Monday, November 2, 2009

All Natural Necco Wafers

All Natural Necco Wafers (7 flavors)It’s hard to believe that I’ve never reviewed Necco Wafers. In the early years of Candy Blog I tried to concentrate on candies I’d never had before, but it became apparent that in order to discuss things that were new (or new to me) I had to cover the classics as well. So I’m slowly adding those.

Necco Wafers were introduced in 1863 by the Chase and Company candy makers. They were known for their hard candies (boiled sweets), lozenges and “Oriental style” sweets including Turkish Delight. They also innovated machinery and techniques to create confections like the wafers. Chase later merged with Ball and Forbes and Bird, Wright and Company to become the New England Confectionery Company in 1901. By the time they’d been around for almost fifty years they finally settled into their present day name, assortment and packaging style in 1912.  Necco Wafers were available in different sizes and were a popular penny candy of the time.

All Natural Necco Wafers (7 flavors)The wafers are lightly flavored and colored disks of sugar. The product is rather unusual for the modern era of confections and is more similar to breath mints than regular candy. They’re not fussy but perhaps a little homely and dated.

To make them, a dough of sugar and corn syrup is mixed up and stabilizers and binders such as gelatin, tragacanth, xanthan and gum Arabic are added. Then after the base is created it’s customized with the flavors and colors. The whole mass is loaded into a roller like it’s some sort of infinitely long pie crust then the disks are cut and stamped with the Necco name. They’re not baked, just air dried.

What’s created is a beguilingly crunchy lozenge. Crisp, thin and sweet.

The classic roll of Necco Wafers contained eight flavors and has always been a random assorted stack sealed in a glassine wrapper. I know most folks who like them also searched the store shelves for one that had just the right mix of colors they preferred.

This year marks a new generation of Necco Wafers now with all natural flavorings and colors. Because of the new restrictions Necco placed on itself, they dropped one flavor from the original that could not be replicated adequately: Lime.

The current flavors are chocolate, cinnamon, clove, lemon, licorice, orange and wintergreen. Since no artificial colors are used I was hoping that the flavors would be truer. (I’ve always had a problem with the pink ones having a bad bitter aftertaste.)

All Natural Necco Wafers (7 flavors)

I haven’t been able to find the large two ounce rolls in the stores near me, but I did finally find this package of the mini rolls at CVS in the Halloween section. (I visited about a dozen stores in two states in a month looking for them.)

The colors are quite a bit more subdued, as if Necco Wafers weren’t already a bit washed out. They’re so muted that I have trouble telling the pale yellow, lavender and white apart. And for folks that like to preview a roll before they open it, it’s quite hard to tell the light colors apart. The new wrapper also sports an updated logo ... though I find the logo to look more like something from 1998 (when the titled oval was all the rage in logos) than a modern candy, but not quite a reflection of its classic past.

Clove - I always avoided the clove for two reasons. I don’t like clove flavor and I didn’t like the food coloring aftertaste. In this case the clove (faint lavender) is much more mild and less caustic than before. Of course there’s no weird aftertaste either. I still didn’t like it much and was a little irritated that it was so hard to pull them out of the mix in anything other than bright sunlight.

Chocolate - the easiest to spot and one that needs no coloring. I found the cocoa flavors to be overly sweet, but at least true. It was like an old piece of dried chocolate frosting. A little pointless if you really want chocolate, but it has a freshness to it that doesn’t leave me thinking of cardboard.

Wintergreen - I was so happy about these. The color is still a teaberry pink, so they’re easy to spot. It’s exactly like a piece of teaberry gum if it was a crunchy piece of sugar (and a stale piece of gum can be like that). The flavor starts out rather soft and quaint, but builds up to a bit of a Ben Gay burn later. There’s a lingering buzz in the mouth. The best part of the finish is that it’s all flavor and no food coloring mess. My tongue looks like when I started (normal pink) and no metallic aftertaste.

Cinnamon - this white piece lots its mojo in the conversion to all natural. It’s sad how lacking in cinnamon punch it is now, it’s not that it’s bad, but I just don’t feel like picking them out and eating them first any longer.

Licorice - the color is so much lighter on these, it took me a while to realize that they weren’t the clove ones. They’re a light putty color that sometimes has a lavender cast to it. The flavor is quite a strong anise note. It’s sweet and has an aromatic and slightly menthol quality to it. It reminds me a little bit of the Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.

