The History of Necco Wafers

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in Candy Blog

Where did Necco Wafers even come from?

The first time I had one, my little sister had convinced me to trade away two red Jolly Ranchers that I had received in my Halloween stash. Upon cracking open the wax paper packaging, I found myself befuddled by these candy disks that appeared to be just like a Smartee, except much larger.

They looked like something my dad would put in his water after eating a spicy Mexican dinner, except they varied in color, which had me wondering, “what kind of flavors are these?

As I tossed the first disk from the package into my mouth I could immediately taste the sweet and tart flavor of lemon. The texture covered my tongue like a light coating of lemony mist that was dancing through my mouth. The disk itself began to disintegrate as I sucked on it longer and longer until it disappeared.

It was unlike any candy I had tasted in years—sweet, slightly chalky, but yet addicting like a cherry-flavored cough drop.

This was the first time I ever tasted one—and lets just say it was not my last.

It only took 10 more years to come back.

Which brings us here—I just had a Necco wafer for the first time in almost 10 years, and as such, I wanted to know more about where it came from. So I dove into the history of Necco and where they came up with the wafer idea and let’s just say it’s a sweet story. 

The History of Necco Wafers

What exactly is a Necco Wafer?

Necco wafers are colored candy disks made up of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, natural & artificial flavors, and vegetable gums. They come in packs of 24 disks with their 8 staple flavors that give it the iconic cover.

Their standard pack contains lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice, and chocolate. But as Necco continued to grow and their wafers rose in popularity, they started making complete packages of single flavors.

Now if you’ve never had a Necco Wafer before, we’ll be the first to tell you that they do have a bit of a chalky taste and texture. It’s not quite like eating chalk straight from the sidewalk, but more like chewing on a fruity Alkaseltzer tab.

But ask around and it’s guaranteed you have a family member or friend who absolutely loves Necco wafers. Just look at what one of our customers had to say about them from her childhood,

My favorite candy is Necco Wafers. We would go camping several times a summer and always go to the camp store and buy Necco Wafers and eat them out by the campfire. My siblings and I would trade colors so that we could have the favorites and we’d always give the black ones to my dad. My favorite was the green!

Who started making Necco Wafers?

When Oliver R. Chase invented the first automated machine that pressed and cut lozenges he had no clue that he was on the precipice of starting the largest confectionery company in the United States. As a Boston druggist, Chase was familiar with the lozenge-making process as he had done it for years, but this new method could unlock opportunities for the mass production of these and other candies.

During the late 1800s there were three groups of candy-makers in Boston who were looking to take their businesses to the next level. In 1901 Chase and Company, founded by Oliver R. Chase and his brothers Daniel (in Chicago) and Silas Edwin (in South Boston); D.L. Clark of D.L. Clark Company in Pittsburgh; and Charles N. Miller of Boston partnered together to create the New England Candy Company (NECCO).

This partnership would prove to be one of the most powerful in American history. Immediately, they would find success working with the U.S. Army on candy rations that would be used for MRE packages.

This is where the infamous Necco Wafer started to gain its popularity. Due to its simple ingredients and long-shelf life, it was the perfect thing for soldiers to take in the field and eat when they were feeling low on energy or needed some extra calories. Some even claimed that this sweet treat would improve overall endurance and health. 

This practice of selling to the Army became a staple for Necco both during WWI and WWII. As soldiers came home from the war, their taste buds were tingling for more Necco Wafers which they would buy and share with family and friends. As you can imagine the popularity of Necco wafers exploded in American culture along with the Necco name. 

Necco looks to capitalize on candy…

Wafers weren’t the only popular candy being produced by Necco in the mid 20th century. After experiencing wild success with the wafer, they sought to make a Valentines Day candy that people would love.

This is where the invention of Conversation Hearts comes from.

You remember those tiny hearts everyone gives out during Valentine’s Day, right?

The Necco Team had hit a jackpot with this new product and candy lovers were going wild for these tiny conversation hearts they could share with their lover—then tragedy struck in 2018.

Necco was going through changes in ownership again—as they had before 4 times since 2007—and this time production was taking a cut. The new owner of Necco (Roundhill Investments) was limiting operations and unfortunately, conversation hearts were no longer going to make the cut.

Candy lovers all over the world were disappointed the most popular Valentine’s Day candy of all time was no longer in stock.

Fast forward to 2020, and Spangler Candy Co. stepped up and bought the production rights to conversation hearts as well as necco wafers from Roundhill Investments. Then in February 2020, conversation hearts and Necco wafers hit store shelves again sending a wave of Americans into a frenzy in search for the classic candy.

Today, Spangler continues to produce both the Necco wafers and conversation hearts as one of their top-selling products. 

You can taste the nostalgia…

There aren’t many candies out there that can taste like true nostalgia, but best believe that Necco Wafers is one of them. With its deep-rooted history in American culture, it will always hold a special place in the hearts of candy lovers across America.

Speaking of candy lovers…

Are you craving some of your own Necco Wafers after all that reading? We got you covered. Tap right here to head over to our digital aisles where you can grab Necco Wafers and all your favorite retro candy, and we’ll ship it straight to your front door.

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