Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine′s Day is considered the most romantic day of the year, and each year an estimated 660,000 people get engaged on February 14, according to Bride’s magazine. There has always been one edible that is the international language of love, candy. According to the National Confectioners Association, approximately $1.09 billion worth of sweets are purchased for Valentine′s Day each year.

As the top-selling iconic Valentine′s Day treat, more than eight billion Necco Sweethearts, or about 100,000 pounds of the candy hearts, are produced every day. "Sweethearts are America′s favorite Valentine′s Day treat and provide the perfect opportunity for people to exchange their feelings with the ones they love," says Jackie Hague, New England Confectionery Co. vice president. "Each year, Necco introduces 10 new Sweethearts phrases that relate to current American trends and culture. For 2009, our Menu of Love sayings embrace the role that both romantic dinners and family dinners play in celebrating love." Messages this year include: "Recipe 4 Love," "Table 4 Two," "Stir My Heart," "My Treat," "Top Chef," "Sugar Pie," "Sweet Love," "Honey Bun," "Spice It Up," and "Yum Yum."

U.S. consumers also show their love for chocolate for Valentine's Day, with Valentine's week ranking No. 1 for chocolate candy sales, according to The Nielsen Co. In fact, consumers are expected to purchase more than $345 million in chocolate candy during Valentine's week, accounting for 5.1 percent of chocolate candy's annual sales. On a total candy basis, consumers spend more than $448 million and buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy during Valentine's week.

Valentine's week is also one of the top weeks for sparkling wine sales, with more than $8.6 million in sales, or more than 881,000 bottles.

As reports of job losses mount, you can bet that U.S. consumers will be challenged this Valentine's Day," said Todd Hale, senior vice president, Consumer & Shopper Insights at Nielsen. "Look for more at-home celebrations and shifts to value-oriented traditional gifts as consumers look for ways to celebrate the holiday in these economically-challenged times."

For those of you staying home, studies show the scent of vanilla, a member of the orchid family, has a calming effect and helps reduce stress and anxiety. Because of its pleasing nature, vanilla is an increasingly popular ingredient in many perfumes and fragrances and is the mellow accent that compliments other ingredients -sweet and savory, plain and fancy. Waukegan, Ill.-based Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has some suggestions to make Valentine’s Day more romantic through the aromatic use of vanilla. They include: A few drops of pure vanilla extract on a hot light bulb to help scent the room; a drop or two behind the ears is the perfect perfume; and a vanilla bean under a chair or sofa cushion will give a pleasant, fresh aroma.

However you celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day.
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