Sorry, Sweethearts: America’s most popular Valentine’s Day candy won’t be on shelves this year

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

That adage may be put to the test this Valentine’s Day, when consumers realize the popular Sweethearts candy — you know, the little sugar hearts with messages such as “Kiss Me” and “Be Mine” — won’t be on store shelves.

New England Confectionery Company — or Necco — made the conversation hearts, which have been a staple of Valentine’s Day gifts for decades. But Necco had a tumultuous 2018, abruptly shutting down in July after an investment firm bought it from a bankruptcy auction. It got new life when it was subsequently bought by Spangler Candy Co. in September, but by then it was apparently too late to restart production and distribution in time for Valentine’s Day.

In an email, Spangler confirmed it has yet to restart production of Sweethearts, along with Necco Wafers and Canada Mints.

About 8 billion Sweethearts are typically produced annually, with the full supply sold in the six weeks before Valentine’s Day, online bulk-candy seller CandyStore.com said in a blog post.

They may be back next year, though. “We are looking forward to announcing the relaunch of Sweethearts for the 2020 Valentine’s Day season,” Spangler Chief Executive Kirk Vashaw told the candy website.

The Sweethearts brand makes up about 80% of the conversation-heart market, CandyStore.com said, with about 19 million pounds sold each year. It reported conversation hearts edged out heart-shaped boxes of chocolate as the most popular Valentine’s Day candy sold in the U.S. for each of the past two years.

To be sure, there are other brands that produce conversation hearts, it just might take some leg work to find them. And beware of year-old leftovers — Spangler Candy Co. noted that any Sweethearts currently available on the market were produced prior to July 2018.

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