Even though everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day differently, there are certain staples we all recognize: the heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates, the bouquet of roses, and, of course, the classic candy hearts. The tiny hearts sporting classic phrases like ‘be mine’ and ‘love you’ have been around for quite some time, but how do they become a sweet heart for your sweetheart? 

Candy Hearts

Candy Hearts Production

To make the iconic candy hearts, sugar is pulverized and placed in a large mixer. Corn syrup, gelatin, and dextrose are then added for color and flavor. After a few minutes of mixing, the candy is ready to be shaped. The batches, which weigh over five hundred pounds, are pressed and stamped with the familiar sentimental phrases. 

After they’ve been shaped and printed, the candies head to the heaters to be dried. Once they’ve been dried, a few different flavors of hearts are mixed and prepared for packaging. They are mechanically mixed and sent along a conveyor belt where they are broken into segments and packaged into tiny colorful boxes. 

History of Candy Hearts

The history of how candy hearts are made dates back to the mid-1800s when lozenges were all the rage to soothe sore throats. At the time, making lozenges was a lengthy process that required mashing sugar and medicine with a mortar and pestle, mixing the dough, rolling it out, and cutting the disc shape. In 1847, English immigrant Oliver Chase invented a lozenge-cutting device to speed up the process.

Chase eventually used the machine for candy making, founding the New England Confectionery Company, also known as Necco. In 1902, Chase started using the machines to cut out hearts and officially created the Sweethearts brand. By using a felt roller pad moistened with red vegetable food coloring, the machine stamped the sayings on the hearts.  

Classic phrases like ‘be mine’ and ‘marry me’ have been the same for years and continue to be put into circulation, but in the early 1990s, Sweethearts began to update the sayings each year, retiring some while adding others. For example, the first new phrase was ‘Fax Me’, which has been updated to ‘Call Me’ and ‘Text Me’. 

Necco continued to produce the iconic hearts until the company was purchased by Spangler Candy Company in 2018. After a two-year absence, Sweethearts returned in the summer of 2020.

Sweethearts’ campaign to share likes in real life
Sweethearts’ campaign to share likes in real life; Photo Credit: Spangler Candy Company 

In 2023, Sweethearts sent a “sweet-and-desist” open letter to all social media platforms to stop using the heart as a ‘like’ button. The company believes that the like button has lost its meaning because of Big Tech. The company urges people to share likes in real life instead by giving Sweethearts this Valentine’s season.