Statewide — Worries about the potential for the New England Confectionery Company to shutter its Revere, MA plant has Mainers scrambling to act like they enjoy its products.
The slightly misshapen, chalky wafers come in flavors originally fashionable in the 1800s, when sugar was a rarity and death loomed constantly.
“Back then, people liked the taste of black licorice because it was a scent that could mask the thick miasma of death that hung in the air,” candy historian Donna Akers said.
Other Necco wafer flavors like wintergreen and chocolate were added in the 1930s to satisfy a fad where people would spill syrup on the ground and then eat the flavored dirt.
“People were grabbing handfuls of flavored dirt and cramming it into their maws,” Akers said. “Necco realized ‘hey, chalk is a mineral, and minerals are in dirt, so what if we introduce two more flavors of wafer?'”
Since news broke that the plant might close down unless it’s able to find a buyer, sales of Necco wafers have jumped 62%, to nearly 3,000 packages nationwide.
“It would be a shame to see it go. It’s the last candy still sold in a waxen paper wrapper,” Akers said.
Other flavors of the wafers include spruce gum, creamed orange, sarsaparilla, white, and salted molasses.
“These are flavors Mainers love to pretend to enjoy, going all the way back to when a tall jug of malted vinegar was the preferred way to slake summer thirst,” Akers said.