The conversation will keep going this Valentine’s Day.

Despite the loss of the iconic Sweethearts candy, friends and lovers still have ways to express themselves through other candies and items Thursday.

Sweethearts may have been oldest word-emblazoned candy – having been around for more than 100 years – but they weren’t the only conversation heart in the game.

And a former competitor says Sweethearts wasn’t the biggest.

Brach’s officials say its Conversation Heart candies have been the category’s leader for many years.

“In 2018, Brach’s had 55 percent market dollar share among the top four brands in the segment,” said Hans Becher, general manager of Brach’s and seasonal confections at Ferrara Candy Company, in a statement. “In terms of pounds sold, we outpaced our nearest former competitor nearly three to one.”

According to CandyStore.com, the conversation heart candies known for classic sayings like “Be Mine” and “Cutie Pie,” are the most popular confection for the holiday, leading heart-shaped boxed chocolates.

More than half of U.S. consumers (52 percent) celebrating Valentine’s Day this year will spend $1.8 billion on candy alone, The National Retail Federation estimates in its annual holiday survey.

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Filling the Valentine’s Day void

New England Confectionary Co. – the company that made Sweethearts along with Mary Janes, Necco Wafers and Clark bars – shuttered last summer. Ohio-based Spangler Candy Co. bought the company in September, but didn’t have time to produce the candy for the holiday.

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A date for Sweethearts’ return isn’t yet known. In September, Spangler CEO and chairman Kirk Vashaw said it could be a few months. 

“There are a lot of manufacturing challenges and unanswered questions at this point, and we want to make sure these brands meet consumer expectations when they re-enter the market,” Vashaw said in a statement. 

Krispy Kreme, which has offered heart-shaped doughnuts in the past, stepped up and launched new Valentine Conversation Doughnuts. Phrases on the heart-shaped doughnuts include “CRAZY 4 U,” “SAY YES,” “DM ME,” “ALL THE FEELS” and “PICK ME!”

“Finding the right word can be like, I don’t know … hard. But eating a doughnut is easy,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “So, we printed the right words on the doughnuts for you so you can’t mess this up.”

Heart-y ways to express yourself

Sweethearts aren’t available in 2019 – except for old packs available by resellers on sites like eBay – but here are some sweet alternatives:

Baskin-Robbins: The world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops has heart-shaped cakes that can be customized with a phrase. Prepared phrases include “KISS ME” and “BE MINE.”

Brach’s: The hearts are available in classic flavors including wintergreen, banana, orange, lemon, cherry and grape and trending flavors like tropical fruit, very berry and sweet and sour. The brand is owned by the Ferrara Candy Company.

Do-It-Yourself: Walmart is selling a Valentine Message Cookie Kit for less than $6. You could also get a heart-shaped cookie cutter and icing to make your own hearts.

Krispy Kreme: The brand introduced cream-filled Valentine Conversation Doughnuts to help fill the void. The doughnuts come in four flavors and 12 sayings.

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Sour Patch Kids: These Conversation Hearts are described as “sour then sweet.” Phrases include “FRIEND ZONE,” “LOL :)” and “OVR IT.”

SweeTart Hearts: Phrases include “CUTIE,” “YES” and “XOXO.”

Tic Tac Be Mine Mix: Strawberry and cherry flavors are in these Valentine’s Day Tic Tac candies, which phrases include “Be Mine” and “Hug Me.”

More heart-shaped items

Bagels: National bagel brands, Bruegger’s Bagels and Einstein Bros. Bagels, have heart-shaped bagels. Pre-ordering is recommended.

Biscuits: For a limited time, Bojangles’ has Heart-Shaped Bo-Berry Biscuits.

Chicken: Ok, it’s not a heart-shaped chicken, but a heart-shaped container. Through Feb. 28, participating Chick-fil-A restaurants are selling a 30-count Chick-fil-A Nuggets and 10-count Chick-n-Minis in a heart-shaped container.

Doughnuts: Like Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ also is seeing hearts along with other smaller chains, convenience stores like Wawa, grocery stores and more. 

Ice cream: In addition to Baskin-Robbins’ customizable conversation cakes, Carvel has Luv Pops, Lil’ Hearts Take Home Treats and Chocolate Decadence Heart Cake. Cold Stone Creamery and Dairy Queen also have cakes.

Pasta: Stores including Aldi have heart-shaped dry pasta, Costco Wholesale is selling heart-shaped Ravioli and Buca di Beppo has a heart-shaped lasagna.

Pizza: The bigger question might be who doesn’t have a heart-shaped pizza. Some of the biggest brands include California Pizza Kitchen, Hungry Howie’s, Marco’s Pizza, Papa John’s, Papa Murphy’s and Pizza Hut. Other brands include: Giordano’s, Boston’s Pizza, Fresh Brothers and many more. (Tossing the dough yourself? Search Pinterest for inspiration.)

Pastries: Heart-shaped cakes and cookies are available at many grocery stores and bakeries. Great Harvest Bread has heart-shaped cookies and brownies. Cinnabon has “Heart CinnaPacks,” which is a heart-shaped container filled with BonBites or MiniBon Rolls. Great American Cookies and Mrs. Fields both have heart cakes.

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Pretzels: Two brands have special colored pretzels for Valentine’s Day – Wetzel’s Pretzels are red and Pretzelmaker’s are pink. Auntie Anne’s pretzels are heart-shaped.

Sushi: Heart-shaped sushi is a thing, though it’s not widespread. RA Sushi Bar, the largest nationwide sushi chain has a heart-shaped “Soy Crazy for You” Roll.

More Valentine’s Day:

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko



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