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People are now panic-buying America's least-favorite candy

With reports of candy maker New England Confectionery shutting down, people are hoarding their oldest and most divisive treat: Necco Wafers. [Bloomberg photo by Scott Eisen]
Published Apr. 10, 2018

Word that the country's oldest continuously operating candy company might shut down has people suddenly hoarding Necco Wafers, despite the candy's unpopularity among, well, almost everyone.

The chalky candy's flavors (chocolate, licorice, wintergreen) have been described as "tropical drywall" and "plaster surprise," according to the Wall Street Journal. But last month's announcement that the 170-year-old New England Confectionery Co. might shut down its Revere, Massachusetts, plant — and lay off the majority of its employees — seemed to strike a nostalgic chord with consumers, leading to a surge in wafer sales.

Candy stores and consumers are trying to get their hands on whichever Necco products they can get, the Journal reported, including Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Clark Bars and Sweethearts, the popular heart-shaped Valentine's Day candies. What they're chasing after most, however, are the wafers. They are both storied and divisive, known for their unusually long shelf life and a recipe that's been unchanged since the days when the indestructible candies fueled Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Jon Prince, the president of wholesaler CandyFavorites.com in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, told the Journal he received hundreds of frantic calls over a recent weekend, some from buyers who wanted to purchase his entire inventory of Necco Wafers.

"They're shocked and scared," he told the Journal. "They're not happy about it."

Necco could not be immediately reached for comment.

CandyStore.com, a Los Angeles-based bulk candy retailer, reported that people began "panic-buying" the wafers on March 12, the day the Boston Globe reported Necco chief executive Michael McGee's announcement that the candy company could shut down if it did not find a buyer. McGee had written a letter to Revere's mayor, Brian Arrigo, warning that Necco would be forced to close its plant and make layoffs as soon as May. As of 2011, Necco had about 500 employees, the Globe reported.

Necco products' sales from CandyStore.com shot up 50 percent, and the wafers' sales increased 63 percent, according to Candystore.com spokeswoman Clair Robins.

"A clear signal of panic-buying," Robins wrote in a post on the retailer's website.

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