Lemon - the lemon flavored Necco Wafers were never spectacular and they haven’t changed one way or the other. Sweet and with only the slightest hint of lemon flavor, there’s no tartness (thank goodness - if you’ve had the SweetHearts Sour Conversation Hearts you’ll know what I mean), no zest.

Orange - this faint orange colored one has a little orange peel note to it. It didn’t seem as sweet as the lemon one, but that’s not saying much about it. It was mostly inoffensive.

I don’t miss Lime, but I did enjoy the flavor. As an assortment, I’ve found myself munching through the bag of minis without any problems. I’ve picked out most of the clove, but find all the other flavors enjoyable. So I consider the new mix a definite winner. The only issue was the strength of the flavors varies - the clove, licorice and wintergreen were very strong and left a distinct burn in the mouth while the rest were pretty mellow. So after a licorice, I could barely tell that I was eating a lemon.

Each roll of 9 pieces has only 50 calories. They take a while to eat and of course there’s the variety, so it’s a nice snack that’s easy to take anywhere. I do have a problem with the little white powder that seems to get everywhere though. (I tend to wear a lot of dark colors.)

I think this is a great development and I’m actually looking forward to see if the classic SweetHearts Conversation Hearts will also go all natural. They do still have gelatin in them, so sadly no good for vegetarians and they’re not Kosher/Halal. I really like my candies to taste like candy, not artificial colors.

Related Candies

  1. Chocolate Dipped Altoids - Creme de Menthe
  2. Canada Wintergreen
  3. Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts)
  4. VerMints
  5. Chocolate Dipped Altoids
  6. Lifesaver Musk
  7. Pastiglie Leone
  8. Necco Smoothies
Name: All Natural Necco Wafers
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Necco
Place Purchased: CVS (Eagle Rock)
Price: $2.29
Size: 11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 109
Categories: Chalk, Cinnamon, Licorice, United States, Necco, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:37 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. Cooool! I’m going to be watching for these!

    I’ll be the first of many, no doubt, who wax nostalgic about driving past the Cambridge, MA NECCO Candy factory on Massachusetts Avenue just before the bridge over the Charles River to Boston.

    I’ve always enjoyed these candies, was brought up on them, and therefore never really thought about how old-fashioned they and the packaging are! I can’t think of any other candy that comes in glassine wrapping.

    In my discriminating middle age I now have many of the same reactions you mention to the artificial coloring, so I’m very happy to learn of the all-natural version! Thanks! I’ll be on the look-out!

    Comment by Bill Brown on 11/02/09 at 2:54 pm #
  2. I never liked them, and I’m not the least bit tempted to try them after the change.  I’ll eat most anything else before Necco wafers, including Milk Bones or Pupperoni.

    Comment by Dave on 11/03/09 at 12:30 am #
  3. The original Necco Wafers tasted like mildly flavored chalk and were one of the candies I hated getting for Halloween. I figured that the people who gave them out didn’t like kids. I’ll pass on this one, too.

    Comment by Gregg on 11/03/09 at 3:49 am #
  4. do you know if NECCO has any plans to make an all natural version of the canada mints?  I always liked the wintergreen ones but they definitely can have a weird aftertaste if you eat too many of them, and little less coloring would be a good thing there.

    Comment by lynn on 11/03/09 at 3:53 am #
  5. It amazes me that this candy is still around. It seems so, well, old-fashioned. I’ve seen ads from the early 1900s promoting this kind of wafer as a candy you’d put out in a dish for company: sophisticated candy for adults. As for the current re-invention, I miss the lurid colors a bit, but the natural flavors sound much more appealing!

    Comment by CandyProfessor on 11/03/09 at 4:23 am #
  6. gracecarriveau's avatar

    I haven’t seen the all natural version yet. But last year I decided to finally try the regular ones again after many many years. I discovered that I LOVE the licorice ones. And yes, Cybele, I do search the packs for the ones with a lot a black and purple. grin However, I don’t like the chocolate, lime and cinnamon so I have a container that is packed full of white, green and brown disks. I keep wondering if there is something fun I can do with them. Use them as a decoration, or in artwork or something.

