Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts) 2010

Sweethearts - 2010 FlavorsAs we’re in the middle of Candy Season one of my favorite things to do after a holiday is to see what’s on sale from the previous holiday and glance at the early merchandise on the shelves for the next one. The Epiphany usually marks the emergence of Valentine’s Day candy. I scour the aisles looking for something new. So when I saw the new packaging for Necco Sweethearts I thought they’d expanded their line. They have been offering an all-chocolate version, Spanish language version and lately a Tart version. I thought this new fruity array was an addition.

I bought them but didn’t open them, just tossing them on my pile for review. Then the comments started trickling in from readers, who were finding my old review and weighing in on the changes. It appears that it’s a complete replacement for the classic Necco Sweethearts (see my review of them in 2008).

Necco Sweethearts

There are so many things wrong. Let me start on the front of the package.

The Official Candy of Love

Does Love have a governing board that can decide these things, like the Olympic Committee? No, no it does not. Love, Freedom, Justice and Anger ... these concepts and emotions are boundless and cannot have anything official about them. Invoking any sort of official in association with them is false advertising. Love does not do endorsements. (Unless Necco would like to step forward and show me their contracts with Love.)

New Package Design

I actually like it. It’s bold but still soft and, yeah, a bit feminine and childish. At first I though the colors of the hearts were a little too vivid, but after seeing the actual candies inside, I’m setting that aside. The choice of Love Bug as the statement on the featured heart is a bit odd.

Necco Sweethearts - AngelThe Price

It’s marked in a black stamp there in the upper right corner, 99 cents and the package holds 7 ounces. Can’t really beat that, especially when the little boxes are usually selling for 50 cents for one ounce (though sometimes on for as little as 20 cents each). Not terribly attractive but kind of makes me nostalgic for the time before bar codes.

Lack of Branding

The front of the package does not bear the name of the maker. The name Necco isn’t actually on the package anywhere ... just New England Confectionery Company under the nutrition facts panel (followed by the web address of www.necco.com). The previous years’ packaging does have Necco and its logo featured prominently both on the front and the back of the packages.

Necco Sweethearts - I Heart YouAn Undone Website

It’s January 13, so a little more than a month before Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s candy has been in stores for at least a week. On the back of the package is says for baking, gifting, craft ideas and more visit mysweethearts.com. You know what’s on that page as I write this? It’s a placeholder about some sort of iPhone app. No promised recipes or craft ideas ... not even any mention that would be what I expect to find it there. (See screengrab.)

The New Flavors - Show You Care ... 6 Delicious Ways to Share!

Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry.

I’m not going to break the flavors down one by one. What was nice about Necco Sweethearts was the subtle sweet flavors, nothing exciting, they were simply pleasant.

The new flavors are a blend of sweet and tart. The texture is smoother than the usual compressed dextrose candy like SweeTarts, because this is made with mostly sugar and corn syrup instead of dextrose (which is just a powder form of glucose and has a different mouthfeel).

Necco Sweethearts - Real HeartThe citrus flavors are completely artificial with a tangy note that is wholly un-citrus and more like a chemical. The pink ones taste like a combination of lipstick and the old wintergreen ones, which is just a disgusting mix. Grape has as much clove flavor in it as food coloring though the mixture is nearly palatable.

These do not show I care ... these show that I have no regard for my lover or friend’s expectations of what a heart shaped candy should taste like.

It’s as if Necco took all the artificial colors that they aren’t using for their new All Natural Necco Wafers and pouring it all into these improved Necco Sweethearts. Simply put, they’re a mess. (Now, I would’ve been thrilled if the conversation hearts were also going to be all natural, what an awesome innovation that would have been.)

Necco Sweethearts - Meet MeThey Stink

Once I opened the bag I was in trouble. The smell is a blend of Love’s Baby Soft and strawberry candles. And if I were just sniffing the bag, well,  yeah, I have to expect that. But this thing made my car smell, they make my office smell. When I’m done with this review they’re going in the trash someplace where I am not.

Better Printing

The one thing they have improved upon was one of my beefs with them previously. They production quality is better. The pieces are well formed and most especially the printing is clear. Sure about a quarter of them aren’t printed square in the center, but they’re still readable.

