It May Be Time to Kiss Necco's Candy Sweethearts Goodbye
America's "oldest continuously operating candy company" may lay off most of its workforce if it doesn't find a buyer by May.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Necco—shorthand for New England Confectionery Company—has billed itself as the United States' “oldest continuously operating candy company.” It’s been trudging along since 1847, giving Americans an endless supply of those namesake Necco Wafers, those weakly flavored tablets that are like Tums without the antacid capabilities, among other confestions such as "Slap Stix" and "Squirrel Nut Zippers."
Folks, it's time to start mentally preparing yourself to kiss those Squirrel Nut Zippers goodbye.
The company is now furiously searching for a buyer, the Boston Globe reported on Monday. If the company can't find any takers by May 6, the company’s headquarters in Revere, Mass. may face mass layoffs that would claim 395 employees, reportedly the bulk of Necco's workforce.
A spokesperson for Necco did not respond to immediate request for comment from MUNCHIES on Friday regarding how many people it currently employs, though, as the Globe noted, this figure was “roughly 500” in 2011. It's also unclear whether this would halt production and distribution of these candies altogether. In the event that these layoffs materialize, though, employees at every tier of the hierarchy would be hypothetically affected, from the CEO and CFO to cooks, hard candy makers, truck operators, machine operators and attendants.
It’s been a rough few years for Necco, a company that’s been in financial dire straits since the early aughts. As Grub Street notes, the company relocated its factory from Cambridge to Revere in 2003. Last year, this very building in Revere was sold for a whopping $55 million to a team of developers who sought to convert the factory into a space for biotech and robotics, while promising candy-making operations would still exist.
It's a damn shame, as the company's got quite a vibrant portfolio of products. The company's most well-known product, though, may be Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, those chalky little slabs-o-love stamped with bromides or sexually charged calls to action—KISS ME, BE MINE, WINK WINK.
If you ask me, these sweethearts are more symbolic than appetizing. They come in vaguely fruity flavors so nondescript that they’re practically indistinguishable from one another. "Medicinal" is how a colleague of mine describes them.
They may taste dry and cloying as shit, but these candies are deeply sewn into America’s shared gastronomic consciousness. Sweethearts are the candies you stuff in last-minute Valentine's Day gifts, next to the Care Bear you gave your sixth-grade girlfriend. They're tethered to memories from youth that some of us may carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Necco's not gone quite yet, but in the event that it shutters, the jury's out on who will fill that gaping void it may leave in its absence. There's nothing that speaks your sublimated, preadolescent desires out loud better than a candy heart that tastes like a cardboard box.