Photo: AlexandriaLaNier (iStock)

Necco is like a cockroach infestation or the demon from the Paranormal Activity movies: you think it’s gone for good, and then it shows up in your kitchen again.

But it’s great news for diehard chalk fans everywhere. A bit of background here: Necco (short for the New England Candy Company), beloved producer of the divisive Necco Wafers and Sweethearts Conversation Hearts candies, was sold in May 2018 to Round Hill Investments, and the factory abruptly shuttered. In July 2018, Round Hill Investments sold Necco’s wafer and conversation hearts brands to the Spangler Candy Company, best known as the producer of Dum Dum Lollipops. Spangler couldn’t revive Sweethearts in time for the 2019 Valentine’s Day season, leading to a candy heart shortage. This year, Spangler will begin producing the hearts once more—but there’s a catch. The tribulations of this little confection never cease.

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After last year’s much publicized candy heart hiatus, consumers are more gung ho than ever to buy up these fun and unappetizing things. That increase in demand is unfortunately coupled with Spangler’s long and arduous year of shipping the manufacturing equipment out of Necco’s old Massachusetts plant, truckload by truckload, and reconstructing it piece by piece in Spangler’s own facility in Bryan, Ohio. The transition has put a strain on production, and the company will mostly only be able to supply Sweethearts to nationwide drugstore chains such as CVS and Walgreens this year, and in limited quantities.

And the messages, the fun messages! Conversation hearts’ raison d’etre! Further unfortunate news on that front. Because some of the equipment that prints the teeny tiny phrases on each heart arrived at Spangler’s facility damaged, the company has had to limit the amount of quips present on the production line. There will be a few of the classic phrases like “True Love,” but nothing new or hip this year. And conflicting reports say that many hearts in the box will simply be… blank. I guess because your sweetie leaves you speechless?

There is some good news in all this. When the Necco equipment was en route to Spangler, the original 118-year-old recipe for the conversation hearts was found in a stack of old paperwork. While it had been modernized by Necco in recent decades, the original recipe will be in production at Spangler once again, with flavors like wintergreen and banana, a major win for the “don’t taste like they used to” commenteriat.

Spagler expects to rebound to full production capacity in 2021, a distant future with new slang that probably doesn’t even exist yet. What phrases will we see emblazoned on the candy hearts of tomorrow?

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Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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