DETROIT — Sweethearts, those chalky little candies with messages on them, won’t be on store shelves this Valentine’s Day. The New England Confectionary Co., or NECCO, had been making the popular candies since 1886. But the company filed for bankruptcy protection last spring.
Ohio-based Spangler Candy Co. bought NECCO in May. But Spangler said Thursday that it didn’t have time to bring Sweethearts to market this Valentine’s season.
CEO Kirk Vashaw said Spangler wants to make sure Sweethearts “meet customer expectations” when they return to market. He didn’t say what changes Spangler plans to make or when they’ll go back on sale.
Competitors like Brach’s are still making conversation hearts. But online retailer CandyStore.com says Sweethearts were by far the most popular brand, commanding 80 percent of U.S. market for candy hearts.
Another iconic NECCO product — Sky Bar — recently received new life last week. When NECCO went out of business last year, its assets were split up and sold, some of them at auction. Most of the candy brands were sold to established confectioners, but there was no news of the outcome or whereabouts of the Sky Bar. Fans of the quirky and unique candy bar assumed it was gone forever and have been frantically buying up the remaining stock online. However, the brand was actually purchased by the owner of Duck Soup, a gourmet food store in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
“Like so many others, I was watching the evolving events at NECCO with dismay. I couldn’t believe that Sky Bar would never be produced again,” said Louise Mawhinney, owner of Duck Soup, who placed the winning bid at auction for the bar. “I placed a bid and I must admit I was stunned to suddenly become the owner of the brand. However, we believe we have found a way to start small-batch production and make Sky Bar available once more. It’s very exciting. While we have not yet finalized all the details, we hope that we will be able to produce the Sky Bar that everyone knows and loves.”
Duck Soup has been working with Jeff Green, formerly NECCO’s Vice President of Research and Development, and a 33-year NECCO veteran. “I was very glad to connect with Louise as I thought that Sky Bar would be gone forever,” said Jeff. “There’s so much history associated with the bar, and it definitely has an existing fan base.”
“Thanks to Jeff, we have a plan for production. Our goal is to be up and running later this year. We will keep everyone posted as events unfold,” said Louise.
The Sky Bar was Introduced in 1938 with a dramatic skywriting advertising campaign, Sky Bar’s technological innovation was its four distinctly different centers — caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. Well known throughout New England, Sky Bar has appeared in movies over the years, and its sign was one of only six that lit up on VE Day in 1945 when the blackout in Times Square was lifted.