Feb. 14, 2012
REVERE, Mass. — It sounds like the death of romance in the shape of a candy heart: Whereas Necco hearts were once known for sweet sayings like "Marry Me" and "Be Mine," now you can ask your sweetheart to "Text Me" or "Tweet Me."
The hearts debuted in 1902, and "they've always had sayings on them," said Necco projects manager Jennifer Chambers. Choosing those sayings is … a process.
First, there are mechanical restrictions. Necco's machines can handle up to 80 sayings, though typically there are only 50. The company usually retires 10-20 sayings per year and adds 10. The phrase length is limited to five letters in the top row and four in the bottom. Longtime employee Jeff Green is experimenting with fonts, "trying to increase the amount of information" that fits — but no change yet.
Only now can the company tackle the content of those loaded phrases. For a number of years, the company started with a theme, Chambers saidhe pet theme produced Puppy Love, Purrfect and Love Bird; from the weather theme, we got Heat Wave and Cloud Nine; the food year, Honey Bun and Yum Yum.
"We should go to the dark side and say Divorce Me," Green joked.
But it's all different now. In 2010, Necco started crowdsourcing phrases online. That's how they got Text Me and Tweet Me. The company's not going back. Chambers said: "Moving forward, we're really seeking [sayings] from the community and the public."
To choose its 2013 sayings, Necco solicited ideas from elementary-school students and posted the top seven to Facebook via its partner CVS. The choices include Live N Love, B Tru 2 U and LOML ("love of my life").
If that sounds as romantic as mud, you're in luck. In an effort to retain its traditional audience, Necco has divided the heart-shaped brand. The new sayings will appear only in a separate product line, "Sweethearts," which come in "young" flavors such as green apple and blue raspberry. Boxes marked "Conversation Hearts" have the time-tested sayings and flavors — banana, grape.
Traditional romance isn't entirely dead among the texting and tweeting crowd: Some Sweethearts will still say Marry Me. It's the company's most popular heart, Chambers said.
> > Read about how Necco is trying to attract new customers while keeping the old.
Many of you were on Twitter on Tuesday composing candy heart slogans you either want to see or hope you never see. Here are a few of the less risqué ones from the Boston area. And if you're so inclined, you can type them on a virtual heart.
NECCO TRIES TO INNOVATE SAFELY