Metro News Service
There are many ways to say, “I love you.” For Valentine’s Day celebrants, various sentiments may be expressed with candy — particularly candy hearts.
Candy hearts, also called Conversation Hearts and Sweethearts (similarly Love Hearts in the U.K.), are sweet, chalky confections that have been around for more than 100 years. The conversation about candy hearts began back in 1847 when Oliver Chase, a Boston pharmacist, wanted to get in on the apothecary lozenge craze that was popular at the time. Lozenges were common remedies for sore throats and bad breath, and were growing in popularity as a convenient medical treatment. Chase invented a machine that could roll out lozenge dough and press it into perfect discs, a time-saving improvement on the manual process used until then. Chase eventually abandoned making lozenges and the pharmacy business, ultimately realizing his machine could be used to make candies. He formed the New England Confectionery Company and began producing what would eventually be known as NECCO wafers.
Wanting to get in on his brother’s candy empire, Daniel Chase saw an opportunity to build on the growing popularity of Valentine’s cards by printing words on candy with vegetable dye during the cutting process. In 1866, conversation candies began as round confections and were much bigger than today’s heart varieties. It wouldn’t be until 1902 that conversation candy hearts became available.
Through the years, the candies became smaller and the sentiments expressed on the hearts have been updated to stay current with the times. Phrases like “LOL,” “BFF” and “Text me” have replaced some less modern sentiments.
At the height of the candies’ popularity, NECCO estimated that it made nearly 100,000 pounds of the hearts each day throughout the year in preparation for Valentine’s Day.
In 2019, NECCO filed for bankruptcy and did not produce the iconic candy hearts while it was being purchased by an investment company called Round Hill Investments, LLC. Round Hill decided to sell NECCO to another candy company. Fortune magazine reported Spangler Candy Co., which took over rights to NECCO’s iconic brands, would manufacture candy hearts in 2020. Similar conversation hearts also are available through Brach’s candy company.
Candy hearts have long been a way to share sweet words of affection and a sugary treat with the ones you love.