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Thanks to the Candy Professor for letting me use this photo, which shows the with-artificial-colors, without-artificial-colors difference.

A fellow Twitter pal clued me in that the New England Confectionery Company, the company behind NECCO Wafers, decided to go back to its old recipe — and all the artificial colors that used to be in it. I confirmed the news by reading this piece, Customer Outrage Forces Necco To Put Artificial Ingredients Back Into Wafers on NPR’s blog, although this was announced back in May at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago, according to Samira Kawash, (AKA the Candy Professor). She wrote a blog about it in the spring.

In a nutshell: The company in 2009 made the switch from using artificial colors and flavors to natural ones. From the NPR blog:

“Instead of artificial dyes and colorings, the revamped Necco wafer used natural colorings made from turmeric , red beets, purple cabbage, and cocoa powder. The company also replaced the artificial flavors in some of the wafers with natural flavors.”

People hated it, according to company officials, and complained. Meanwhile, sales dropped by 35 percent, according to reports, so the company switched back to the artificial stuff.

The Candy Professor was nice enough to provide an ingredients list for both the old and new version:

All natural: Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, coco power, natural flavors, vegetable gums, natural colors (red beet, purple cabbage, turmeric, caramel color, paprika)

Original (aka chemically one): Same as above with citric acid and artificial flavors, Yellows 5 & 6, Blue 1, Red 3, Red 40

I can remember eating NECCO wafers as a child, but I really wonder if they contained artificial colors. I mean, they’ve been around since 1847. You’re not going to tell me that artificial colors were around back then. I would personally like to do my own taste test. I wonder if there are any of the “natural” version left on store shelves?

In the meantime, I’m really sad that the company made the switch, especially since I suspect that the drop in sales had very little to do with the new colors. (As you can see from the above photo: the color difference is negligible, in my opinion.) I’d say it has to do more with choice, since even the “natural” version of the wafers is little more than formed sugar. With so many other yummy candy varieties on the market, maybe NECCO Wafers, a throwback to the nineteenth century after all, just doesn’t appeal to today’s consumers. I guess we’ll just have to see how the market shakes out.

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