    Comment by gracecarriveau on 11/03/09 at 4:26 am #
  7. gracecarriveau's avatar

    BTW-I’ve heard that the pink ones spark in the dark when broken in half, in low humidity. Has anyone ever tried this?

    Comment by gracecarriveau on 11/03/09 at 4:28 am #
  8. The worst candy ever made!

    Comment by Fat Fudge on 11/03/09 at 9:15 am #
  9. Jeez, how can anyone eat these things? Rocks are better. Just yuck and disgusting discs of sugar. I definitely agree w/the #2, 3 & 8th person. It’s amazing to me folks actually pay money for them. Crazy. 

    Read ya later Cybele. Your review was interesting. Surprised at the rating though.

    Comment by Marcee on 11/03/09 at 10:12 am #
  10. The nostalgia of this candy has always appealed to me, and I’m looking forward to trying the revised version. There was a nifty article about these in a recent issue of The Atlantic.

    p.s. Don’t knock Pupperoni until you try it.

    Comment by sm on 11/03/09 at 10:21 am #
  11. Mmm. Sugar. I have a soft spot for these. And a few hours before you posted this review, I was checking your site for info on Necco wafers (I had a mini roll of the new ones). This was quite timely. They are inoffensive and I am still fond of them.

    Comment by KateC on 11/03/09 at 12:05 pm #
  12. I read about the new all natural conversion a few months back in the NYT.  I searched high and low (this was during the summer before Halloween candy was out).  I loved Neccos as a kid….it must have been a Catholic School thing…but noticed that the flavors had such a bad aftertaste and gave me a stomachache.  Only one store in the Albany NY area carried these and I looked all over Boise, ID on a visit to see family.  The mini rolls are a prefect size for a quick candy fix.  I still do not puffy heart these but am glad I have a stash at home….until the humidity kicks in this summer and turns them back to dough!

    Comment by Theresa on 12/02/09 at 6:29 am #
  13. NECCO has come close to completely destroying the best candy ever made.  I don’t give a rat’s tail about whether my candy flavor is “All Natural,” especially when it looks like nothing natural on the planet.

    The easy knocks are the washed out colors - you nailed it - and the lack of lime.  Candy is supposed to be appealing to the eye.  This is now a bunch of washed out river rocks.  And there is NO way I can tell the difference between white/yellow/purple when I’m walking the dogs at night.  Lime is a flavor unto itself.  It doesn’t just complement the others, it stands by itself.

    More important is the general degradation of the remaining flavors.  Clove is actually my favorite.  And now it’s an abomination.  For the past year they must have been tinkering with the formula, because I’ve spat out far too many that tasted lavender, not clove.  The new flavor is far too timid when they actually get it right.  Same for cinnamon (white) and wintergreen.  They’re supposed to be bright, popping in your mouth.  They’re dull.  The licorice is thin, the lemon is more scented than flavored, and the orange is more like sherbert than zest.

    NECCO, get a clue: nobody buys 69? candies for their “All Natural Flavor.”  And most of us who buy Necco Wafers have been doing so for more than 4 decades.  We don’t want the natural, we want the flavor!!  How about a compromise? Just go for “Natural Flavor,” but just enough artificial stuff to make them taste good.  Like they did for the last 150 years.


    Comment by JoeBob on 2/16/10 at 6:26 pm #
  14. JoeBob I agree with you.  Like it was said, the colors are more washed out and so are the flavors.  When one accidently fell on the floor, my dog sniffed it and tried to bury it.

    Comment by NB on 4/07/10 at 8:07 pm #
  15. _I_ buy candy for all-natural flavor, and I suspect the reason we’re seeing candy like this is because lots of other people do too.

    I finally found some of these all-natural NECCO Wafers and my wife and I loved ‘em! The flavors are sharp and minty with no bad aftertaste. It is hard sometimes to see what flavor you’ve got due to the subdued colors, but that is minor.

    I’ll be buying more of these!

    Comment by Bill Brown on 4/08/10 at 11:20 am #
  16. Well, the new, washed-out colors and flavors must have just made it to Florida.  Very disappointing.  Like you said - it’s hard to tell them apart.  I’m one of those OCD folks that separates my M&Ms; and other candies by color before eating them.  This is now a difficult activity, unless all the lights are on.

    ONE improvement:  they’ve issued an “all chocolate” version with dark, mocha, white and milk which is quite yummy.  I discovered them at Cracker Barrel.

