Brach’s has been preparing for this moment since Necco abruptly shuttered last July. Spangler Candy Company bought the Sweethearts brand in September but could not develop production in time to fill this year’s holiday orders.
“It’s been an interesting past few weeks because some journalists have reported a ‘shortage’ in conversation hearts this Valentine’s Day, but that’s not true at all,” said Peter Goldman, Brach’s US brand manager, in an email to ConfectioneryNews.
Owned by The Ferrara Candy Group, Brach’s steals the number-one spot in non-chocolate candy sales for Valentine’s Day, according to Goldman, holding onto 55% of the market among the top four brands. He added that in pounds sold, Brach’s Conversation Hearts beat the competition 3-to-1.
While consumers recognized Necco Sweethearts for their shareable 1oz boxes, Brach’s sells similar minis as well as 7oz to 18oz bags – even a 33oz jumbo bag fit for a crowd.
“Brach’s size, texture, colors, sayings, flavors and quality provide the perfect sweet solution for those conversation heart lovers who are lamenting over reports that this Valentine’s favorite is not available this year,” said Ferrara’s GM of seasonal confections Hans Becher.
Contemporary phrases and flavors add intrigue
For 2019, Brach’s modernized the phrases – imprinted by a laser for more accurate and legible letters, versus stamped as Sweethearts were – with colloquial text-isms: TTYL, BFF, LYMY (short for ‘love you, miss you’), and ILU. In addition to such shorthand, the hearts now feature playful contemporary abbreviations like Adorbz and Yowza.
Original phrases from the brand’s origins in the 1960s remain, from ‘Love You’ to ‘Hug Me’ and the iconic ‘Be Mine.’
“We’re always innovating to address changing customer preferences and trends,” said Goldman, who described the new verbiage as ‘culturally relevant.’
Brach’s also created three new flavor lines that debuted this year: Tropical Fruit, Very Berry and Sweet and Sour, available in 7oz and 14oz packages. Its core range consists of lemon, banana, cherry, grape, orange and wintergreen.
“These flavor ideas originated from consumer research, which shows that tropical, berry and sour are some of our fastest growing flavor profiles company-wide across multiple product forms,” added Goldman.
Innovation a theme for Brach's across the board
Candy depends heavily on seasonality, and Brach’s lists Valentine’s Day as its third biggest time of year; Halloween and its quintessential candy corn leads, followed by Christmas and candy canes.
“Consumers love Brach’s because it’s an iconic brand that they grew up with and we continue to sell classic products,” said Goldman.
Once over the Valentine’s Day bump, the company will focus on unveiling 15 new products in 2019, including a reformulated line of chocolates with new packaging that will hit shelves later this month. Double Dipped Hazelnuts will be Brach’s “first chocolate innovation in a few years,” Goldman said, alongside Double Dipped Peanuts, Almond Supremes, Bridge Mix, Chocolate Covered Raisins and Peanut Clusters.
Next up: Purple Rain Jelly Beans, an assortment of berry flavors just in time for Easter.