Produced since 1847, these classic New England candies almost disappeared in 2018.
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 in 2018, fans, many of whom attribute their enjoyment to sheer nostalgia, thought they may have seen the last of the 170-year-old treat. In July, Necco abruptly closed its factory in Revere, Massachusetts. After a few months of uncertainty, there came a reprieve: Spangler, an Ohio-based candy company, purchased the Necco brand in September. Spangler promises an update on the future of Necco wafer production in fall 2019.
The hiccup in production is a brief pause in a very long history of candy-making. The Necco brand 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 candy’s popularity has dwindled considerably. While wafer-production remains on hiatus, it might be important to stock up now, even if only for nostalgia’s sake. Don’t worry, they’ll last a while.