2 BAD: Sweethearts Conversation Hearts Have Been Cancelled This Valentine’s Day

iStock.com/photogem
iStock.com/photogem

If you visit the candy aisle of your local grocery store in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, you might notice that one item is strangely missing: Sweethearts. The candy conversation hearts with cutesy sayings—like Be Mine and Hug Me—won’t be sold at all this year, according to CNBC.

The New England Confectionery Company (Necco), which originally owned the Sweethearts brand as well as Necco Wafers, went out of business last year. However, the Spangler Candy Company, which makes Dum Dums and Circus Peanuts, stepped in and bought the company. (And yes, the humor in Circus Peanuts coming to the rescue of Necco Wafers has not gone unnoticed. At the time of the acquisition last September, a Cracked headline read, "America's Worst Candy Is Saved By Its Second-Worst Candy.”)

At any rate, the new owner promised that both Sweethearts and Necco Wafers would be back on store shelves by 2020. As for this year, Sweethearts' absence will be sorely missed. According to Candystore.com, conversation heart candies were the most popular Valentine’s Day treat in 2018. There are other brands that make similar candies, but Sweethearts led sales by a large margin.

“If the biggest brand vanished, would conversation hearts still be the most popular candy? Not even close,” Candystore.com notes, adding that conversation heart sales are expected to drop by 80 percent this year.

Here are a few other statistics about America’s favorite candy heart brand:

SweetHearts Candy Facts CandyStore.com

Sweethearts have been around since 1886, and for many customers, it’s the nostalgia surrounding these treats that makes them so irresistible. Sure, you can still find a bag or two on websites like Amazon, but those candies are leftover from previous years—so be sure to check the expiration date first.

[h/t CNBC]

A Shrine to Brine: The Mysterious Case of Missouri's Highway Pickle Jar

iStock.com/MorePixels
iStock.com/MorePixels

No one knows how it started. No one knows who was responsible. Some may even have dismissed it as an aberration, a glitch in the scenery that would soon be corrected. But eventually, drivers in and around Des Peres, Missouri who took a highway off-ramp connecting I-270 North to Manchester Road began to notice that a jar of pickles was sitting on a dividing barrier on the ramp. And it wasn’t going anywhere.

Since 2012, the pickle jar has confounded drivers and internet sleuths alike, according to Atlas Obscura. Some have speculated that someone was trying to send a secret message or share a private joke. Perhaps someone pulling off to the side due to car trouble felt the need to place the brine-filled jar on the concrete wall and then forgot about it. Maybe someone thought it would be a kind of three-dimensional graffiti, incongruous amid the bustling traffic. Maybe it’s an indictment of commerce.

Whatever the case, once the pickles appeared, advocates refused to let them go. Jars that end up toppled over or otherwise damaged are replaced. Sometimes they reappear in protective Tupperware or with a holiday-themed bow. Sightings are photographed for posterity and posted on a Facebook fan page devoted to the jar, which currently has over 4200 members and has morphed from a place to theorize about the mysterious jar's origins to a place where people swap pickle-related recipes and stories.

There are dry spells—no one has posted of a pickle sighting in several months—but followers remain optimistic the jar will continue to remain a presence in Des Peres even if the motivation for placing them near the roadway remains as murky as the briny juice inside.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Why the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich Has Been on the McDonald's Menu for Nearly 60 Years

McDonald's has introduced and quietly killed many dishes over the years (remember McDonald's pizza?), but there's a core group of items that have held their spot on the menu for decades. Listed alongside the Big Mac and McNuggets is the Filet-O-Fish—a McDonald's staple you may have forgotten about if you're not the type of person who orders seafood from fast food restaurants. But the classic sandwich, consisting of a fried fish filet, tartar sauce, and American cheese on a bun, didn't get on the menu by mistake—and thanks to its popularity around Lent, it's likely to stick around.

According to Taste of Home, the inception of the Filet-O-Fish can be traced back to a McDonald's franchise that opened near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959. Back then the restaurant offered beef burgers as its only main dish, and for most of the year, diners couldn't get enough of them. Things changed during Lent: Many Catholics abstain from eating meat and poultry on Fridays during the holy season as a form of fasting, and in the early 1960s, Cincinnati was more than 85 percent Catholic. Fridays are supposed to be one of the busiest days of the week for restaurants, but sales at the Ohio McDonald's took a nosedive every Friday leading up to Easter.

Franchise owner Lou Groen went to McDonald's founder Ray Kroc with the plan of adding a meat alternative to the menu to lure back Catholic customers. He proposed a fried halibut sandwich with tartar sauce (though meat is off-limits for Catholics on Fridays during Lent, seafood doesn't count as meat). Kroc didn't love the idea, citing his fears of stores smelling like fish, and suggested a "Hula Burger" made from a pineapple slice with cheese instead. To decide which item would earn a permanent place on the menu, they put the two sandwiches head to head at Groen's McDonald's one Friday during Lent.

The restaurant sold 350 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches that day—clearly beating the Hula Burger (though exactly how many pineapple burgers sold, Kroc wouldn't say). The basic recipe has received a few tweaks, switching from halibut to the cheaper cod and from cod to the more sustainable Alaskan pollock, but the Filet-O-Fish has remained part of the McDonald's lineup in some form ever since. Today 300 million of the sandwiches are sold annually, and about a quarter of those sales are made during Lent.

Other seafood products McDonald's has introduced haven't had the same staying power as the Filet-O-Fish. In 2013, the chain rolled out Fish McBites, a chickenless take on McNuggets, only to pull them from menus that same year.

[h/t Taste of Home]

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