Sweethearts (candy)

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Sweethearts Box

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, before being purchased by the Spangler Candy Company in 2018. They were also previously made by the Stark Candy Company. Necco manufactured nearly 8 billion Sweethearts per year.[1] Similar products are available from Brach's and other companies.[2] A similar type of candy is sold in the UK under the name Love Hearts.


Necco Sweethearts

Oliver R. Chase invented a machine in 1847 to cut lozenges from wafer candy, similar to Necco Wafers, and started a candy factory.[3]

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".[4]

Boxes of Spanish-language Sweethearts

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. Line extensions carrying the Sweethearts brand include chocolates and sugar-free hearts.[4]

A Sweetheart with the phrase "LOL", a relatively new phrase

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.[4]

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.[1] Approximately 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of hearts were made per day, which sells out in about six weeks.[4][5] The company produces 8 billion hearts per year.[1]

Flavor Change[edit]

In 2010 the classic pastel candy formula was abandoned. Sweethearts were made 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." The drastic changes to the flavors and messages were unpopular with some fans.[6][7]

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.[8] The 2010 changes stayed in effect for a time, but as of 2020, the original pre-Necco flavors have returned.[9]

Bankruptcy and Return[edit]

In 2018 Necco declared bankruptcy. The original plant closed[10] and their candy brands were sold off. The rights to Sweethearts were acquired by Spangler Candy Company on September 21, 2018.[11] With the purchase of the brand by Spangler, Sweethearts were unavailable for Valentine's Day 2019 as Spangler set up production of the confections in a new plant.[12] Sweethearts returned in 2020 with two notable changes: they returned to the original pre-Necco flavors, and due to equipment problems, the hearts were not stamped with the familiar sayings.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dispatch, Lisa Abraham, The Columbus. "Candy hearts celebrating 150 years of sweetness". The Columbus Dispatch.
  2. ^ EGKOLFOPOULOU, MISYRLENA; Benveniste, Alexis; Bloomberg News (2019-02-13). "With Candy-Heart Maker Necco Out of Business, Other Confectioners Vie for Valentine's Day Love". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-02-14.
  3. ^ NECCO History Archived 2006-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d New England Confectionery Comp (2010): Sweethearts
  5. ^ Robins, Clair (2019-01-18). "Where are the SweetHearts?!". CandyStore.com. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
  6. ^ Gray, Joe (January 26, 2010). "Pining for old Sweethearts". The Stew.
  7. ^ Floyd, Jacquielynn (February 12, 2010). "Conversation Hearts overhaul is tough for some fans to swallow". The Dallas Morning News.
  8. ^ "In with the old, out with the new". The Boston Globe.
  9. ^ "Valentine's Sweethearts Candies Return This Year With Some New Changes". Time. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  10. ^ Mettler, Lyn (2019-01-22). "This classic Valentine's Day candy may be missing from store shelves this year". The Today Show. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  11. ^ Ewers, Josh (September 21, 2018). "Spangler Candy buys Sweethearts, NECCO, Canada Mints and New Era campus". The Bryan Times. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  12. ^ Lucas, Amelia (January 23, 2019). "America's favorite Valentine's Day candy is unavailable this year". CNBC.
  13. ^ "Valentine's Sweethearts Candies Return This Year With Some New Changes". Time. Retrieved 2020-01-24.

External links[edit]