It's not February yet, but it's already feeling like Valentine's Day because Sweethearts candies are slowly popping up on store shelves. But loyalists of the chalky hearts might be disappointed by this year's batch.
When Necco, the maker of America's most iconic Valentine candies, announced it was going out of business in March 2018, candy lovers were devastated. After a few months of financial struggles, the company finally shuttered in July.
The bankruptcy left panicked fans scrambling to find remnants of Necco wafers and other candies at local corner stores and across the internet. In 2019, Sweethearts still hadn't found a home but this year, they're finally back.
In 2018, Round Hill Investments (the same company that purchased Hostess during its bankruptcy) purchased the New England candy maker, CNBC reported. Later that fall, it then sold the Sweethearts and Necco Wafer brands to Spangler Candy, the confectioners best known for the doctor's office staple: Dum Dum lollipops.
Spangler has spent the last year-and-a-half preparing to get Sweethearts back in stores for Valentine's Day, but the company ran into a few hiccups along the way.
First, they had to dismantle, move and reinstall 60 truckloads of equipment from the old Necco factory in Revere, Massachusetts, (some with cranes through its roof) to a new facility. There were several delays. Then there were issues with the printers responsible for the hearts' famous sayings like "be my friend" and "you rock."
"Based on consumer response and the technical challenges, we are not going to be able to meet all of the consumer demand for 2020," Spangler spokeswoman Diana Moore Eschhofen told CNBC.
So this year, the hearts will only be available at drugstores like CVS and Walgreens. And many of them, due to the unreliable printer, will be left blank with no words at all.
“We know that’s disappointing, but it’s a disappointment for us, too,” Eschhofen said.
In addition to a lack of sweet sayings, the Sweethearts' flavor profile has undergone a change. According to Eschhofen, the Spangler team found the original 118-year-old recipe tucked away in piles of Necco paperwork. The flavor most people know and love today has been modernized over the last century. But the original recipe actually has more variety.
So when you pick up a pack of Sweethearts, don't toss them aside just because they don't say "I love you," you might just be enchanted by revived flavors like banana and wintergreen.