    Phooey on the ‘all natural’ bit.  Bring back the vivid colors and punchy flavors.

    Comment by atisthammer on 10/27/10 at 6:14 am #
  17. Well when I purchase candy, I like it to taste like candy. I grew up eating these candies and loved them. Sadly, I am underwhelmed by the new all natural flavors and miss the original version of the candy. I truly wish they offered both. I’ll miss getting them in my stocking at Christmas time.

    Comment by Jennifer on 12/06/10 at 12:10 pm #
  18. Neccos have always been a favorite of mine ever since I was a little kid in the 1960’s. Now, this classic nearly 150 year old candy has been destroyed. The candy is now a pathetic, pale and wan imitation of what it used to be, as though some aliens in a far away galaxy viewed the original candy through a super powerful telescope and who, never tasting earth food tried to copy it, failing miserably.

    All natural flavors and colors? Sounds good in theory, fails totally in real life. The lemon and orange now taste like sherbets diluted down with skim milk. Most of the other flavors are weak, wimpy imitaions of what they used to be as well. The colors are simply a cruel joke, for example the black licorice is now a very pale gray and some others are impossible to tell apart by color. And yes, I miss the green.

    These used to be hard to find as most local grocery and discount stores only want to carry the top sellers with no depth or variety. Now I will search no more because as far as I am concerned, Neccos are gone-a DEAD candy.

    Comment by Kevin on 1/17/11 at 6:07 am #
  19. PLEASE, PLEASE bring back the original Necco Wafers! I loved the original flavors (even though people think they taste like chalk). If I wanted a candy to taste like sweet tarts, I’d buy that candy. I was all hyped up to buy them & didn’t read the company changed the product! I am really sorry to see the original flavors gone (don’t care if the new ones are all natural!)....

    Comment by Dee on 1/31/11 at 12:58 pm #
  20. Cybele's avatar

    To those who are wishing for the original to return, NECCO has announced that they will come back. Read more here.

    Comment by Cybele on 3/10/11 at 4:23 pm #
  21. I LOVE Neccos !!!!  Always have & probably always will. However—I am talking about the ORIGINAL Neccos. I was very distressed when I read a year or so ago that the original Neccos were going to be replaced with the All Natural flavors. All I could think was: “Now what ? !” considering (the sometimes unwelcome for some consumers) changes with so many other products both food and non-foods.  I tried the new “All Natural” Neccos—much to my disappointment as they were nowhere near the original Neccos that I loved. I even tried the All Natural chocolate ones, none of which had any cholocate flavor to my taste buds. So—-I went to several stores and bought ALL of whatever original Neccos they still had on their shelves. I wanted to stock-up on these since they were supposed to become extinct. HALLELUJAH !!!! I’ve noticed that the ORIGINAL/CLASSIC Neccos are back in stores along with their trying-to-take-over wannabes. Does anyone remember when Coca~Cola tried to replace the original Coke with something else that did NOT sell well or become an overnight sensation/hit with Coca~Cola lovers ?? This was a FLOP !! Lesson learned ! People!!!—-you do NOT mess with the original ! If it ain’t broke…DON’T fix it !! I guess that a bunch of someones voiced their displeasure to the Necco Company. I am glad that Necco has gone back to making the original flavors even if they are still going to sell the All Natural flavors. At least…Necco lovers can now have a choice ! Ain’t America GREAT !!!???

    When my brother & I were kids…we used to pretend like Neccos—probably just the white ones—were Holy Communion ! We would even kneel down (which was done back then) before we placed the Necco wafer on our tongues. Since we never understood the Latin words (spoken at Mass back then) the priest said while putting the Communion water on our tongues…we would mumble something that sounded like what we thought the priest said before putting the Necco wafer on our tongues. I even gave my brother some of the ORIGINAL/CLASSIC Neccos that I had bought since I figured these would no longer be found anywhere.

    Also..since I am now an adult…I take Neccos to the swimming pool with me. They don’t melt & don’t stick together as do other candies in the sun & the heat…especially since we’ve been having some really hot & humid Summers in Louisville, KY. But, I also do not let my Neccos sit out in the sun, heat, & humidity.

    Another thing: on the wrappers of both kinds of Necco Wafers…it does say two wonderful words:
      FAT FREE
    How many other candies can claim this ?!