The sayings are cute. They’re using the heart symbol quite a bit. Hey Baby, Smile, Sweet Love,  Dream Big, You Rock, Puppy Love, Meet Me, Love Me, Hug Me, Kiss Me, For Ever, Ask Me, even Marry Me

I’m not saying they shouldn’t make these, someone probably likes them, but they should be an additional product in the line, not a replacement for the iconic original.

UPDATE 1/27/2010: It’s been a few weeks and it seems that the response posted here has been overwhelmingly negative about the flavor change (few have mentioned the new texture).

Necco SweetheartsSo I talked to Jackie Hague, the Vice President of Marketing for Necco who navigated this new change (along with the All Natural Necco Wafers, which I fully support). We had a great talk about candy in general (she worked for Mars for 20 years and was responsible for many of the limited edition M&Ms that so many of us have loved over the years).

First, you can still get the classic Necco Sweethearts. The change over was made mid-way through the production schedule. So the first part of the production run was the classic flavors (Banana, Wintergreen, Orange, Cherry, Grape) and then they switched over the ingredients and equipment for the new formula. They are sold at very few stores, basically the discounters: Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar , 99 Cent Only, Freds , Odd Lots, Wakefern and Sav A Lot. (The image shown here is the classic flavors on the left that I found at Dollar Tree and the ones on the right are the new flavors/colors - here’s what the package looks like.)

Second, Ms. Hague said that the changes were made based on consumer feedback. The most common requests from folks who wrote or called were for a softer texture and for more intense & modern flavors. Banana was not well liked, apparently yellow is not ordinarily expected to be banana. The texture was introduced first with the Twilight version of Sweethearts (though future versions won’t have Passion Fruit) as well as the tangier, more vibrant flavors.

So the takeaway from this would be, if you don’t like the new flavors, make sure that Necco knows that. Return the product, write to them or call. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot in return (a canned response) but I do think that they log the feedback - it’s in their best interest. (Ms. Hague also said that they’ve assigned more people to help out with the feedback process, so perhaps the responses will be more appropriate instead of a copy/paste FAQ.) Ms. Hague understood my frustration with not just the lack of information but the contrary information provided by the website and candy packages and it’s apparent they’re working on that.

The Necco website’s Sweethearts product page used to say this, “One thing Sweetheart lovers can count on each year is the candy’s simple, familiar formula. The basic recipe has never been changed. Both Sweethearts and the familiar NECCO Wafers use the same batter—sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gums, coloring and flavoring.” However, they’ve finally updated their websites to reflect this new change and have omitted that statement that they honor the time-tested flavors ... because they were tested by time and after about a hundred years, even as the #1 Valentines candy selling 8 billion hearts a year, they lost. Necco thinks that this new version will appeal to more people, which is possible, but it’s clear it’s not the same people who have been buying them.

Update 2/10/2013: Both versions of Necco’s Conversation Hearts are on store shelves this year. By far the most ubiquitous are the newer fruity version, but I did find the almost-classic “Conversation Hearts” at Walgreen’s. The old ones are called Conversation Hearts, not Sweethearts. I’ve only seen them in the little boxes, only as singles (not in the shrinkwrapped five packs and no bags).

Necco Conversation Hearts & Necco Sweethearts

The classic version has white (cinnamon), green (lime), yellow (banana), pink (cherry), purple (grape) and orange (orange). So they’ve eliminated clove and wintergreen. It’s too bad. The texture has returned to the crunchier version. The colors are more vibrant and the printing just as inconsistent.

Necco Conversation Hearts & Necco Sweethearts

Related Candies

  1. All Natural Chocolate Necco Wafers
  2. Twilight Sweethearts: Forbidden Fruits
  3. Jelly Belly for Valentine’s Day
  4. See’s Cinnamon (Hearts & Lollypops)
  5. Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts)
  6. SweeTart Hearts
  7. Necco Smoothies
Name: Sweethearts
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Necco
Place Purchased: CVS (3rd & LaBrea)
Price: $.99
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 113
Categories: Chalk, United States, Necco, Valentine's Day

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:22 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

Comments
  1. Wal-mart sells Ferrara Pan “Heartlines” in small boxes, 5 to a package. They are the closest that we have found to the candy that we all love so much. They are very tasty.

