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 are made by the New England Confectionery Company, or Necco, previously also made by the Stark Candy Company. Necco manufactures nearly 8 billion Sweethearts per year. A similar type of candy is sold in the UK under the name Love Hearts.
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 receives hundreds of suggestions a year on new sayings.
Necco produces the hearts year-round, but mixing of colors and packaging are 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 are made per day, which sells out in about six weeks. The company produces 8 billion hearts per year.
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.
In popular culture
- In the short film Mickey's Steam Roller (1934), Mickey gives Sweethearts to Minnie Mouse
- In the book Anne of Green Gables (1908), Gilbert attempts to give a pink candy heart with the words, "You Are Sweet", to Anne, who promptly grinds it under her heel
- In the book Little House in the Big Woods (1932), a shopkeeper gives Laura and her sister a piece of white heart candy
- In the novel Eclipse (2007), Jacob gives a box of Conversation Hearts to Bella on Valentine's Day and asks her to be his Valentine
- In the TV special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975), Snoopy gives Sally a candy heart with the entire verse of How do I love thee written on it in very small print
- In the Simpsons episode "I Love Lisa" (1993), Bart designs crude insult remarks for conversation hearts, e.g., "U Stink"
- In the Futurama episode "Love and Rocket" (2002), the Planet Express crew is hired to deliver conversation hearts to the rulers of Omicron Persei 8. The manufacturers comment that, "Tastes may have changed, but our secret recipe sure hasn't." The camera then shows a mixer using bone meal and earwig honey. Upon finding (and being confused by) a heart with the message "I Wuv U" on it, and finding the candy tastes "chalky and unpleasant", the Omicronians reject the gift. A subplot involves Fry trying to find a conversation heart whose message can properly express how he feels about Leela.
- In the Arrested Development episode "Marta Complex" (2004), George Michael digs through a bowl of candy hearts looking for the one with the answer he wants.
- In the Awkward episode "My Love is a Black Heart" (2012), Valerie gives Jenna candy hearts that say "Chill Out" and "Get the Drift?" while discussing jealousy on Valentine's Day, and mistakenly gives a "Kiss Me" heart meant for her boyfriend instead of a "BFF" heart
- NECCO History Archived 2006-05-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- New England Confectionery Comp (2010): Sweethearts
- Gray, Joe (January 26, 2010). "Pining for old Sweethearts". The Stew.
- Floyd, Jacquielynn (February 12, 2010). "Conversation Hearts overhaul is tough for some fans to swallow". The Dallas Morning News.
- "In with the old, out with the new". The Boston Globe.