    Plus—-Neccos keep for a LONG time…at least they do for me. I keep mine in a temperate and dry place. I don’t recall ever eating a Necco that became stale or spoiled. 

    I will close my comments by saying:

    Comment by JoMag on 8/25/11 at 7:34 pm #
  22. The clove ones are my favorites!!! I love anything with clove flavor, it’s so hard to find. :-(

    Comment by RoanRider on 2/04/12 at 12:47 pm #
  23. Love Necco Wafers, and have since I was very young! I wasn’t happy when they changed over to the version where all the colors looked the same—how drab! I’m thrilled that they now have the originals back on the shelves, even though they’re hard to find. I’m afraid that these will go the way of all the “old style” candies and get bumped off the market by all the bizarre candies the manufacturers have out today. There are still enough of us “boomers” out there who like the old-fashioned candies!

    Comment by FancyColors on 12/27/13 at 5:21 am #
  24. Hey, FancyColors, right on, Necco is back..I had some today and mixed them in with yogurt..ALL of the original styles and flavors are back. Fancy.,.,.you can actually buy them at many stores, usu.only 99C they are pretty hard to find even there, but WORTH yet..and yes, like you, FC I am another Boomer who loves those candies! :D

    Comment by Steve Carras on 12/10/14 at 5:08 pm #
  25. Cybele, mind a small correction…Necco Wafers haven’t been around since 1863, they’ve been kickin’ ‘round since 1847 or

    Comment by SteveCarras on 12/17/14 at 7:48 pm #
  26. I had another roll of those today, only 87c, Liquor Mart, the classic rainbow assortment, and it was largely clove (the violet colored one, plus the other seven..) with an Atkinson’s cigarette sized Chicko-o-stick for only 10c!

    Comment by SteveCarras on 3/14/15 at 8:54 pm #
  27. JoMag, I believe kneeling down in church spoken Latin words in church are still done.SC

    Comment by SteveCarras on 9/21/15 at 10:15 pm #
  28. I am a seventy something life long lover of NECCO wafers.  When I buy the candy, I usually get enough to last several weeks.  When I crave a sweet after meals, there is nothing better than a Necco treat.  The sweet taste lingers for a good while to satisfy the sweet tooth craving.  You can either have one or several.  I have experienced NECCO contests on how long a Necco can be held on a tongue before completely melting away.  I suggest to Guinness that this contest be put in their book of world records.  I like the subtle taste of the various flavors; especially the black or licorice ones.  They can’t put enough of these in a roll.  In fact, if they would offer me a lifelong supply of these black treats, I would bite. (Pun intended).  However, I suppose they have been approached on many occasions for lovers of favorite wafers.  Here is my order of best to least enjoyed.  I will identify them by colors, since this is how I identify them in a roll, and also that my interpretation of flavor may be off.  Black, Green, Orange, Brown, Yellow, Pink. Purple, White. In fact, I need to push myself to eat the Purple and Whites; ...even though I would happily eat them if no other flavor was available.  I am always disappointment that there are so few black ones in a roll.  I feel that somewhere in candy-dom, there is a conspiracy against putting more black ones in a roll; or that employees grab them in the production line since they have developed an uncontrollable craving and can’t resist secretly picking them out so they can enjoy them in a dark corner of their home.  These people should attend NECCO-ics anonymous to overcome their dependence on black NECCO’s.  Or the factory should install black NECCO detectors so they never leave the factory unawares. Sometimes there are quite a few black ones in a roll, but most often than not there seem to be more of the ones least enjoyed and fewer of the most enjoyed. I like other treats, but I always come back to NECCO’s.

    Comment by JohnEl on 11/28/16 at 11:18 am #
  29. Just had to comment since I was here looking up Sweethearts and Brach’s Conversation Hearts and started reminiscing about Neccos. I might not be the same generation as most Necco lovers (I was born in 81) but I’ve always loved them. Like a few other commenters above, I used to pretend they were communion wafers. I always picked Neccos in the store and also got them in my stocking. I pawned the licorice ones off on my mom- I wouldn’t touch those ones. Do like the clove and wintergreen though. Love these candies! I’m also the only person I know who would choose Conversation Hearts over nice chocolate on Valentine’s Day!

    Comment by Jenny S on 2/19/17 at 10:09 pm #
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