    Comment by Terry Pangburn on 1/14/12 at 1:20 pm #
  2. So gross….I have the new flavors.  My favorite flavors were the banana and wintergreen ones.  I would pick out the package based on how many I saw in the box.  The soft, chewy texture is just wrong and not enjoyable.  The flavors are inedible.  I bought a 6 pack of these because they were cheap and I didn’t know about the change.  I’ll be returning the ones I didn’t eat (5 boxes).  Talk about ruining my favorite Valentines Day candy.  :(

    Comment by Jenna on 1/16/12 at 8:36 pm #
  3. Maybe they’re just going to go out of business. If they don’t go back to the original candy, they should.
    I do notice something already this year and I saw it last year, there are a lot of alternatives from other companies. Not that they’re any good, but it means the other companies know that NECCo has goofed in discontinuing the originals and they’re going to put something out there to compete.

    I’m just going to be blunt…they have to be crazy to do what they did!

    Comment by Kat on 1/17/12 at 10:35 am #
  4. I can’t wait till valentines day to have my Necco hearts. To my surprise Yuk!!!!! I have checked some of the stores that they say the old one’s are in, no luck. Please change them back and put them back on the shelf, even after valentines day to make up for the big mistake you made by changing them.

    Comment by jane on 1/24/12 at 10:24 am #
  5. This destroyed something that I loved…I have bought 12 boxes and they are all the same!  Not good!  I loved the yellow flavor and this new one is way too sweet and tart!  Please go back to the original Necco!  Why change something that was perfect?!

    Comment by susan on 1/25/12 at 3:26 pm #
  6. Kat, I too noticed, last year and this year, there are all kinds of heart candies out there and I thought the same thing. They know NECCO has made a big mistake so they’re trying to profit from it.

    I don’t understand how this company can be so stupid! Those things they’re selling now taste like medicine or some kind of chemicals.

    I wonder if they’re ever going to wake up. I also wonder who left the company that could have stopped this or changed it back.

    I have some I bought from someone on this list, I think, last year. They’re a little crunchy but they taste good! Better than those new ones.

    Kathy

    <<<I do notice something already this year and I saw it last year, there are a lot of alternatives from other companies. Not that they’re any good, but it means the other companies know that NECCo has goofed in discontinuing the originals and they’re going to put something out there to compete.

    Comment by Kat on 1/17/12 at 11:35 am #>>>>

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 1/26/12 at 3:34 pm #
  7. I miss the old Sweetheart candy.  I don’t care for the new flavors.  Please bring back the old!

    Comment by Sandra on 1/29/12 at 11:13 am #
  8. The new flavors are terrible!!! It’s reassuring that these comments are here.  I won’t keep getting little boxes, hoping for a different result!

    Comment by Jane on 2/03/12 at 9:14 pm #
  9. I have been eating the original flavors for years. I will never buy the new flavors. I am subjected to purchasing the old and an extremely high markup online. WHY WHY WHY did you do this to me. 3lbs for 30 bucks ..Necco lost a longtime customer

    Comment by jewel on 2/07/12 at 2:24 pm #
  10. Remember to return the boxes of the new stuff to the store. Maybe someday they’ll get the hint.
    I haven’t found the old ones anywhere this year. I thought someone said that NECCO said they were going to bring them back.
    What is the matter with that company? Are they in China now or something?

    Kathy

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 2/08/12 at 1:03 pm #
  11. Just found this article, but I haven’t seen any sign of the old candy hearts. I wonder what really is going on….


    http://tinyurl.com/67ntxqk

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 2/08/12 at 1:19 pm #
  12. I was disappointed on the writing on the hearts. I usually like to write a letter to my hubby using the conversation hearts but they weren’t very clear or very many good things printed on them. Is there any way to improve them.

    Comment by lolamoberly on 2/14/12 at 9:11 am #
  13. One saying that you don’t show above that was in a box of ours says:  Jump Me

    Maybe they don’t realize that jump me is a sexual term and is not appropriate for a CHILDREN’S candy.

