Don’t Mess With My Sweethearts!

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Why you should care

Another example of the risks of messing with a tried-and-true favorite.

Are you sweet on Valentine’s Day? If so, chances are your mouth is watering for a heart-shaped box of chocolates. But the kid inside might crave something smaller and less tasty: the cute, chalky sweetness of conversation hearts.

They’ve been around so long — since 1866 — that we’ve all heard of them. And lots of us have loved them way beyond our elementary school days, when it made sense. After all, they’ve been the one constant in an ever-changing, often-disappointing holiday of love. But in 2010, NECCO, the maker of Sweethearts, made a big change that turned some fans sour: the recipe.

Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak, says within the world of iconic candy, people don’t like change. Eating candy is a very intimate act, he says, noting that our mouths are “exquisitely calibrated” to enjoy candy in very precise ways, from the flavors to the textures. So any change to the recipe, even one with more natural ingredients, is “usually rejected.”

Sure, some people noticed the change, says NECCO’s Mary Lane. But she says they’re as beloved as ever, adding that the company is considering a retro pack that may be timed with their 150th anniversary next year. No word on whether that means the old recipe could be guest-appearing in our hearts.

Change, meet candy world. Candy world, play nice!



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