Puppy love: Necco unveils pet-themed valentine’s hearts

The Daily ItemREVERE ? The Necco Candy Co. is going to the dogs ? and cats, fish and birds.The Revere-based confectionary factory best known for its colorful wafers and heart-shaped sweets with stamped-on messages is embracing animals as its Valentine’s Day theme for 2007.On Wednesday, Necco executives, with help from a public relations firm, rolled out the latest line of its Sweethearts Conversation Hearts. With technicians in white lab coats looking on, a stage production got under way, upbeat music blaring as the animals were paraded before the small crowd.Among those on the runway was Jim Carey, director of concierge services at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, accompanied by Catie Copley, a black Labrador retriever that serves as the hotel’s ambassador. Soon came Sylvia Carey, owner of a vibrant macaw named Romeo, followed by Waddles, a white, long-haired cat.Waddles was escorted by Meagan Rock, manager of the Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.Eight-year-old Grace Conti of Belmont, granddaughter of Necco President and Chief Executive Officer Domenic Antonellis, was dressed as a fish. Dustin Ebone, age 3, demonstrated the perfect bear hug on his over-sized stuffed toy. Jennie Ohgi of Everett showed off her adopted blind pug dog, Olivia. Peter Gollub, the MSPCA’s director of law enforcement, accompanied Lucky, a brown-and-white rat terrier currently up for adoption. Dr. Anne Marie Manning of Lynnfield, chief medical officer at the Angell Animal Medical Center, stroked a cat until it fell asleep in her arms amid the media glare.What did all of this have to do with the unveiling of sugary candy?”The new theme is Pet Lovers,” said Lory Zimbalatti from the Necco marketing team. “We have 10 new sayings like top dog, love bird, cool cat, go fish and take a walk.”Other new Sweetheart candies bear words like my pet, puppy love, bear hug and purr-fect.”Every year we brainstorm. The ideas keep popping up and then we choose one or two as the possible theme,” Zimbalatti explained. “First comes the theme and then comes the sayings. The employees get to vote and we also get thousands of emails from customers.”Here’s what the marketing team came up with this year: Give your sweetie a Bear Hug and tell them they are “Purr-fect” this Valentine’s Day. Capture the affection of that special someone with pet-friendly sayings.Unlike most candy companies, which brace for Halloween and Christmas as their busy sales seasons, Necco gets its biggest boost on Valentine’s Day.Antonellis, the chief executive, has been with the New England Confectionery Company for 39 years and has witnessed the roll out of each new line of Sweethearts.”We’ve been doing this at Necco for over 100 years,” he said. “It’s a fun time for us.”As the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” emanated from towering speakers, Zimbalatti urged visitors and the media to sample the goods, noting that each Valentine’s Day season, Necco cranks out more than eight billion sweet treats. Some of the original sayings from the early 1900s, such as Be Mine, Be True and Kiss Me, have remained in production.”Get some now,” Zimbalatti said. “Next month, we start all over, making them again for next year.”

More Stories In News