Fewer candy Sweethearts for sweethearts this Valentine's Day

By Sarah Min

/ MoneyWatch

"Be Mine." "Say Yes." "Marry Me." Couples may need another way to express their feelings this Valentine's Day after the company behind Sweethearts "conversation hearts" was sold last year and the factory that made the heart-shaped candies was closed.

Now the only Sweethearts left on the market are from before the Massachusetts factory shut down last July, meaning fewer of them will be readily available come Valentine's Day.

Sweethearts surpassed heart-shaped chocolate boxes last year as the most popular confection for the holiday, according to Candystore.com. Longtime owner New England Confectionery Co., or Necco, produced 8 billion of the pastel candies every year.

Necco's Sweethearts are not the only candy conversation hearts on the market, but it is the most recognizable brand, accounting for 80 percent of all such sales, with over 19 million pounds sold each year, Candystore.com reports.

Spangler Candy Co. acquired the brand from Necco last September. "We look forward to announcing the Sweethearts relaunch for the 2020 Valentine season," Kirk Vashaw, chairman and CEO at Spangler, said in a statement at the time.

The popular Necco brand — around since James Polk was president in the 19th century — had financial troubles over the past decade after the New England Confectionary Co. was bought out by investors in 2007. Necco was sold last May to Round Hill Investments, the same firm that saved Twinkies from the marketing dustbin. But Round Hill soon closed the Massachusetts candy factory and displaced 230 workers before selling the Necco's Sweethearts and Wafers brands and equipment to Spangler.

Spangler plans to resume operations so they'll be available next year, according to CEO Vashaw. "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 in last September's statement.

Meantime, what supply remains can be found online, where a three-pound bulk bag of the Sweethearts is being sold on Amazon for $20.08.

First published on January 23, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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