Sweethearts' annual adjustments bring hashtags, kill off FRIEND ME

Andy Kruse

It isn't REAL <3 unless it's stamped on a candy heart. This Valentine's Day, FRIEND ME is out and #LOVE is in -- at least when it comes to Sweethearts, the iconic candy manufactured by the New England Confectionery Company (Necco) in Revere, Mass.

Each year the company has a change of heart, selecting new phrases to stamp across the candies and retiring others that have seen more relevant days. That's not a small decision, considering that Necco produces 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts daily from mid-February to January, which amounts to about 8 billion individual Sweethearts annually. OOH LA LA, that's a lot of SWEET STUFF.

Sweethearts' sayings are selected by Necco's marketing team and other employees from the company. "What makes a good saying is the originality of it, thoughtfulness and just plain fun," Necco Marketing Coordinator Brian Chalifour said via email. "After all, it is candy."

In 2014, new sayings include: 1 4 3 (1=I, 4=LOVE, 3=YOU), OCCUPY MY <3 and #LOVE, the first Sweetheart with a hashtag. This year also includes the return of LET'S READ, a fan favorite that had been retired.

When a saying "strays from retro and is just plain dated," Chalifour said, it is removed. Welcome to retirement, ADORE ME, HEY BABE, BOOGIE, FRIEND ME, B TRU 2 U, HIGH FIVE, JUMP 4 ME, PLAY NOW and STEP UP. (For a list of 17 other notable retired sayings, head over to The Atlantic, SAUCY BOY.)

(If classic Sweethearts, Dazzled Tart Sweethearts, Chocolate Sweethearts, Sugar Free Sweethearts and En Español Sweethearts (MUY BUENO!) just aren't your thing, you could consider 24-karat gold, custom Sweethearts for the low, low price of $19,995. That price will get you four, by the way. Despite some interest, Chalifour said they haven't sold any yet.)

Necco, the oldest continuously operating, multi-line candy company in the U.S., was founded by Oliver Chase in 1847, when he invented America's first candy machine. DREAM BIG.

Chase worked in a pharmacy, where he prepared medicinal lozenges, according to Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. It was difficult to cut the lozenges to the same size by hand, which affected the amount of medication each lozenge contained. Ever the entrepreneur, Chase also made lozenges that were only sugar; they were so popular, he couldn't meet the demand for them. [Ed. note: Kawash discussed the connection between medicine and candy on The Splendid Table.]

"In 1847, he hit on an idea that would solve both of his problems at once, a machine that would make his lozenges faster and make each one identical," Kawash writes in Candy. "His machine resembled a hand-cranked laundry wringer, with cutters on the rolling plates. He could feed lozenge dough through the plates, crank the handle, and turn out lozenges quickly and easily."

It was Oliver's brother, Daniel Chase, who created the machine that pressed food dye letters onto the candy lozenges. "He experimented first with hand tools, and then devised a machine in which a felt roller pad, moistened with vegetable coloring, usually red, pressed against the die," according to Necco. And so Sweethearts were born. BEST DAY.

The hearts were passed around at parties and weddings. The original sayings were much longer, appearing on larger hearts (and sometimes before WWI, on candies shaped like postcards, baseballs, watches and horseshoes). They included gems such as "Married in satin, love will not be lasting," "Married in pink, he will take to drink," and "Married in white, you have chosen right."

Since then, Sweethearts have appeared in countless decorated shoeboxes, on baked goods and in marriage proposals. MARRY ME. Today's sayings are much shorter -- and maybe a little less prophetic.

2014 Sweethearts' Sayings

Each printing plate on Necco's press has 45 spots. Here's the list of what's been stamped out for this Valentine's Day (with the number of times a saying appears on a printing plate in parentheses). Eat your heart out, QT PIE.

  • OOH LA LA (2)
  • OCCUPY MY <3 (2)
  • LET'S READ (2)
  • LIVE N LOVE (2)
  • #LOVE (2)
  • 1 4 3 (2)
  • DREAM BIG (2)
  • BEST DAY (2)
  • BE HAPPY (2)
  • GIGGLE (2)
  • ANGEL (1)
  • ASK ME (2)
  • BE MINE (2)
  • CALL ME (1)
  • CRAZY 4 U (2)
  • QT PIE (2)
  • FIRST KISS (2)
  • HOLD HANDS (1)
  • HUG ME (1)
  • KISS ME (2)
  • LOVE BUG (1)
  • LOVE ME (2)
  • I LOVE YOU (2)
  • MARRY ME (2)
  • YOU & I (2)
  • MISS YOU (1)
  • MY LOVE (2)
  • REAL <3 (2)
  • SAY YES (2)
  • SMILE (2)
  • SOUL MATE (2)
  • SWEET PEA (2)
  • SWEET TALK (2)
  • TXT ME (2)
  • TRUE LOVE (2)
  • TWEET (2)
  • U R HOT (1)
  • WINK WINK (1)
  • XOXO (2)
  • LET'S KISS (2)
  • MELT MY <3 (2)
  • DATE NITE (1)

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