Lovehearts may be bittersweet!

Green M&Ms aren't the only sweets calculated to promote young love. Love Hearts may also do the trick. We first became aware of them when we read this heart-warming story:

One of those aaaah stories. Those modern Love Heart lollies that have messages such as Be my icon and Page me have gone one step further. John and Charmaine Phillips, of St Ives, have an English friend in London, Peter Stennett. Three weeks ago he took his girlfriend, Nicole Godfrey, to Paris. "During their courtship they used to act out the messages," John says. "Then Peter found the manufacturer would customise the message for a minimum order of 100 packets. On arrival in Paris he presented Nicole with a packet. The first she picked out said Marry me, but aroused no comment, the second intrigued her. After the third she realised something was up. There was Peter on bended knee with the engagement ring. And she did say yes! He presumably has 99 packets of Marry me Love Hearts for sale!" - Sydney Morning Herald (Column 8), August 14, 2002.

Keen to learn more, we found the Love Hearts website of English sweetmakers, Swizzels Matlow Ltd., in High Peak, Derbyshire, who sold 80 million tubes of Love Hearts last year.

Alfred and Maurice Matlow started Matlow Bros. Ltd. in a small factory in London in 1928. Production was originally confined to the manufacture of table jellies and jelly-type confectionery, Jolly Lollies, Cello Fruits, Milky Bars and Butternuts, but today embraces boiled sweets in bags, toffees, chews, sugar-free sweets, sugar-coated products, puffed cereal lines, and gums.

In 1933 the two brothers, together with David Dee formed Swizzels Limited, to make fizzy sweets in compressed tablet form, Dimple Mints, Navy Mints, and Cach-O's which developed into the present day nationally known range of Love Hearts, Sherbits, Fruit Fizzers, Double Lollies, Parma Violets, Refreshers, Carlton Mints and Navy Sweets.

In 1940, during the Blitz, both companies evacuated to a disused textile mill in New Mills, Derbyshire. The Mill, now nearly 150 years old, was rebuilt in 1883 after a fire and is now largely used for offices and stores. A new factory extension was opened in 1971.

Swizzels Limited won the 1971 Queen's Award to Industry for export achievement. Today, their products are exported to more than 60 countries. The company, with a work force of 600, is still essentially a family concern, with David Dee its chairman. The sons of the founders are all actively involved as directors and have been joined by members of the third generation.

Moving with the times, they've produced for mobile-savvy teenagers a range of Love Hearts bearing 50 different text messages, including:

  • 1dafL - Wonderful
  • 4EVRYRS - Forever yours
  • AML - All My Love
  • BdBy - Bad boy
  • CUL8R - See you later
  • F2T - Free to talk
  • GMTA - Great minds think alike
  • H&K - Hugs and Kisses
  • HAND - Have a nice day
  • ILUVU - I love you
  • JTM - Je téaime
  • KOTL - Kiss on the lips
  • MMDP - Make my day, punk
  • MRyMe - Marry me
  • QT - Cutie
  • ROTFL - Rolling on the floor laughing
  • SIT - Stay in touch
  • SWALK - Seeled with a loving kiss (a real oldie!)
  • Ti2GO - Time to go
  • UR GR8 - You are great
  • XMeQk - Kiss me quick

Five days after reading about Peter and Nicole's sweet love affair, we saw this follow-up item:

Those Love Hearts lollies have gone one step past the Marry Me message... Owen Nicholls, of Villawood, found on the Internet BitterSweets - Valentine's Candy for the Rest of Us. Its messages include I Need Space Money, Time 2 Trade Up, See Other People, Just Met The 1, We Need 2 Talk. "Our [sweets] are stamped with bitter musings and mockeries perfectly suited to the dejected spirits of those alone, or wishing they were ... Supplies are limited, but the pain that accompanies them may not be." - Sydney Morning Herald, August 19, 2002.

And that led us to one of the funniest commercial websites on the Net, run by Despair Inc, a U.S. company in Austin, Texas, which makes BitterSweets. Their simple logo says it all. It's :-(

"Like the ubiquitous candy 'conversation' hearts, 'BitterSweets(tm)' are made of flavored, chalky-tasting sugar and sport a message on their face," says their candied website.

