With their chalky crunch and bitter flavors such as licorice and clove, Necco wafers have a reputation as a candy that people love to hate. But fans, many of whom attribute their enjoyment to sheer nostalgia, are facing the looming possibility that the 170-year-old treat might disappear for good. On July 24, 2018, the company abruptly closed its factory in Revere, Massachusetts, leaving the future of the classic New England candy in question.
Necco’s longstanding history dates back to 1847 when a young English immigrant named Oliver Chase patented the first American candy-cutting machine, allowing him to create candies (then called “lozenges”) in different shapes. After producing what were known as “hub” wafers for several decades, Chase cofounded the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) and rebranded his sweet discs as Necco wafers. When it opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1927, the original Necco factory was the most modern of its kind in the United States.
While the chalky, hard exterior is what most critics despise, that texture is precisely what made Necco wafers into a long-lasting ration that was used throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Soldiers dined on the wafers in both the Civil War and World War II, and in 1913, explorer Donald MacMillan brought them to the Arctic, where he shared the treats with Inuit children.
But times have changed, and while this chalky sensation leaves an imprint on one’s memory, the wafer’s time may have run out. Even downsizing from the original Cambridge facility to the more recent Revere location couldn’t help the struggling company. With the Necco wafer’s future in question, it might be important to stock up now, even if only for nostalgia’s sake. Don’t worry, they’ll last a while.
Need to Know
Perhaps more alarming to many, the Necco factory was also producer of the classic candy hearts that bear romantic-but-corny messages. Valentine’s Day may never be the same.