Valentine’s Day is less than three weeks away and Americans are projected to spend $1.7 billion on candy.
But there are choices to be made and people who study such things say that, nationally, conversation hearts last year pulled ahead of the traditional heart-shaped boxes of chocolate candy in total sales.
Conversation hearts are those small, pastel hearts that say “Be Mine” or, more enigmatically, “Dare Ya.” These days they are as apt to say “Tweet Me” or “Text Me.”
It is expected that more than 8 billion conversation hearts will be sold this year.
But tastes vary by state. Missouri is in groove with the national trend toward conversation hearts, but Kansas still clings to the heart-shaped box of chocolates — more than 78,000 pounds worth.
Iowa, however, is partial to M&Ms. Alabama, for some reason, is into candy necklaces. A handful of states, such as Illinois, lean to chocolate roses. And a few, including Arkansas, go for Hershey Kisses.
These conclusions are not anecdotal but based on a decade of sales data, according to CandyStore.com, which has created an interactive map. Roll the cursor over the states to see what Valentine’s Day sweet is preferred.
Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates remain fiercely popular. More than 40 million of them are projected to be sold this year. And the most popular chocolates inside are the caramel-flavored ones.
But people do not limit their Valentine purchases to candy. Romantic types also spend heavily on flowers, jewelry, dinner or special getaways.
Based on a consumer survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, Americans are projected to spend $18.2 billion overall on Valentine gifts this year, or an average of $137, down from a record $19.7 billion last year.
That includes buying for a spouse or significant other, family members, children’s classmates and teachers and even pets.
Perhaps the most telling result from all this data: 69 percent of Americans would prefer to receive chocolate over flowers for a Valentine’s Day gift.