"But unlike other candy hearts, ours are stamped with bitter musings and mockeries perfectly suited to the dejected spirits of those who will spend the holiday alone, or wishing they were.

"Messages recalling an almost forgotten, unbearably painful memory of being dumped. Or perhaps of a dysfunctional, psychotic ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. Or of that cruel-hearted girl (or boy) in elementary school who rejected your valentine solicitations, informing you that Hunter (or Taylor) was 'so totally way hotter.'"

BitterSweets' 15 messages include:

  • I Need Space
  • Time 2 Trade Up
  • See Other People
  • Just Met The 1
  • Just A Friend
  • Luv 2 Stalk U
  • We Need 2 Talk
  • No Scrubs

Taking a deep breath, their webmaster says "Truly, BitterSweets are the perfect gift for you OR for someone you love, especially if that special someone is one who doesn't want to hurt your feelings but just doesn't feel that way about you but still wants to be friends so they can torment you with stories about their crushes on someone who doesn't appreciate them like you do, can't love them like you can, and actually takes pleasure in corralling a herd of fawning 'just friends' behind themselves as they indulge in one self-destructive relationship after another, with no hope of ever finding true love, despite an army of souls eager to lavish it upon them. (You know what we're talking about.) Supplies are limited. But the pain that accompanies them may not be.

"Multi-colored, multi-flavored mints (tastes like five different types of chalk!). 4 ounces. (We ran out of our aluminum tins, so orders are now shipping in a BitterSweets collectible, disposable silver paper bag, which can double for a sickness bag in the event that Valentine's Day makes you nauseous... Or the candy, for that matter.)"

What kind of maverick company is Despair Inc? "It began with one man's dream. A dream of the perfectly-realized American company. A company that would create dissatisfied customers in the process of exploiting demoralized employees while selling overpriced and ineffective products to remediate the problems caused by the very process itself.

"A company that would become the bold embodiment of every shortcoming rife within corporate America. A business dictatorship with draconian tendencies. A company grossly obsessed with margins. A peddler of absurdly embellished corporate publicity.

"A company that would abandon conventionally desirable demographics to embrace pessimists, underachievers and the chronically unsuccessful, selling them shiny encapsulations of their own shortcomings." Even more hilarious than its candies are Despair's revolutionary Underperformance Awards:

"Combine your favorite Demotivator design with a personalized engraving for that unremarkable someone who really deserves to be isolated, berated and humiliated in front of his or her peers. Beautifully matted in a 9" x 11" gold-bevel frame.

"If you don't have what it takes to inspire employees with leadership and vision, don't you at least owe it to your company to inspire them with fear and shame? Choose from any of our 48 designs and unleash the awesome power of ridicule today!"

They offer this wide range of underperformance criteria:

Adversity, Agony, Apathy, Arrogance, Bitterness, Blame, Burnout, Cluelessness, Conformity, Consulting, Dare to Slack, Defeat, Delusions, Demotivation, Despair, Disloyalty, Disservice, Doubt, Dysfunction, Elitism, Failure, Fear, Futility, Hazards, Humiliation, Idiocy, Ignorance, Incompetence, Ineptitude, Insanity, Irresponsibility, Laziness, Loneliness, Losing, Mediocrity, Misfortune, Mistakes, Overconfidence, Pessimism, Pretension, Problems, Procrastination, Regret, Risks, Sacrifice, Stupidity, Trouble and Underachievement.

Despair was incorporated on March 23, 1998. Just in case anyone takes it too seriously, it tells its internet visitors that it "liberally employs both satire and parody throughout its website and products. Articles and items appearing in our 'Corporate Spin' are, as designated, satirirical and not intended to be an accurate portrayal of the persons or companies depicted.

"Dr. E.L. Kersten is Despair Incorporated's COO, cofounder and principle advocate, and should not be inferred to be a product of fiction. No customer endorsements, testimonials, or other feedback published within 'The Wailing List' are works of fiction, despite frequent facsimile to the contrary."

Copyright © 2002. Eric Shackle.