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Necco Wafers | America's Oldest Candy

Necco Wafers | America’s Oldest Candy
4 votes, 4.75 avg. rating (91% score)

If taste is linked to memory, then one of the easiest ways to jump back to childhood is to eat a Necco Wafer, America’s oldest continuously manufactured candy. Even tearing the paper to unroll the tube does it — the puff of powdered sugar and mingling flavor-scents, both sweet and spicy, hitting your nose. Lemon? Wintergreen? Chocolate? Yes, the combination can seem odd by today’s candy standards, but the flavor blend is a familiar one if you grew up eating Necco Wafers, and just one bite (which is more of a “SNAP”) makes the time-travel complete.

necco wafers

Necco Wafers are a New England made American classic.

For your tastebuds, anyway.

Necco Wafers are proudly made using the candy’s original formula (they leave modern influences to the brand’s ever-changing Sweethearts “conversation hearts” each Valentine’s Day), but despite the classic approach they’ve held on to their place at the checkout next to richer, fattier, and fruitier candies. Nostalgia aside, I suspect that Necco Wafer’s exceptional use as gingerbread house shingles, edible poker chips, or practice hosts for a first communion helps keep wafer sales strong, and it’s likely the wafers partnered with the aforementioned Sweethearts (the top-selling Valentine’s Day candy) that bring in enough to keep the company’s many brands (including Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Candy Buttons, Clark Bars, Sky Bars, Haviland Mints, and more) going — much to the delight of many classic candy consumers.

Here’s a little background info. The wafers are made by the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO…see that?) in Revere, MA, but while NECCO the company wasn’t formed until 1901, the wafer candies have been made the exact same way since 1847. That means that while Abraham Lincoln was in the White House and Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb, the familiar rolls of flavored wafers were for sale (wouldn’t you like to guess which flavor would have been each man’s favorite?). During the early 20th century explorers took them to the Arctic and the South Pole, while the army sent them to soldiers overseas during WWII because the wafers didn’t melt or spoil.

necco ad 1922

A Necco Wafers newspaper ad from 1922.

The original flavor lineup (orange, lemon, lime, clove, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, and wintergreen) hasn’t budged, but if you want, you can also buy rolls of just chocolate Necco wafers, and another variety that I’ve never seen, Tropical Necco Wafers, which have coconut, passion fruit, strawberry, lime, banana, and mango flavors. Curious about how the wafers are made? Check out the “How Necco Wafers are Made” photo page on the NECCO website.

While it’s true that there are many folks who find Necco Wafers chalky and bland (the candy routinely come in last alongside the marshmallow circus peanut on the annual list of “What’s the worst Halloween candy?”), the wafers also have their loyal fans that will buy them as long as NECCO keeps making them, and they do. Approximately 4 billion wafers a year are produced and sold — all without advertising! — for a candy recipe from the days of the Mexican–American War. It’s hard to beat that…

So which camp do you belong to? Necco lover or not? Personally, I can’t get enough of the clove.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Aimee Seavey

Author:

Aimee Seavey

Biography:

Assistant Editor Aimee Seavey is a staff writer for Yankee Magazine and assists in the development and promotion of content for YankeeMagazine.com through blogging and social media outlets.
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12 Responses to Necco Wafers | America’s Oldest Candy

  1. Kim April 9, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    My great aunt (who passed away in 2001) worked there for years. Not quite sure what she did, but I know she liked it. If you can believe it, when I was going through preparation for my First Communion back in 1978, the nun used NECCO wafers as the “host” because they’re the same size and shape :)

    Great piece!

  2. Lyn April 9, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    When I was young the sweets did not come often but every so often we were allowed to pick a candy we liked when we went to the local grocery. Necco wafers were always my favorite. I could make them last for a very long time enjoying them a little wafer at a time. I think my favorite was the green wafer and the least favorite the white. Have not had them for a very long time but after seeing this I may pick some up just to see if my taste buds have changed!

  3. tonya April 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    I have been eating these since I was little! Always liked pink, white and purple best! Unfortunately the conversation hearts dont have the same spicy flavors anymore. Thank goodness I can still get the wafers. Have 2 rolls sitting next to me right now! Lol!!!

  4. Tika April 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    I love them still…the licorice is my favorite…and I’ll buy them fairly frequently to keep in the center console of my car for a midafternoon pick-me-up on the way home…

    PS-I love circus peanuts too, don’t care if they’re the least liked Halloween candy ever….

    • Ricki April 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      LICORICE was and is my favorite! Got hooked on them when 6 years old ~ am now 83! ” I’d walk a mile for a roll of Licorice flavored wafers” BUT the only place I can get them now is at the Dollar Store where they now cost .79 cents ~ then also at ‘Cracker Barrel’ where they sell for over a dollar!!! Wonder why they never made them in COFFEE flavor?!

  5. Stacy April 10, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    Necco wafers! I always saw them in my neighborhood 7-11 as a kid but never picked any up. Lack of fancy packaging I guess. Had I known they were made by the makers of Sweethearts I would have picked some up! Will be on the lookout next time I’m at the grocery store. Great article!

  6. JOAN C FRONDORF April 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    My Dad, K E Lumbert, worked for NECCO before he met & married my Mother. I am there only daughter, & now live in Venice, FL. Interestingly, I have found & bought the NECCO Wafers at a restuarant in Sarasota, FL called Der Dutchman (Troyers). I’m eating one now. YUM!!!!!!

  7. Janice April 24, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    So many memories of necco wafers. My mother and grandmother always had them in their purses. They were a great treat to keep the kids from fidgeting during something “adult” but then my sisters and I would fight over the colors. I honestly never knew which flavor was which other than the chocolate

  8. Betty April 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    I always bought Necco Wafers when I went to the movies as a kid. They lasted the whole movie and I even had some to take home. I don’t go to the movies very often now, but will buy some the next time I do.

  9. Carol Ann Hughes April 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    I love Necco wafers, I just finished off a roll yesterday.

  10. Betty April 24, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    Love this story …. Had Necco wafers growing up … they are the best …
    Can never pass them up …

    Thank you for all the info … did not know they were that old.

  11. Donna April 28, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    One of my favorite trivia questions while driving by the warehouse (I-90?) is: “What does NECCO stand for?” Always a goodie (pun intended).

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