Sweethearts Candy Turns Its Biggest Flaw Into A Selling Point

The faded, misprinted, hard-to-read Valentine's Day candy hearts are now an ode to 'Situationships.'

Valentine's Day is huge business for the candy industry, whether companies put their hearts into it or not. And while heart-shaped everything can be expected on grocery store shelves each year, the stalwart candy conversation heart remains arguably the most beloved institution every February 14. Sweethearts, the classic brand produced by Spangler Candy Company, has found a few ways to set itself apart from competitors in recent years. In 2022, it unveiled "Words of Encouragement" hearts to distribute to friends and lovers alike. This year, Sweethearts will debut its new "Situationships" box, full of "blurry, misprinted candies that are as hard to read as Gen-Z relationships." We've seen some good marketing tactics in our day, but this one is high up on the list.

A brief recent history of Sweethearts candies

For those who don't remember this dark and harrowing era of American confectionery, Spangler, maker of Sweethearts candies, completely canceled production of the Valentine's Day candies in 2019, leading to a shortage. The candies were originally produced by the New England Confectionery Company, aka Necco—yes, the same erstwhile producer of the highly divisive Necco Wafers. When Necco went under in 2018, Spangler purchased its Sweethearts and Necco Wafers brands, but couldn't ramp up production in time for the following Valentine's Day. As a result, Sweethearts didn't return to the scene until 2020.


Since the triumphant return of Sweethearts, Spangler (which also produces Dum Dums lollipops) has had fun with the brand, using each year's Valentine's Day release as an excuse to try something new. In 2021, the hearts featured references to classic love songs. In 2022, the phrases printed on the hearts pivoted to motivational phrases like "WAY 2 GO." And in 2023, Sweethearts went with the rather weak gimmick of admonishing Big Tech for co-opting the heart shape as its "like" icon. But this year, things are looking up.

Sweethearts’ new 2024 Valentine’s Day box

In 2024, Sweethearts has gone slightly meta for Valentine's Day by poking fun at the product's own flaws. Given that the candies are individually stamped with phrases using specialized but antiquated equipment, mistakes often occur in the printing process; a heart might have an off-center phrase, or the words will appear blurry and splotchy. This year, the brand is spinning those mistakes as intentional, funneling the inscrutable candies into their own dedicated "Situationships" box so that young people can "give the gift as blurry as their relationships."


"Singles are taking 'situationships' to the next level this year, and Sweethearts is here for them," Evan Brock, Spangler's vice president of marketing, said in the press release. "The printing on Sweethearts isn't always perfect. This is our way of embracing those imperfections in a way that taps into pop culture."

If you haven't heart of "situationships," it pretty much means an arrangement with a romantic or sexual partner that is not or has yet to be defined by labels. More than a one-night-stand, less than a monogamous arrangement, and likely sporadic as opposed to ongoing. If you know, you know.

Of course, if you're actually in a situationship, it's very possible that handing your person a box of Sweethearts candies on or near Valentine's Day could send the wrong message about where the (non)relationship is headed. But that's not really Spangler's problem. The brand has found a way to turn its product's biggest perennial flaw into a marketing occasion, and that's about as charming as any romcom meet cute.