Candy Companies Gear Up for Sweetest Day of the Year

Brach's, The Hershey Co., Mars Inc. and McKee Foods unveil new innovation.
Danielle Romano
Managing Editor
Brach's Conversation Hearts teaser

NATIONAL REPORT — Bags and boxes of conversation hearts signifies the return of Valentine's Day.

In a recent first-of-its-kind Valentine's Day survey, Brach's Candy, a Ferrera Candy Co. brand, found that more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (78%) enjoy conversation hearts because the messages are fun to read. Those surveyed most often use conversation hearts to simply eat and enjoy (66%) or to tell someone that they are special (62%).

[Read more: Ferrara Expands Sugar Confections Portfolio With Jelly Belly Candy Co. Acquisition]

Brach's found that Americans' other preferences when it comes to conversation hearts are:

  • When asked to rank their top five conversation heart messages, "Love You" was chosen most often (50%), with "Be Mine" (46%) and "Kiss Me" (46%) not far behind. 
  • Three in four U.S. adults surveyed (75%) prefer traditional conversation heart messages like "Luv You" over sarcastic/witty (i.e., "Dream On"), contemporary (i.e., "DM Me") or cultural messages (i.e., "Bae").
  • In addition to being fun to read, Americans mostly love the iconic treat because they taste good (71%) and make them feel nostalgic (57%).
  • Generation Z and millennials use conversation hearts to show romantic affection (65% and 62%, respectively) or to ask someone out on a date (25% and 23%, respectively) compared to, and more often than, other generations. Gen Z are also more likely than other generations to share conversation hearts with friends (52%) or parents (29%).
  • Americans who favor traditional conversation heart messages are most likely to prefer long-term relationships (67%).
  • Americans who prefer contemporary (i.e., "DM Me") conversation heart messages are most likely to enjoy candlelight concerts (22%) and wear matching outfits with their family (32%).
  • Americans whose favorite conversation heart message is "Love" are more likely to say their family loves doing social media challenges together, like dancing (25%).
  • Aries favors the "Only You" conversation heart message (22% marked it in their top three messages) significantly more than any other zodiac sign.

"Conversation hearts are an important part of Brach's nearly 120-year-long history, beloved by many across generations and we’re proud to continue this legacy in 2024," said Chad Womack, director of Brach's seasonal marketing at Ferrara Candy Co. "From classic to contemporary messages, and many delicious flavors and varieties, we know so many people love conversation hearts for their own unique reasons. We take great joy in creating these shareable, heart-shaped candies that spark moments of connection for so many every February. My favorite conversation heart message is 'Be Mine.'"

What's in Store

With Valentine's Day four weeks away, the convenience channel's suppliers and distributors are bringing new innovation and flavors to consumers, along with returning favorites. Here is a sampling:

Brach's

Brach's fan-favorite Friends Conversation Hearts are returning for a second year. Coming in a blend of flavors including watermelon, strawberry, blueberry, pineapple, cherry and orange, the hearts feature iconic references from the TV show "Friends," like "How You Doin'" and "Ur My Lobster."

The candy brand is also introducing the new Mellowcreme Roses candy. The rose-shaped candy comes in flavors such as Frosted Sugar Cookie, Strawberry Cupcake and Valentine's Day Party Punch.

Chicago-based Ferrera Candy Co. delivers products sold under 20 popular brands like Brach's, Jelly Belly, Nerds, SweeTARTS, Laffy Taffy and Trolli to more than 66 million U.S. households annually, and Dori snacking products under brands such as Dori, Pettiz, Gomets and Yogurte 100 for more than 40 countries worldwide. A privately held company, Ferrera has an operational network of more than 27 locations around the world that includes manufacturing, distribution, sales, and research and development facilities.

The Hershey Co.

As part of its Valentine's Day line-up, The Hershey Co. introduces its latest collaboration: Hershey's Kisses with Snoopy & Friends Foils, available in both bags and Heart Boxes. The company's signature milk chocolate treats include 18 pink and red foils that feature the beloved Peanuts characters, including Woodstock, Charlie Brown and Lucy.

The Hershey Co. Peanuts Kisses

"No matter how you plan on celebrating Valentine's Day, or who you plan on celebrating it with, our Valentine's Day products are guaranteed to make the day a little sweeter," said Brian Jones, senior associate brand manager, Valentine's Day, at The Hershey Co. "From fan-favorites like our returning Hershey's Kisses Chocolate Dipped Strawberry candies and new innovations like our Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolates with Snoopy & Friends Foils, our lineup makes every moment more loveable."

