116 years of a lifetime full of sugar and love

This Valentine’s Day season left the nation mourning the absence of our beloved sweetheart, not a flesh and blood sweetheart, but the long-lived Sweetheart’s candy.

The New England Confectionery Company, who was once the longest continuously operating candy company in the country, had their company auctioned, leaving our Sweethearts in the hands of a stranger. After 116 years of sugary love that the Sweetheart’s graced with the presence of the candy, there was a sudden plan to end the production of the candy. After profits fell through, the new company hadn’t seen a point to continue making them. Without demand, there is no reason to provide supply, so the company’s decision to simply stop making them happened. Networks of people all over the country began to ponder over the idea that this new owner is someone who “probably hates Valentine’s Day.”

The Sweethearts candy brought courage to grade school kids for decades when confessing their dire attraction to their crush on Valentine’s Day. A simple green Sweethearts candy with the innocent “Ur Cute” in red print stamped across the face of the sweetheart has, according to numerous references, started lifelong romances across the nation throughout their lifetime.

Sharon Sullivan, professor and chair of the theater department, discussed her feelings about the decision to end the Sweetheart candies. 

“Valentine’s day is my favorite holiday. Any day devoted to love is a great day. The classic Sweetheart candies were my favorite from the time I was a small child, except the white ones. I gave those to my brother.  The orange ones are my favorite,” Sullivan said. “In middle school we hoped to get a little box from our favorite crushes. Then my girlfriends and I would pretend the boy was saying those cute things to us.”

Sullivan said she usually buys many boxes and gives them away to colleagues and students. 

“It won’t seem like Valentine’s Day without them,” Sullivan said. 

Prior to 1902, the Sweethearts candies displayed sentimental messages across small baseballs, watches and envelopes. The hints of endearment transformed from, “how long shall I have to wait?” to the blunt faced “Marry Me” Sweethearts we once knew. The adorable pickup lines were printed onto chalky and sweet bits of confectionary made of a simple and well-known mix of ingredients; corn syrup, gelatin, flavoring and of course, sugar. This simple mix also added a very long shelf life for the candies.  

As the world sped up their modernization in 2010, contouring into a world which preferred organic treats, the candy company tried to keep up with the world by switching out the ingredients that made the candies healthier and the flavors easier to identify. The nation over flowed with outrage. Candy lovers felt as though they had been deceived. The New England Confectionary Company tried to re-invent the old formula and bring back the flavor that everyone loved, and eventually the company succeeded. Something about red hearts filled with chocolate over powered the sales that Sweethearts candy raked in on the beloved holiday. Over time, the company was forced to sell out, and the nation was left without a Sweetheart this Valentine’s Day.

Heather Lewis, junior at Washburn University, enjoyed eating the Sweethearts candies. 

“I loved sweethearts. They were the best way to let your crush know what’s up in a subtle way. These were a gateway to getting through to my crushes,” Lewis said. “But from a business standpoint, I understand the concept of supply and demand. I’m sure everyone will miss them. I know I will.”

In time, Sweethearts candies are predicted to be impersonated as the memory will conform into an idea, and the idea will evolve into many generic brands of Sweetheart-like candies that will have a casual resemblance of the original confectioneries.