Known in the United States as Valentine’s Day, this holiday is celebrated around the world with unique traditions.
- Norway — women receive anonymous love poems called Gaekkebrev, names of secret admirers are coded in dots
- Wales — men present intricately carved wooden spoons to their loved ones
- Japan — type of chocolate signifies the intimacy of the relationship
Gifts of candy are also prominent in the U.S., with one particular type forming an important part of the history of the holiday — the Sweetheart conversation heart.
During the 1860s, a pair of brothers in Massachusetts began experimenting with stamping letters on lozenge-shaped candy. The sweet candy was made from a simple formula of mostly sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. Using vegetable dyes, the Chase brothers were able to produce lengthy sayings such as Married in white, you have chosen right. People found them quite entertaining.
Founding a Factory
The success of this venture allowed the Chase brothers to launch a profitable candy-making business. In 1927, NECCO (New England Confectionary Company) opened the largest facility in the world dedicated to the production of sweets. Located at 284 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, this factory was built with several state-of-the-art features. For example, constructed of concrete instead of steel, the floors are between 9 and 14 inches thick. Machinery placing 250 pounds of pressure per square foot can be loaded onto these slabs and run without creating vibrations.
Stocking Supplies of Sweethearts
NECCO needed to work all year long to meet the demand for Sweethearts during the Valentine season. Its factory operated at peak capacity from late February of each year to mid January of the next, producing 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts each day. The 8 billion total yield sold out in just six weeks.
In the early 1990s, the company began an initiative to update the sayings, retiring some and adding others. Be Mine and Kiss Me are two of the originals still in rotation, but more modern options include www.cupid and You Rock. NECCO’s efforts to stay current while retaining the popularity of their product have allowed them to post profits in excess of $100 million.
Despite these earnings, in 2018 NECCO went into bankruptcy. The company sold the Sweathearts recipe to Spangler Candy in Ohio. Unfortunately, production will not ramp up in time to supply consumers with the confections they’ve grown to love. If you’re shopping for Sweethearts for Valentines Day 2019, you’ll find store shelves empty. But Spangler promises that they’ll be ready for 2020. Until then, close your eyes and perhaps you can find them in your sweet dreams!