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Valentine's Day: Conversation hearts on Facebook? Sweet!

February 14, 2012 |  9:26 am

Remember conversation hearts? The candy makers are now turning to Facebook for sweet inspiration as they update the messages for next year
Before there was texting, there were conversation hearts -- and Valentine's Day just wouldn't be the same without them. Right now, someone, somewhere is sitting in a first-grade classroom getting his or her very first box of conversation hearts. You remember, dontcha -- those pastel hearts inscribed with sweet sayings such as "All Mine" and "Be True"?

This Valentine's Day will no doubt be awash in conversation hearts. The New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) produced a whopping 8 billion candy hearts for this sweet holiday, shipping 25 million units in all, including those classroom-exchange boxes. (They had the label on the back, so you could fill in the "To:" and "From:" lines and bring a bunch to school for all your friends and, of course, let that special someone three desks over know he or she had an admirer.)

But some things have changed. Pick up a box today and you'll notice the candy colors seem a little more vibrant, the flavors both tart and sweet. But what will really catch your eye? The messages. Over the years, the company has tinkered with the sayings ... to mixed results.

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Most folks were OK with ditching now-dated sayings like "Fax Me," in favor of "Text Me" or "Tweet Me," Al Gulachenski, the candy company's chief executive, told The Times. Other sayings that got the ax include "Melt My Heart," "Sugar Pie" and "Purr-fect" in favor of "Ur It" and "Hold Hands."

Some updates didn't go over so well. Racy sayings such as "Ur Hot," "Hottie," even "Bite Me" struck some as just too much, a sign that the company was trying a bit too hard to appeal to a younger generation. (Evidence: a Facebook fanpage called "Bring back the old conversation hearts!!!!!")

In days past, the company accepted recommendations via mail for updated sayings. "We used to do it the old-fashioned way. All year long, people would send in letters and we'd keep a tally. Nobody puts stamps on things anymore," Gulachenski said.

This year, for the first time, the company is turning to Facebook to allow customers to guide the conversation for next Valentine's Day. You can weigh in over at the Facebook page for CVS, which is a major retailer of the 'lil sweets.

Conversation hearts have been around a long time. Since 1902, in fact, according to NECCO's history page. Now they're part of the national conversation, used as wedding favors, on edible wreaths and as inspiration for spinoffs. Such as mini cheesecakes. "They are a favorite; they are unique because they're something that's edible but also gives a message," Gulachenski said.

We asked Gulachenski whether this month was a mad, frantic rush at the candy company. Nope. In fact, it's just the opposite -- kind of quiet. "We stopped shipping Valentine's Day sometime in December. We're on to Easter," he said.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter.com/renelynch

Photo credit: New England Confectionery Company

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