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'Sweethearts' Secrets Revealed

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and with it, the giving of "Sweethearts," the heart-shaped, crunchy candy that's as traditional as chocolate and roses.

The Early Show's Melinda Murphy got to go to the factory where Sweethearts are made, to see how it's done.

Domenic Antonellis, president and CEO of Necco, the longtime maker of Sweethearts, told Murphy the company turns out about a quarter of a million pounds a day.

And every year, they sell 9 billion pieces of candy. In fact, sweethearts are the most popular selling brand of candy during the Valentine's season, beating out every single kind of chocolate!

Necco, which bills itself as the longest continuously running candy company in the country, opened its doors in Revere, Mass., back in 1847, but it was almost 20 more years before candy hearts started melting in mouths.

Lory Zimbalatti, who doubles as marketing director and quasi-staff historian, says, "Originally, they were called "Motto Hearts." …The forerunner to those were called "Cockles," which were like fortune cookies, where the saying was printed on a piece of paper and it was inside the candy."

Back then, salesman shopped around oil cloths of samples. Hearts were given out to start conversations, which is why they're often called "conversation hearts."

Not much has changed since then.

Zimbalatti showed Murphy an old ledger, dating back to 1898. It had a handwritten recipe for love hearts, very similar to the one used today.

And, notes Murphy, that's not the only thing that's stuck: The original sayings were, "Be mine," Be True," "Marry me" and "Sweet talk."

Occasionally, Necco stops using a saying. "Some that go out of meaning, like, 'Dig me" or "Groovy," from the '60s," Zimbalatti says.

First seen in the '70s, the smiley face has perhaps the most varied history of all for Sweethearts: "We took it off some time in the early '80s," Zimbalatti says, "and then, actually, a few years ago, it was the winner of a contest by a popular girls' magazine, and we put it back on. So, that's the only saying I know that has left and come back."

All very interesting but – getting to the heart of the matter: How do they get the sayings on the candy?

The colored flour mix goes through a pastry roll of sorts, and is flattened out to a quarter of an inch thick. Then comes the most important part.

A stamping machine stamps the sayings on the individual candies, which then come under a cutter, and the cutter hits the same spots the stamp did. So machinery is printing and cutting at the same time.

The ink is made of food coloring mixed with alcohol, so it'll dry quickly.

When they come off the line, the hearts are actually mushy. It takes an hour and a half of a very complicated drying process on 13 belts to get them to harden.

Who knew so much went into these little heart-shaped wonders? And with such loving tender care, it's little surprise so many people are singing their praises.

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