This Valentine’s Day should be a little sweeter for fans of Sweethearts Conversation Hearts.
The colorful candy hearts are back on shelves after a yearlong hiatus, though in limited quantities. News reports also indicate they have fewer messages and a slightly different taste.
It sounds like it was a real challenge to even get to this point, according to Spangler Candy Co. spokeswoman Diana Moore Eschhofen.
“It has been an adventure to get these favorite Valentine candies back in production,” she said in a statement to Candy Industry. “Even though we knew we wouldn’t be able to meet all the consumer demand for 2020, we committed to moving forward to avoid another year without Sweethearts on the store shelves. We encourage fans to get out there early and get their boxes before the holiday rush.”
Spangler Candy Co., maker of Dum-Dums, purchased Sweethearts, as well as the Necco wafers and Canada Mints brands, in fall 2018 after the New England Confectionery Co. (NECCO) closed earlier that year.
Spangler made two attempts to snag the iconic brands. The Ohio-based company made the winning bid on NECCO assets during a May 2018 bankruptcy auction, but the deal fell through shortly after.
Round Hill Investments scooped up NECCO for $17.3 million in June 2018 but abruptly shut NECCO’s doors and sold it again in July. Union Confectionery Machinery and Rabin Worldwide auctioned remaining NECCO intellectual property and equipment in September 2018.
Six months appeared to be too little time to get the hearts back on the market, and once fans realized this in early 2019, Spangler released this clever response:
In January 2020, CNBC reported 60 truckloads of equipment were dismantled, packed and moved from the former NECCO facility in Revere, Mass., with the whole process taking about a year. Large pieces were even lifted out through the roof with a crane.
The equipment used to print messages on the hearts proved to be troublesome as well. The original printer wasn’t reliable, and a replacement printer broke during production. It couldn’t be properly fixed, either.
“We know that’s disappointing, but it’s a disappointment for us, too,” Eschhofen told CNBC.
Candystore.com conducted its own study on Sweethearts, opening 10 boxes and surveying the messages. The online bulk candy retailer found 149.5 out of 230.5 hearts (65 percent) were blank, and another 56 (24 percent) had unintelligible markings.
That’s not an ideal way to express love to a friend or partner, but I imagine Spangler is working to remedy the printing situation. The company also said it plans to bring back original flavors such as Banana and Wintergreen.
With all the publicity Sweethearts received in 2019, it’s understandable why Spangler wouldn’t want to go another year without keeping the brand at the top of consumers’ minds. However, the best kind of love is unconditional, and I’m sure fans have it for Sweethearts.
Hopefully production for the 2021 season goes smoothly, and in the meantime, here’s to a love-filled Valentine’s Day 2020.