Sweethearts (also known as conversation hearts) are small heart-shaped sugar candies sold around Valentine's Day. Each heart is printed with a message such as "Be Mine", "Kiss Me", "Call Me", "Let's Get Busy", or "Miss You". Sweethearts were made by the New England Confectionery Company, or Necco, previously also made by the Stark Candy Company. Necco manufactured nearly 8 billion Sweethearts per year. A similar type of candy is sold in the UK under the name Love Hearts.
After the bankruptcy of Necco, the rights to the candy were acquired by Spangler Candy Company on September 21, 2018. Because of the change, Sweethearts were not sold for Valentine's Day in 2019 but will be available in 2020.
Daniel Chase, Oliver's brother, began printing sayings on the candy in 1866. He designed a machine that was able to press on the candy similar to a stamp. The candy was often used for weddings since the candies had witty saying such as: "Married in pink, he will take a drink", "Married in White, you have chosen right", and "Married in Satin, Love will not be lasting".
The heart-shaped conversation candies to be called Sweethearts got their start in 1901. Other styles were formerly produced such as lozenges, postcards, horseshoes, watches, and baseballs. As of 2010, the classic pastel candy formula is abandoned. Sweethearts are now softer candies with vivid colors and all new flavors, which are more intense and even a bit more sour. These new flavors include sour apple, strawberry, and "spring fresh." Line extensions carrying the Sweethearts brand include chocolates and sugar-free hearts.
In the 1990s, Necco vice-president Walter Marshall wanted to update some of the sayings and retire others, including "Call me", "Email me", and "Fax me". The romantic expressions continue to be revised for young Americans. Necco received hundreds of suggestions a year on new sayings.
Necco produced the hearts year-round, but mixing of colors and packaging were ramped up beginning in September to meet the demand for the product at Valentine's Day. Approximately 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of hearts were made per day, which sells out in about six weeks. The company produces 8 billion hearts per year.
With the purchase of the brand by Spangler, Sweethearts were unavailable for Valentine's Day 2019 as Spangler sets up production of the confections in a new plant. The original plant closed with the bankruptcy of Necco. Similar products were available from Brach's and other companies.
As of October 2011, Necco has announced that the switch to natural flavors and colorings for their Necco wafer candies has led to a significant decline in sales, and so they will be returning their products to the original artificial flavors and colors. However, the new recipe for the sweethearts candies that was introduced in 2010 remains in production today.
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