    Comment by Jill on 2/16/12 at 3:05 pm #
  14. For those like me who have been lost since 2010 without their annual dose of chalky Necco Sweethearts, I have discovered that Mayfair Sales Inc. of Buffalo, NY makes conversation hearts that are quite similar to the original Necco hearts. I’ve seen them at Walmart (tube), Rite Aid (small boxes) and Cracker Barrel (bag).

    Comment by Tiffany on 12/30/12 at 1:27 pm #
  15. I had forgotten they changed and bought two little boxes - and EW - they all taste like they are filled with a peach flavor -  can’t tell the difference between any of them and only could stand about 4 before the god-awful after-taste came - now they are in the trash

    Comment by Laurie on 1/20/13 at 5:24 pm #
  16. I can’t believe they haven’t gone back to the old candy hearts!! I guess there are still people out there that don’t know about the change, or don’t care, and they’re buying them. Surely the company has seen a dip in sales of candy hearts?

    Laurie, I wish you had returned them to the store. I also threw them away but it was back at the beginning and I had no idea at that time what was going on.

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 1/21/13 at 10:16 am #
  17. So what can I make with these hearts, because I don’t want to eat them?

    Comment by Marilyn Martinez on 1/24/13 at 10:08 am #
  18. I was completely disapointed in the sweethearts. To say they are unfit to eat is putting it mildly.When I saw they were still made in the USA I was thrilled, that was the only good thing. Why did you ruin the best candy ever?  Give me back my old Necco’s and sweetheart’s!!! I am 71 been eating them all my lifenow you have taken a pleasure away from the elderly,Shame on you.

    Comment by Sharon Alexander on 1/25/13 at 9:30 am #
  19. Wal-mart sells Ferrara Pan “Heartlines” in small boxes, 5 to a package. They are the closest that we have found to the candy that we all love so much. They are very tasty. Some of the small boxes say “Brachs” but the rest of the box is identical and the candy is very similar to NECCO.

    Comment by Terry Pangburn on 1/26/13 at 10:29 am #
  20. To anyone that is still reading…I was in Target last night, in San Jose, CA, and there were NO conversation hearts, not old or new. There were none by the other candy companies either. Is it too early?
    Maybe we should direct the NECCO people to this blog?
    Kathy

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 1/26/13 at 10:40 am #
  21. I just Tweeted Necco @NeccoWafers.  I think that’s what we lovers of traditional Conversation Hearts should start doing.  If we ramp up the social media they will respond.  Their outlet store & factory is about 40 minutes from my house.  I may try and stop in there toward the end of the week.

    Comment by Silas K on 1/26/13 at 10:49 am #
  22. <<I may try and stop in there toward the end of the week.>>>
    Silas,
    Please do stop in and see what you can find out. That would be great!

    Thanks!
    Kathy

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 1/26/13 at 12:28 pm #
  23. I like the Twitter idea!!  Going to do that now.

    Comment by LA on 1/26/13 at 1:40 pm #
  24. How do you do the Twitter thing?

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 1/26/13 at 3:24 pm #
  25. They tasted even worst this year! ug! please bring back the old ones Necco. These are horrible!!!!

    Comment by Stephanie Hazeem on 1/28/13 at 1:49 am #
  26. Please bring back the original flavors!!!! I miss them do much, new ones just aren’t the same:(

    Comment by Kylie Epley on 2/04/13 at 8:46 am #
  27. I like some of these their cool. I’m making conversation hearts for Valentine’s Day for my class and the other class. smile

    Comment by Talliona on 2/04/13 at 8:20 pm #
  28. Still no conversation hearts at the Target store where I shop. Interesting. Last year they had maybe 3 different brands competing with the Necco hearts.

    I did buy some from Amazon and they taste pretty good. Crunchy but good flavor. It was expensive though with the price of the candy and then the shipping.

    I was looking on the first page at comment #194. This person LOVED the new ones and her husband actually saw swarms of people at the store who also loved the new ones. I can’t even imagine swarms of people over the hearts, even the old ones. Well, maybe if they brought the old ones back some people might swarm the store to buy them.

    Comment by Kathy Vance on 2/05/13 at 9:56 am #
  29. Hi there!

