Candy Corn, Necco Wafers, and Fruitcakes
I was scrolling through Twitter when I noticed a few people posting about Candy Corn. Being an enthusiast of this holiday foodstuff, I decided to see what people were saying.
To my surprise, people were being very negative. Some going as far as to call it the “worst food ever.” This feels like internet hyperbole, but it put me on the defensive.
It also put me in the mood to eat candy corn, but before I went to the store to buy some, I decided to read up on this Halloween treat.
Fun Facts About Candy Corn
Most of us have seen, if not sampled, candy corn. It is a staple of the Halloween season that can trace its roots back to the 1880s. Created by Wunderle Candy Company employee, George Renninger, it originally went by the name, “Chicken Feed.”
It started to be associated with Halloween when it was given out to Trick or Treaters in the 1950s.
Candy corn used to be made by hand, but nowadays, it is mass-manufactured by companies like Jelly Belly. They have been making Candy Corn since 1898 and their modern process was featured on the Food Network show, Unwrapped.
The largest manufacturer of candy corn is Brach’s and they make over seven billion pieces of it every year. This gives them a whopping 85 percent of the total candy corn market.
Seven billion pieces of candy is a lot of candy. So while people can deride candy corn online all they want, they seem to be in the minority. It got me thinking about another candy that some people seem to have an issue with during Halloween.
When I was a kid, it was customary for my friends and I to sit down at the end of a night of Trick or Treating and swap candy. This involved putting the candy we were willing to trade on the table, and then people offered up what they were willing to trade for it.
A candy that always seemed to make it to the trading table were the Necco Wafers. My friends disliked them, and I loved them, as did my family. So I could make a killing on my Necco deal. Usually one or two Snickers were enough to clear the table of Neccos. Then I would be in the wafers until Christmas.
Necco Wafers are sweet flavored discs of deliciousness. They are not as glamorous as the various chocolates you get during the Halloween season, but they get the job done. They also have an interesting history.
These Wafers are older than candy corn. They go all the way back to 1847, when Oliver Chase invented a lozenge cutting machine that produced the wafers.
Originally called “hub wafers,” they were supplied to Union soldiers during the Civil War as a treat and a sweet pick me up. These wafers are durable, but still delicious even when smashed to bits, so they made a good addition to what was available to soldiers.
In 1901, they started to be manufactured by the New England Confectionery Company (Necco) and by 1912 they were being advertised as Necco Wafers.
They were called into service again during World War II, when they were given to soldier who were fighting overseas. When they returned, guess what they wanted?
Unfortunately opinion slowly turned against Necco Wafers and their popularity plummeted. By 2018, the Necco Company was no more, and it looked like we might never get their wafers again. But the Spangler Candy Company purchased the brand and in 2020 they began showing up on shelves again.
If they were worth purchasing and manufacturing, someone is eating Necco Wafers besides me. So I am pretty sure the dislike we see online is mostly hot air.
Still, all this seeming food negativity got me wondering about one of the most heavily critiqued holiday foods.
What we recognize as a fruit cake, can be traced back to at least the time of the Romans, and they are probably older. Generally a Fruit Cake is made with dried or candied fruits, spices, and nuts. Sometimes soaked in booze, they have traditionally been gifted and consumed around Christmas in the United States.
Since I was a child, I have heard horrible stories and jokes about Fruitcakes. I must admit, this has turned me off to them. But maybe, like the Necco Wafer and Candy Corn, they just developed a bad reputation because of a few vocal critics.
Well this Christmas, I am going to give them another try, and if it turns out I like them, you better believe that I am going to start giving them as gifts to everyone I know.