[Read more: Honoring the Best New Products of 2023]

Adding more sweetness to the holiday, Hershey also unveiled new Valentine's Day delights — including Cadbury Caramello Miniatures (7.5-ounce bag) and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Giant Heart Box (28.8-ounce box) — alongside favorites such as Hershey's Kisses Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Flavored candies (9-ounce bag) and Hershey's Milk Chocolate Hearts King-Sized Bar (2.5-ounce King Size).

Headquartered in Pennsylvania, The Hershey Co. has more than 100 brand names in approximately 80 countries worldwide that drive more than $10.4 billion in annual revenues, including Hershey's, Reese's, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers, and fast-growing salty snacks including SkinnyPop, Pirate's Booty and Dot's Homestyle Pretzels.

Mars Inc.

M&M'S, a portfolio brand of Mars, released its 2024 Valentine's Day Gift Guide exclusively on MMS.com, a one-stop-shop for customizable gifts, party favors and limited-time seasonal flavors. This year's annual Valentine's Day Gift Guide features an array of gift options that are heartfelt, flavorful and colorful, according to the candy maker.

[Read more: Mars Wrigley Unwraps New Innovations]

"Valentine's Day and chocolate go hand-in-hand, Mars wants to make sure consumers have a sweet holiday by making it easy to find thoughtful gifts with our M&M'S Valentine's Day Gift Guide," said Jarid Lukin, global senior director, M&M'S Digital. "Complete with heart-shaped gift boxes, candy dispensers, party favors and more, our gifts continue to showcase what MMS.com has to offer, with personalized options that add an extra sprinkle of love."

Mars Valentines Day 2024

Among the full offering are M&M'S Teddy Bear and Heart-Shaped Candy Gift Boxes, M&M'S Gift Bottle and Favor packs, all of which can be personalized with custom messages, clipart and photos.

To sweeten the holiday of love, M&M'S is introducing new treats in its Valentine's Day Gift Guide this year. M&M'S fans can enjoy these seasonal additions:

  • Heart party favors: M&M'S candies can be personalized with meaningful messages, photos or a logo, and the peek-a-boo window on each festive pack shows off the candy creation.
  • Customizable packaging options: Not only can M&M'S chocolate candies be customized, but custom text can be added on the packaging to make it extra special, according to Mars. The feature can be added to tins and dispensers.

Additionally, the candy brand is bringing back its seasonal Valentine's Day flavor with M&M'S White Chocolate Strawberry Shake for a limited time. The flavor captures the taste of a strawberry shake combined with smooth white chocolate and coated in Valentine's Day-themed shells.

A global, family-owned business, Mars has almost $45 billion in annual sales and produces brands including Ben's Original, Cesar, Cocoavia, Dove, Extra, KIND, M&M'S, Snickers, Pedigree, Royal Canin and Whiskas.

McKee Foods Corp.

McKee Foods, maker of Little Debbie, unveiled two new additions to the brand in time for Valentine’s Day: Vanilla Mini Donuts and Big Pack Valentine Cakes. 

For those who savor smaller indulgences, the bite-sized Vanilla Mini Donuts are coated in light pink frosting and adorned with a white icing pattern. Big Pack Valentine Cakes – Vanilla are heart-shaped, individually wrapped and topped with light pink frosting and a white icing stripe pattern. Each carton contains six big snack cakes.

Little Debbie Valentine's Day 2024

"We are thrilled to introduce our new Vanilla Mini Donuts and Big Pack Valentine Cakes – Vanilla to our cherished Little Debbie family," said Erica Cunningham, Little Debbie Product Manager II at McKee Foods. "These additions underscore our commitment to providing a diverse range of treats that cater to the varied preferences of our customers. Whether you're a fan of bite-sized indulgences or classic vanilla goodness, each new item ensure there's something for everyone to enjoy this Valentine's season."

Both Little Debbie Vanilla Mini Donuts and Big Pack Valentine Cakes – Vanilla are available at leading retailers and convenience stores nationwide.

In addition to announcing new treats, Little Debbie unveiled fresh packaging graphics across its Valentine’s Day lineup. The new designs showcase the brand's "fresh, new, heartwarming" take, which includes light teal backgrounds and pink paper cutout hearts, according to the company. 

McKee Foods, a family bakery with annual sales of about $1.5 billion, is a privately held company based in Collegedale, Tenn. It creates and produces Little Debbie baked goods, Drake's cakes, Sunbelt Bakery snacks and Fieldstone Bakery food products.

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