This year, the iconic Necco Sweethearts candy — those tiny, chalky hearts bearing messages like “Be Mine” — will be hard to find. Spangler Candy Company bought the Sweethearts brand last year after Necco declared bankruptcy, and a recent announcement broke the news that there wouldn’t be time to “meet customer expectations” for the candy this Valentine’s Day. Previously, a reported 8 billion conversation hearts had been produced annually — that’s 100,000 pounds every day.
Spangler, headquartered here in Bryan, Ohio, is primarily known for the production of Dum-Dums and Saf-T-Pops and Circus Peanuts.
Some competitors, like Brach’s, are hoping to fill the void with similar candy hearts of their own, but Necco’s have been by far America’s favorite, garnering a reported 80 percent of the market share. Sales had been on the rise, and CandyStore.com reports that 2018 even saw the candy hearts topping heart-shaped boxes of chocolate in domestic sales.
Present-day Sweethearts date back to 1902; original messages like “Be Good” and “Kiss Me” are still in production, with modernized hearts bearing phrases like “Text Me.” Updating the messages became an annual tradition in the 1990s, with the first being a quaint “Fax Me.”
Back before that, in the 1860s, an early relative of the conversation heart called Mottoes was a popular treat, featuring rolled-up notes printed on paper inside scallop-shaped candies.
The Sweethearts story will continue, though... hopefully. Spangler CEO Kirk Vashaw was quoted in a press release saying, “We are looking forward to announcing the relaunch of Sweethearts for the 2020 Valentine’s Day season.” However, that press release has been taken down. It was replaced by a related, heartening image with candy hearts saying: “Miss U 2,” “Wait 4 Me,” and “Back Soon.”
CandyStore.com reports the image was followed with, “We wish we could have Sweethearts out for the 2019 Valentine season, but it’s just not possible. We are committed to making sure these brands meet consumer expectations when they re-enter the market. Doing it right takes time.”
It should be noted that, in addition to competitors’ versions of the classic candy, consumers may find lingering supplies of Necco’s Sweethearts intended for last year’s Valentine’s Day.