How In Sweet Hell Are Sweethearts Still Around?

You remember those pasty, inedible, chalk-like hearts with cute sayings written on them like “Be Mine” and “I Love You?” Well, even though you haven’t bought any since Valentine’s Day in Grade 3, they still exist.

Necco, short for New England Confectionary Company, boasts on their website that they produce about 100,000 pounds daily in the six weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. From January to mid-February, they sell about 8 billion shitty pieces of candy that will probably end up in the trash.

The original candy recipe goes back to 1847, created by English immigrants Oliver and Daniel Chase. The recipe was initially for wafers; the heart-shaped candies you know of today didn’t come around until 1902. Sales for Necco were always positive, but business peaked during the Second World War when the U.S. Government ordered them to produce wafers for soldiers overseas.

Necco consistently raked in about $100 million in sales throughout the 1990s, but in the late 2000s and early 2010s, they experienced some distasteful times. The stock market crash of 2008 and perhaps a lack of change caused their $37.37 share price in 2007 to fall to only $0.44 cents by 2009.

As a result, Necco tried to reinvent their recipe and create some pretty significant changes to spur sales. The candy manufacturer decided to appeal to health-conscious consumers with an all-natural recipe while appealing to youth at the same time with bigger and bolder flavours.    

Classics like banana and cherry were exchanged for blue raspberry and green apple, and the artificial flavourings were swapped for more expensive, natural ones, like red beet juice, purple cabbage and cocoa powder.

The changes that were made to the candy were tough for long-time consumers to swallow, resulting in rants on Facebook and blogs that the new flavours tasted like “aspirin”. For Necco, the sweet taste of success was nowhere to be found with these adaptions.

One idea for change was updating the sayings on the treats. This heart, on a suspiciously dusty keyboard, features the updated version of “Fax Me.”

One idea for change was updating the sayings on the treats. This heart, on a suspiciously dusty keyboard, features the updated version of “Fax Me.”

The biggest change occurred in 2010, when Necco exchanged their original recipe for a softer, more gummy-like style. The response was not so sweet, and after a 35 per cent drop in sales that year they announced they would be producing both types of the candy. 

Over the past eight years, the confectionary company has had many ups and downs. The current CEO of Necco told the Revere Journal last year, “Our candy line is doing really well …We have double digit growth … I think you’re seeing a little bit of resurgence in what some might call the nostalgia candy.”

 The “nostalgia candy” has tried to spur growth by branching out and producing more varieties than the patented original. Today you can find the classic hearts in chocolate, with sparkles, sugar-free or in Spanish. They even had Twilight themed hearts when teens were pledging their allegiance to Team Jacob or Team Edward. 

This Valentine’s Day, if you want to go the extra mile for your sweetie, there’s a blank version for writing your own messages. It makes it a lot more personal when your significant other throws them in the garbage a week later.