownie – for its latest seasonal First Class Menu.

Based on a recipe by Preston-based Train Manager, Helen May, the brownie celebrates Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls – a popular mint-flavoured sweet manufactured in Wigan using the same traditional methods as when it was originally made in 1898.

The classic combination of chocolate and mint showcasing a local confectionery was selected as a sweet treat for customers following an internal baking competition to create a limited-edition product that can be served in First Class.

As a Wigan resident, Helen wanted to create something local to her, so incorporated Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, which are synonymous with the town, into her brownie.

Helen spent weeks perfecting her signature brownie recipe, which was tried and tested by her partner and chief taster, Rory (also an Avanti West Coast Train Manager) as well as staff at his depot in Manchester, to beat competition from colleagues across the West Coast.

When Helen’s winning bake was being upscaled to 15,000 portions, Uncle Joe’s helped The Pudding Compartment and Avanti West Coast replicate the unique mint taste by supporting with their secret recipe, which has been passed down through family generations.

The familiar flavour of the traditional sweet can now be savoured by customers travelling between London, Scotland, and Holyhead with the limited-edition brownie.  

Helen said: “Mint and chocolate go together perfectly, so with the renowned Wigan sweet being local to the West Coast Main Line I thought it was a great idea to use the unique mint taste in my brownie. I’m delighted it was selected as the winning recipe and have loved seeing my bake come to life thanks to the efforts of The Pudding Compartment and Uncle Joe’s. I feel so proud my Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls brownie has been made into a product for customers across our route to enjoy and hope they like the taste of the popular traditional sweet.”

Steve West, Managing Director of The Pudding Compartment, said: “Working with Uncle Joe’s to bring Helen’s vision and product into reality was exciting. Many people in North West England are familiar with the taste of Uncle Joe’s so making sure we could capture that flavour while upscaling the winning brownie recipe was a challenge we thoroughly enjoyed. To see how appreciative and pleased Helen was with the result made it all worthwhile. We love what we do and it’s fantastic to work with Avanti West Coast who like to champion local produce and flavours. We hope customers along the West Coast enjoy this latest bake.”

Antony Winnard, joint Managing Director of Wm Santus & Co who make Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, said: “We are very proud that people up and down the West Coast will get to sample our Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls in Helen’s excellent brownie.

“We’re flattered that as a Wigan resident, she’s chosen to include this Wigan delicacy in her winning bake and I’m sure those travelling on an Avanti West Coast train will love it.

“It tastes great and we are delighted to support The Pudding Compartment, which is another small business on the West Coast route, with a supply of our secret ingredients so they could turn Helen’s bake into something everyone onboard can enjoy.”

Rob Taylor, Food and Beverage Development Lead at Avanti West Coast, said: “Helen’s brownie had something different – a unique flavour of a local sweet - which is one reason why it was selected to be made into a product for customers onboard our trains. By using locally produced confectionery, it’s allowed us to bring together two small businesses who are only hundreds of metres from parts of our route. It has been great collaborating with The Pudding Compartment and Uncle Joe’s to replicate Helen’s winning recipe and we hope customers as far as Holyhead, London and Scotland enjoy eating it as much as we’ve enjoyed being involved in its development.”  


Contact Information

Laura Normansell

Avanti West Coast


Notes to editors

Main image: Helen May, Avanti West Coast Train Manager, who created Uncle Joe's Mint Balls Brownie to be served onboard. 

About The Pudding Compartment   

We all have a Pudding Compartment… or even a biscuit or cake compartment so we love to manufacture delicious hand-crafted products to delight our customers.

We are based in Flint, North Wales and employ 25 hardworking, dedicated local people who love what they do and are proud to produce thousands of great quality delicious baked treats every year.

Our delicious range of products are made with the very best ingredients. We take great care in sourcing ethically and where possible we use local suppliers. We are proud to be Welsh producers and as such have built partnerships with other Welsh businesses, using their ingredients or producing on their behalf.


About Uncle Joe’s   

Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls are made by Wigan-based William Santus and Co Ltd, a privately-owned traditional sweet company that was established in 1898.

Each year 33 million 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.

They soon became a local favourite and their fame spread, as did the slogan “They keep you all aglow”.

The ownership has been passed down through the family generations and joint Managing Directors John Winnard MBE and Antony Winnard are the great, great nephews of the company’s founder.

These days it’s not just mint balls, the company produces flavoured sweets using rhubarb and ginger, sugar free varieties and a range of other treats. There’s even been a special limited addition, Uncle Joe’s Gin.

For more information on Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls and other products in the range, including a video of the production process, visit: https://uncle-joes.com/

About Avanti West Coast   

Avanti West Coast, operator of intercity rail services on the West Coast Main Line, is a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia, delivering a cleaner, greener railway that drives the West Coast forward.

We’re on a mission to revolutionise train travel. Our refurbed Pendolinos are returning to the rails, with a £117m investment that’s delivering best in class comfort. Rebuilt using sustainable materials wherever possible, including tables made from recycled plastic bottles, our upgraded fleet offers 25,000 brand new seats, free Wi-Fi, onboard recycling and much more.

New Hitachi trains are set to replace our Voyager trains from 2023, leading to a 61% cut in carbon emissions. Quieter and roomier, with more reliable Wi-Fi, wireless charging for electrical devices and a real-time customer information system, the new 23-strong fleet is the result of a £350m investment in sustainable travel.

We’re tackling climate change wherever we can, from reducing energy and water use to training drivers in eco-driving techniques and sourcing food and drink from local suppliers. Our goal is to be net zero carbon by 2031. We’re on track.

For the latest news, visit the Avanti West Coast Media Centre: https://newsdesk.avantiwestcoast.co.uk/

Press Office: 0845 000 3333