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ASCM Insights

Conversation Stoppers


Although the second-most popular Valentine’s Day confection was missing from store shelves this season, the conversation was kept alive — largely thanks to agile competitors who saw a market need and filled the emotional void with comparable offerings. Sour Patch Kids produced hearts with teen slang, such as “BAE” and “TOTES.” Krispy Kreme baked up doughnuts with pastel icing and more traditional phrases of affection. And Rival Brach’s has long made nearly identical conversation hearts to the Sweethearts variety.

“For the first time in over a century, the original conversation hearts aren’t rolling off conveyor belts,” writes Annie Gasparro in The Wall Street Journal. “The debacle, caused by candy-maker Necco going out of business last year, has faithful fans buying up the last batch of Sweethearts brand hearts on the black market.”

The New England Confectionery Co. (Necco) has produced Sweethearts since 1866 — at that point, only by special order for weddings. By 1902, the company was selling them to the public. More recently, Necco manufactured up to 13 million pounds of conversation hearts each year, nearly all of which were sold in the six weeks prior to Valentine’s Day.

Financial problems caused Necco to close its factory last summer. Ultimately, Spangler Candy Co. — best known for Dum Dum lollipops — bought Necco wafers, Sweethearts and some other brands. “But it couldn’t ramp up production in time for this year’s big day,” Gasparro explains.

Spangler CEO Kirk Vashaw said in a press release: “There are a lot of manufacturing challenges and unanswered questions at this point, and we want to make sure these brands meet consumer expectations when they re-enter the market. … We look forward to announcing the Sweethearts relaunch for the 2020 Valentine season.”

A more recent press release from the company, titled “Spangler Candy Issues Three-Heart Response to Sweetheart Fans,” is simply a graphic of conversation hearts saying, “MISS U 2,” “WAIT 4 ME” and “BACK SOON.”

Change of heart

According to Gartner’s sales and operations planning (S&OP) maturity model, nearly 70 percent of companies are stuck in the “reacting” and “anticipating” S&OP phases. As Gregory L. Schlegel, CPIM, writes in the inaugural issue of SCM Now magazine: “It’s time to make the jump to the more mature S&OP stages: collaborate and orchestrate.”

Collaboration expands the S&OP process to suppliers and customers; orchestration is driven by demand sensing and shaping. To get there, Schlegel urges readers to apply predictive analytics, probabilistic modeling and programming languages. These solutions enable people to make sense of unstructured data; quantify how their supply chains will react to challenges; develop statistically strong patterns of consumer buying habits; and overcome uncertainty, complexity and risk.

Read Schlegel’s article, and all of the great content, in our brand-new flagship publication. I think U WILL♥ IT.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted at

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