This Valentine's Day, consumers shouldn't panic that the original conversation hearts candy isn't on shelves. Other candy brands are stepping up to fill the void.
Sweethearts conversation hearts are unavailable for the first since since 1866 as the brand's new owner, Spangler Candy, acquired it too late to produce the candy in time for the holiday. Spangler, best known for its Dum Dum lollipops, said in January that conversation hearts will return next year.
Americans are expected to spend $1.8 billion on candy this Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. Some of that money will no doubt be spent on other versions of conversation hearts, in addition to chocolates.
Brach's released three new lines of flavors for its conversation hearts this year. Brach's, which has sold conversation hearts since the 1960s, said in a statement that it has been the market leader in conversation hearts for years. Candystore.com reported that Sweethearts' version was the popular candy for the holiday last year.
"Brach's size, texture, colors, sayings, flavors and quality provide the perfect sweet solution for those conversation heart lovers who are lamenting over reports that this Valentine's favorite is not available this year," Hans Becher, general manager of Brach's and seasonal confections at parent company Ferrara Candy, said in a statement.
Spangler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For something a little more sour and less chalky, both Nestle's SweeTarts and Mondelez's Sour Patch Kids have their own take on conversation hearts. Besides the difference in flavor, the candies' sayings aren't as visible as those on Brach's or Sweethearts' versions.
New England Confectionery Co., also known as Necco, went out of business in July and sold Sweethearts and its other candy brands at auction. Round Hill Investments, which brought Hostess brands back from the brink, acquired Necco's brands but sold Sweethearts and the Necco wafer brand several months later.
But fans of Sweethearts might be glad that the candy isn't available this year. Bloomberg reported in October that exterminator visits to the factory had grown sporadic — and rat sightings became much more common.