The Strange History of Valentine’s Day Conversation Candy Hearts

A macro shot of candy hearts
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Whether you love them or hate them, there is no doubt that those little heart candies are synonymous with Valentine’s Day. Some call them conversation hearts, while others refer to them as Sweethearts or candy hearts, but no matter what you call them, they are little pastel heart candies with short messages on them like “Be Mine.” Over the years, the messages have gotten crazier and crazier with the changing times, but the premise remains the same. So, where did these adorable little candies actually come from?

Turns out, they were made kind of by accident. A pharmacist named Oliver Chase invented a machine that would make it easier to create lozenges to ease sore throats and bad breath. Eventually, he started creating candy with them. He invented the Necco Wafers and teamed up with his brother, Silas Edwin to create a company to sell them. In the 1860s, their brother Daniel, created a machine that would stamp words on the candies using red vegetable dye. For a while, the words were added to candies shaped like baseballs, horseshoes, etc. It wasn’t until 1901 that they began creating heart shapes.

Candy with baby message

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Their company NECCO began making smaller candy hearts with phrases such as “Kiss Me” and it became the most popular non-chocolate candy sold for Valentine’s Day. At one point, over eight billion hearts were sold in the six weeks before February 14. It took NECCO almost a year to create that many candies, so they had to prep way in advance to be able to sell that many. Unfortunately, as years went on and so many new candies were being made, their popularity waned and NECCO shut down in 2018. The candies were bought out by Spangler Candy.

overhead of child's hands holding candy hearts in heart dish

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For a few years, these candy hearts were in low supply until they were brought back in 2020. Tell us, do you love them or hate them? What’s your favorite type of candy to receive on this special holiday?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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