I know you all have seen these. Every February (and even earlier now) these things make their appearance all over the world. I have seen them in Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese and Russian, in addition to English. These candies are sold by the thousand all across the world for Valentine’s Day. According to their website, Necco manufactures nearly 8 billion of these things per year (that doesn’t include the hundreds of knock-off companies that produce them as well) – http://www.necco.com/candy/sweethearts.aspx
First, let’s examine what these candies actually are….sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, flavors and colors are combined to make a dough. The dough is then cut out and stamped with the sayings and allowed to dry. Then it’s packaged and sent out to the stores. They’re not even cooked! The dough is just allowed to dry for about 30 minutes (http://www.necco.com/Candy/Sweethearts/HowIts-Made-Sweethearts.aspx). This is the process that’s done at the “good” candy company, Necco, I can only imagine what’s going into the counterfeit ones.
Next, let’s talk about the sayings that go on these tiny rocks of sugar. When I was a kid, the sayings were innocuous and sweet. “You r sweet,” “be mine,” “miss you” and “kiss me” were normal to be printed on the hearts. They were interesting and cute, albeit tasteless and chalky. Recently, Necco has begun changing their sayings “to follow the trends.” Sayings like “LOL,” “text me” and “tweet me.” This is not the candy heart that I grew up with. There are also more risqué sayings on the hearts these days. “Sexy mofo” and “do me” have been seen on some of these. These are not appropriate for children (or even some adults)!
These candies can become addictive, with people eating hundreds at a sitting (without even knowing they’re doing it). They have different “flavors,” but it’s impossible to discern what that flavor is. There are “spicy” flavors and “sweet” flavors, but that’s about as far as one can go in discerning the flavors of these candies. They are also artificially colored and flavored. In fact, Necco tried to go to all natural colors and flavors, and people complained and sales declined. So, they went back to their artificial stuff. In 2010, they changed the formula for the hearts to make them softer and brighter in color. Sales have declined (less than before, but still declining) and they’re considering a return to their original formula.
Point is….would the world really miss these candies? I know they have been around for more than 100 years and they are a staple at Valentine’s Day, but would they be missed? I don’t think so, and we’d be making less trash (considering the number of candy hearts I find on the floor in school during Valentine’s Day).
Gone are the days when you bought a package of 25 and thought long and hard about who you were going to give the candy to. Gone are the days when (like on that episode of Futurama) you search for the perfect message on the perfect color on the perfect flavor to get your point across to your sweetheart. I know they have been around a long time, but maybe it’s time to retire these things to the candy hall of fame. They don’t really do the job anymore!