Although no one knows exactly who came up with the idea of giving candy as a token of affection on Valentine's Day, Richard Cadbury receives credit for selling the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1868, according to HungryMonster.com. Since then, candy of every description is available in heart shapes for the holiday.
Valentine Candy Sales
According to the National Confectioners' Association, Valentine's Day ranks fourth in holiday candy sales, following Halloween, Easter and Christmas. The organization estimates that consumers purchased more than 36 million boxes of chocolates, packed in heart-shaped containers, in 2010. Neilsen Marketing states that during the week of the Valentine's Day holiday, consumers buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy.
Hershey, the largest producer of chocolates in North America, first offered its famous kisses wrapped in red and silver foil for Valentine's Day in 1986. In 2009, Russell Stover began offering hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries at its retail stores. The company's candy makers decorated the strawberries, which they covered in white, dark or milk chocolate, especially for Valentine's Day. According to its website, Russell Stover Candies produced eight of the top 10 Valentine gift boxes and seven of the top 10 heart-shaped boxes in 2008.
The Necco Candy Company began producing candy hearts in the 1860s. The early candies were made of sugar and flour and included a wrapped message on a slip of paper. The version that we know today began in 1902. The sayings imprinted on the hearts remained unchanged until the 1990s, when the company began removing some of the phrases to make way for new ones. In 2010, Necco solicited message ideas from the public, a first for the company. It also changed the candy's formula to make the hearts softer and added new flavors such as lemon, grape and green apple.
Many Valentine's Day candies had their origins as ordinary treats, and many are still popular year-round in those original incarnations. Peeps, which developed in 1954 and were only available during the Easter season in their baby-chick shapes, now exist as red hearts for Valentine's Day. Sweet Tarts, first introduced in 1963, are now available in heart shapes for those who like a little sourness with their holiday sweets. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, which date to 1928, appear as foil-wrapped hearts in February.
Who Wants Candy?
The National Confectioners Association advises that men would rather receive chocolates than flowers, with 68 percent of men over age 50 stating a preference for candy and just 22 percent saying they'd rather have flowers. In a 2008 survey conducted by Survey Sampling International, candy and chocolates topped the list of Valentine's Day gifts, with 24 percent of surveyed adults expecting to receive sweet treats for the holiday.
- Photo Credit candy image by Michael Shake from Fotolia.com