Valentine's Day;NECCOValentine's Day;NECCO

Be Mine… True Love... First Kiss.

Have you ever opened a Valentine hoping there was a candy heart inside? And not just any candy heart-certainly not Go Away or As If (remember those?)-because it wasn't just the yummy hit of flavored sugar you were after. It was the sentiment stamped on the front. Crazy 4U. That's the candy heart you were hoping for.

Chocolates may be able to boost our endorphin level, but only Sweethearts® candies can reveal if the girl sitting two desks away returns our crush. And the tiny hearts, not to mention the hopes that go with them, aren't just for kids. The odds your traditional candy heart will say Marry Me are 1 in 40.

Sweethearts candies were invented just after the Civil War, at a time when the practice of exchanging Valentines and other novel forms of romantic expression were surging in popularity. They were originally called "Motto Hearts," formed in the shape of a cockle or scallop shell, with a message rolled up inside. From the start they were linked to coupling, often showing up at weddings with sentiments that were more tart than sweet, including Married in Satin, Love will not be Lasting, or Married in Pink, He will take to Drink.

The heart shape was adopted in 1902, and over a century later they are still cut and stamped on custom manufacturing plates at the New England Confectionery Company's (NECCO) factory in Revere, Massachusetts. Every year 10.8 million pounds of sugar are used to produce over 5.8 billion Sweethearts-almost all of which are devoured in a 6-week period around Valentine's Day.

The manufacturing process remains old-school, but in 2010, for the first time in 145 years, the look and taste of the candies has changed. There are new flavors like Green Apple and Blue Raspberry, bolder colors, and a version called Dazzled Tarts which actually is tart-although this time around, the expressions are sweet.

The sayings on the original "Conversation hearts"-the ones you can get in a one-ounce box, or if you're lucky, inside a Valentine-have continually changed with the times. Please Send a Lock of Your Hair by Return Mail, a popular pick around 1900, has given way over the years to sayings like Love Bug, Cool Dude, Girl Power, and Get My Drift. This year NECCO put all its sayings up for grabs, asking the public to decide what messages they wanted to give and receive. A contest elicited over 10,000 responses, with the top results: Tweet Me and Text Me.

It's perfect. In many ways Twitter is the high-tech equivalent of a candy heart-compressing likes and dislikes into as few letters as possible. NECCO has adapted its manufacturing process to reflect the will of the people. Between the traditional Sweethearts and the Dazzled Tarts, there are approximately 80 sayings, but manufacturing proportions vary according to popularity. The odds a traditional Sweethearts heart will say Hug Me or Baby Doll (a couple of classics kept by popular demand) are 1 in 80 respectively, while the odds are double-1 in 40-your traditional heart will say Text Me or Tweet Me. You can even create a virtual box of Sweethearts stamped with your own sentiments and tweet them to your lover.

Or you can go the old-fashioned route: red construction paper, white doily, some glue, and an envelope. The odds a traditional heart to place inside will say Crazy 4U? Also 1 in 40.

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