Washington, February 12:

‘Be mine,’ ‘my love,’ ‘it’s love’ - these aren’t the amorous utterings of the lovestruck this Valentine’s Day, but the trappings of one of most popular seasonal candies in the US. Boxes and bags of the small, sugar Sweethearts are the quintessential Val-entine’s Day emblem across the US. School children attach the conversational hearts to cards at class parties and tongue-tied boyfriends produce them as part of marriage proposals.

More than eight billion of the pastel candies are produced by the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) annually and they often sell out in the run-up to the holiday of love. They’ve been around since 1866 when techniques to print phrases on candy were developed, but the candies are no relic. Each year NECCO adds new sayings, ensuring they are always fresh. In the 1990s, the company introduced several technology-related sayings, such as ‘e-mail me,’ ‘fax me’ and ‘page me.’

For about the past decade, the firm has added a series of the-m-ed sayings to their bags, she said. This year the sugary treats are focusing on Americans’ love of their pets and romantic sayings that make reference to animals, such as ‘puppy love’ and ‘love bird.’

“The old conversation hea-rts were conversation starters, so we try to keep that going,” when choosing new phrases, Zimballati said. But 80 per cent of 100 sayings on the Sweetheart candies remain the same every yearThe hearts are made by combining ingredients of sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch and flavouring into a dough that is then flattened.

A plate with about 80 sayings stamps out the heart shapes and phrases in six different colours that are mixed in each package.