Classic Confections: NECCO Wafers
NECCO Wafers derive their name from the company who is responsible for them, the New England Confectionary Company. The company was incorporated under that name 1901 but had been making a candy under another name since 1847.
The manufacture of the NECCO Wafer we know today started in 1912. The wafers came in 8 different flavors: "orange, lemon, lime, clove, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, and wintergreen. The ingredients were simply sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gums, colorings and flavorings." (NECCO website)
In 1913 NECCO Wafers made their way to the Arctic with explorer Donald MacMillan who used "them for nutrition and as rewards for Eskimo children" (NECCO website).
NECCO Wafers also visited the Antarctic in the 1930s with Admiral Byrd and his men. Reportedly 2 1/2 tons of NECCO Wafers were consumed over 2 years, a pound a week per man.
During World War II, the US government requested a large amount of NECCO Wafers for the troops. The relatively indestructible quality of the wafer and the fact NECCOs don't melt made the candy suitable for shipping overseas.
As with Junior Mints, many Americans have fond memories of NECCO Wafers at the concession counter. Oldtimecandy.com hosts this memory of NECCO Wafers from Wallace in Mississippi:
As a youngster growing up in the 50's, our neighborhood had a nearby shopping area with a movie theater. On "haircut" Saturday my Mother would give me a dollar--75 cents for the barber, 15 cents for movie admission; leaving me 10 cents--which always went for two 5 cent rolls of Necco Wafers. I could make the two rolls last through the news reel, previews, cartoon and the feature. Other Saturdays, the money was only a quarter, but it still left enough for my two rolls of Necco Wafers.
Today NECCO Wafers are no longer 5 cents a roll but are usually one of the cheapest candies on the shelf. These days NECCO Wafers are one of the few candies that can boast to being all natural because in 2009 NECCO removed all artificial color and flavor from the product. Don't worry, NECCO Wafers still come in seven of the eight original flavors: Orange, Lemon, Chocolate, Clove, Cinnamon, Wintergreen and Licorice and taste just the same. Apparently, according to the NECCO website, "artificial ingredients have been replaced with natural flavors and colors from red beets, purple cabbage, turmeric and cocoa powder" so now you can feel good about eating NECCOs.
According to me, NECCO Wafers are delicious but I know many people who would vehemently disagree. NECCOs, it seems, are a love it or hate it sort of candy and I think that's mostly because of the licorice and clove flavored wafers. As a kid I'd pick around the roll only eating the white, orange and brown wafers being careful not to pick up a nasty black licorice flavored wafer (I'd give those to my mom). Today I'll eat the whole roll, sure there are flavors that aren't exactly my favorite but they make me appreciate the ones that are that much more. At any given time you can find a coil of thin, white NECCO wrapper somewhere in my car or my handbag because, there is nothing like a roll of NECCO Wafers.