    I wonder if you can help me…

    I have been looking for a certain type of conversation heart I remember buying at Duane Reade in NYC about 12 years ago.  They were the same size as Necco/Brachs, but had sharper, less rounded corners, and raised lettering.  They were also harder in consistancy.  They tasted less chalky, but sweet and slightly tart, but not as tart as SweetTart brand converstaion hearts.  I have Googled this and found a few other people looking for them as well, but no leads.  It’s really a shame because in my opinion they tasted MUCH better than anything else out there. 

    Does any of this sound familiar to you?

    Thank you and Happy Valentine’s Day! smile

    Comment by Christy on 2/06/13 at 3:16 pm #
  30. Wow! I thought I was the only one who hated the new ones and complained to Necco. Good to know there are others out there. Thanks for this blog. I too have seen the individual boxes at stores, but that’s not quite the same either. And why take out wintergreen? That was one of my favorites, along with banana.  Oh well, maybe I’m just getting old and not wanting things to change.

    Comment by Peggy on 2/11/13 at 4:15 pm #
  31. I purchased Sweethearts a pack of six and gave them to my kids.  One box after shaking it then opening it had a total of 3 hearts in it.  What a waste of money.  The candy also does not taste the same anylonger.  No longer will buy this period.  The regular one’s were the big hit but now cutting back, higher prices then to find three in a box, I find this stupid.  What a shame.

    Comment by Lisa on 2/14/13 at 3:31 pm #
  32. Wow! I am very surprised with how many people dislike the new Sweethearts. As a kid, I hated sweethearts because of the white (mint) one. In my opinion, cany should NOT be mint flavored!! If I wanted to taste mint, I’ll eat some toothpaste or chew on some gum. Anyways, I haven’t had sweethearts in a while and I found myself in the candy isle the day after valentines day. Everything was on sale so I figured, “why not, it’s only 50cents”  when I got home, I opened the bag and stuffed about 5 of them in my mouth. I knew right away that it tasted different. They were so much smoother. I don’t like crunchy candy all that much. I really liked them!! I finished the bag in three days! When I realized I was out, I hurried to the nearest store to see if there were any left. Lucky for me, I found two bags left and bought them. I absolutely LOVE the new flavors! I only wish they had these when I was a kid:)

    Comment by Janeth on 2/20/13 at 1:16 pm #
  33. We call them Neccoca Cola Classic valentine hurts.  And of course, we don’t buy them anymore.  Instead, we opt for near-likeness provided by Brach’s Heartlines. Brach’s has similar pre-Neccoca Cola Classic semi-chalky texture and sugary taste EXCEPT “THEY’S” NO BANANA. So, now all that’s left of Valentine’s Day is the romance. Neccoca Cola Classic valentine hurts: -5.  Brach’s Heartlines: 7.  Pre-Neccococa Cola Classic conversation hearts: 10.

    Comment by Deiter on 1/11/14 at 4:10 pm #
  34. Just wanted to mention, I see that in your review from 2010, the mysweethearts.com website was not done yet. 

    I just came across this (note it is now 2/2014, so over 4 years later), and noticed that the same phrase you saw on your box (“for fun recipes and craft ideas, visit us on the web: http://www.mysweethearts.com”) is also printed on my package of “Dazzled Tarts” sweethearts (which are not AT ALL dazzley, glittery, sparkly, in any way, despite the candy’s name and the images on the package, which are misleading to the point of being false advertising), so I double-checked, and the website is still nothing.  Just a spammy looking site that says, “The domain mysweethearts.com is for sale.”  Get it together, Necco, seriously.  In 4 years you couldn’t manage to get the website up and running or at least remove that sentence from your packaging?  Pathetic.  It’s too bad, I thought Necco used to be a highly-regarded company.

    Comment by Jess on 2/04/14 at 12:35 pm #
  35. I tried the Sugar Free hearts last week and after eating a small amount (about half of a single-serving box) became violently ill with the most painful cramps I have ever felt (and I am a woman, I am used to cramps). It was not the “mild laxative effect in consumed in excess” that all sugar substitutes warn about. I ended up in the emergency room. I eat sugarfree candy often without problems. This his may just have been a personal reaction to sorbitol (the substitute used in the hearts), which is not the same sugar alcohol as used in the other candies I eat, or perhaps there is something terribly wrong with those candies. Anyway, I just thought I’d share the warning.

    Comment by Dale on 2/04/14 at 1:20 pm #
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