By Clair Robins
Candy Story Press Relations, Los Angeles
SweetHearts have gone missing. They are the most popular brand of the most popular Valentine’s Day candy, and they’re not on shelves this year.
Conversation hearts candies are the little hearts with cute sayings on them: “Be Mine,” “Marry Me.” They are the most popular candy for Valentine’s Day season — which is estimated to generate more than $1.8 billion in candy sales.
SweetHearts were made by the oldest continually operating candy company, the New England Confectionery Company. Necco, for short. They had been making SweetHearts since 1886.
Last year, Necco announced they needed to sell the company, and the fate of SweetHearts — as well as their other brands — was thrown into limbo. Would someone buy Necco, or buy the individual brands, or would Necco and SweetHearts just die?
On July 24, 2018, the factory was shut down. Factory workers were told not to show up to work the next day.
Unless the Necco factory was allowed to keep rolling, it was going to be tough to produce enough SweetHearts to meet demand come January. And if a new company was going to try and ramp up that kind of production that fast, it would be very difficult or very expensive.
In the end, Necco was bought in an auction by Round Hill Investments. It turned around and sold the SweetHearts brand to Spangler Candy Company in late September 2018. While all that time ticked away, it became less and less likely that SweetHearts would be available for 2019.
That’s where we are now. No SweetHearts this year, but next year is looking good.
The CEO of Spangler, Kirk Vashaw, confirmed that SweetHearts are set to return. “We are looking forward to announcing the relaunch of Sweethearts for the 2020 Valentine’s Day season.”
Any SweetHearts products you find online this year are leftover from previous years. You may or may not be OK with that.
As of Jan. 24, 2019, Spangler had removed a press release from its website that was the source of the above quote from CEO Kirk Vashaw stating SweetHearts would return in 2020. CandyStore.com has not been able to verify whether that means SweetHearts could possibly not be back for the 2020 Valentine’s season or if there was some other reason to pull the release from their site.
We do know that production on SweetHearts had not begun as of Jan. 24. We also acknowledge that manufacturing is hard and takes time to get right.
Vashaw confirmed as much in the now-pulled release from September. “There are a lot of manufacturing challenges and unanswered questions at this point, and we want to make sure these brands meet consumer expectations when they re-enter the market,” he said.
On Jan. 24, Spangler sent a new statement to CandyStore.com spelled out in candy hearts: “Miss U,” “Wait 4 Me” and “Back Soon.” The statement is in response to the outpouring of affection for SweetHearts and disappointment at their absence in 2019.
The statement went on in full sentences as well: “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.”