Missing Sweethearts This Valentine's Day? Try Jelly Belly's 'Conversation Beans' Instead

Shaunacy Ferro
Shaunacy Ferro

If you've been mourning the loss of Sweethearts candies, let Jelly Belly fill the void in your heart—and stomach. Following reports that Necco's Sweethearts wouldn't be sold this year as the brand transitions to new ownership, the Jelly Belly Candy Company stepped in to save Valentine’s Day by offering boxes of "Conversation Beans."

Sure, they're more kidney- than heart-shaped, but they serve the same purpose. The beans come in five sour flavors—apple, cherry, grape, lemon, and orange—and feature a few different Valentine's Day sayings. Your classic "HUGS" and "XOXO" messages are represented, as are internet-speak acronyms like "LOL" and "ILY."

The company has also released Love Beans (heart-stamped jelly beans) and Sparkling Cupid Corn (like candy corn, but pink, red, and strawberry-flavored) in time for the holiday.

A box of Jelly Belly conversation beans
Jelly Belly

As for those Sweethearts we've all come to know and love—even if some don't actually enjoy eating them—there's hope on the horizon. The Spangler Candy Company, which now owns the rights to Necco Wafers and Sweethearts, previously released a statement indicating that Sweethearts would be back on store shelves by Valentine's Day in 2020.

However, that press release has since been removed from the company's website, and a new statement promises a Sweethearts return under more ambiguous terms. "We wish we could have Sweethearts out for the 2019 Valentine season, but it's just not possible," the company said Thursday, according to CandyStore.com. "We are committed to making sure these brands meet consumer expectations when they reenter the market. Doing it right takes time."

Until that day, there will be plenty of "SWEET" and sour conversation beans to go around.

Here’s the Keyboard Waffle Iron You’ve Been Waiting For

A keyboard waffle iron may not sound like an essential kitchen appliance, but once you see it, you’ll wonder how you’ve lived without one for so long. Not only is this item deliciously geeky, it’s practical, too. Breakfast fanatics know that the best part of a waffle is the syrup-cradling nooks and crannies, and this iron produces a whole standard QWERTY keyboard’s worth.

The vision for the gadget originated in 2007 when Chris Dimino designed the concept as part of a group exhibit for the School of Visual Arts. It was just a fantasy at the time, but after his idea went viral, he decided to bring it to Kickstarter in 2014.

The campaign set its goal at $50,000 and ended up raising a total of $66,685. Eight years after its conception, the keyboard waffle iron finally started shipping out to nerdy breakfast enthusiasts everywhere for $85. By now, you can get it on Amazon, too, and the price has dropped to $70.

The old-school waffle iron works with all kinds of recipes, from blueberry to pumpkin-spiced bacon. And with an abundance of key-shaped dimples to fill, the saucy, syrupy possibilities are endless.

Buy it on Amazon for $70, on the Keyboard Waffle Iron website, or at these other retailers:

A version of this article first ran in 2015.

Americans Waste Tons of Perfectly Good Food Because They Don't Understand Expiration Dates

iStock.com/FangXiaNuo
iStock.com/FangXiaNuo

Everyone approaches safe food handling a little differently. Some people rely on the smell test; others are fastidious about washing their hands.

But according to a new survey, consumers waste food—a lot of food—because they don't understand the meaning of the expiration dates on the food labels.

The online survey, led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and published in the journal Waste Management, polled 1029 respondents about their knowledge of food labels that use terms like “best if used by,” “sell by,” or “use by.” Roughly 84 percent said they opted to discard food on or near the so-called expiration dates at least occasionally, while 37 percent said they did it on a regular basis. Just over a third of those polled believed such food labels—often found on packaged dry food as well as bread and canned goods—were federally regulated, which they aren’t.

The survey indicates some confusion over food labeling. Typically, “best by” and “sell by” labels are meant to indicate when a food might begin to experience diminished freshness or quality, not an expiration date by which it could spoil or become a potential source of food-borne illness. By discarding these foods prematurely, researchers say, consumers are contributing to a food waste problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that up to 31 percent of consumable food is wasted at both the retail and consumer levels.

Shoppers aren’t necessarily to blame. The labels often have no explicit explanation on packaging, leaving phrases like “best if used by” open to interpretation. Even individual states have different standards for items like milk, with some using a “sell by” date (with the milk typically good for five days after) and others sticking to a “use by” date.

Other pantry foods may have expiration dates but could conceivably last for years, like sugar, salt, and honey.

Newer food industry standards may clear up some of this confusion, with “use by” designated strictly for items where safety is a concern and other terms (including "best if used by") meant to denote quality. Taking the "use by" suggestion is especially important with deli meats and cheeses that can grow bacteria like Listeria in refrigerated environments. Until there’s a universally recognized standard, however, consumers are likely to remain uncertain about what these terms mean.

So what’s the best approach to interpreting food labels? For dry or non-perishable goods, dates are often a marker of quality, and you’re not likely to do yourself any harm by keeping the food around longer. Perishable goods should be discarded when their “use by” dates have arrived. But no matter what the package says, if doesn’t smell or look quite right, label it trash and go shopping.

[h/t ScienceDaily]

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