Be Mine? Fax Me!

January 1st, 1998

If you're going to do business in today's high-tech world, bows and arrows alone won't do the trick. You'll also need an e-mail address. Even candy-makers know that.

The New England Candy Co. (NECCO) has met the 1990s head-on by adding a twist to those sentimental and sometimes cryptic messages on its popular candy hearts.

Modern Romeos now can send candy missives with a hard-drive edge to them, said Lory Zimbalatti, marketing communications manager at the Cambridge, Massachusetts company.

New this year to the company's heart greetings are two slogans with a distinctively techno feel: "e-mail me" and "page me." These follow last year's hit "fax me," Zimbalatti said. "That one was a huge success," she said.

In all, the company has some 125 sayings printed on the candy hearts.

"It's all random-you never know what you're going to get in a box," Zimbalatti said.

Also new this year are other flip '90s sayings: "awesome," "excuse me," "hello," and "I don't think so," she said. And as part of the company's 150th anniversary, NECCO brought back "one I love" from the 1800s, Zimbalatti added. The saying had been retired some 80 years ago.

Yet as new ones are introduced, some sayings must bow out. This year there are five being taken off the candy press: "buzz off," "try me," "bad boy," "hot stuff," and "say yes."

"Sometimes they become politically incorrect," Zimbalatti said.

'Say yes' was originally "like a marriage proposal," she said, but now sounds like a contradiction to the popular anti-drug message.

That's all part of the company's efforts to make the candy part of a child's Valentine's Day experience.

"We like to keep them clean and wholesome," Zimbalatti said. "A lot of teachers use them."

The candy is a well-entrenched Valentine tradition.

Some eight billion of the individual heart candies are made each year for sale between January 1 and Valentine's Day, she said. That takes a year-round effort at three different candy-making plants.

The conversation hearts were developed in the late 1860s by Daniel Chase, the brother of Oliver Chase, who invented the lozenge-cutting machine, Zimbalatti said. Oliver Chase founded NECCO in 1847.

(Editor's note: Valentine's Day is Saturday, Feb. 14)