Love it or hate it, one thing’s for certain: Valentine’s Day is a huge day for food. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), we’ll spend more than $20 billion to celebrate this year’s holiday, much of it on things to eat. About 52 percent of Americans will buy candy, while 37 percent will splurge on a special night out—an occasion that usually entails food and drink. All told, according to NRF, we’ll spend $5.3 billion dollars on sweet treats and date nights this February 14th. And guess what? Food companies of all stripes want in on the fun.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, we mark the occasion by wading through corporate press releases for the wildest, strangest, and most wonderful promotions offered in the name of love. This goes beyond the chocolate and candy companies that count on the holiday to boost sales, or the restaurants that expect things to get busy—including fast food joints like White Castle and Waffle House that offer candlelit (and a touch ironic) V-Day dinners. We’re more interested in the food brands and companies whose products aren’t automatically the stuff of romance, and their desperate attempts to squeeze themselves into our hearts.
Love at first scythe. In the mood for love? Desperately seeking a partner who shares your passion for agriculture? FarmersOnly.com may be the online dating site for you. This Valentine’s Day, even the Jolly Green Giant—the vegetable brand Green Giant’s large, chlorophyll-rich mascot—is getting in on the action. In a co-marketing campaign with FarmersOnly.com, Jolly set up a dating profile and seeks companionship among fellow stewards of the land. “The first thing people notice about me is my height,” Jolly writes, noting his degree from “Harvest Business School” and body type (“like lettuce, I’m shredded”). As we’ve reported in the past, a slew of apps and sites attempt to address the many challenges of dating as a farmer—including unpredictable schedules, limited ability to travel, low-population rural communities, and reductive stereotypes. Perhaps the Green Giant’s Valentine’s Day promotion—which offers new users a free week of premium access to the site—will make it easier for farmers (and country folk) to find romance this year.
In the moo-d for love. Across the pond, English cattle ranchers can now swipe right or left for their livestock. Tudder, as the app is called, seems like more marketing ploy than true romantic innovation—though it’s being pitched, with a wink, as a way for cattle to find true love. A swipe takes ranchers to a long-standing site where they can buy or sell animals, so the app seems designed more for off-loading of excess herd than sweet cow lovin’. Either way, it’s doing the job—becoming fodder for plenty of desperate food journalists.
Total meatloaf of the heart. If you’re looking for a date night recipe, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NBCA) recommends making something called a “sweetloaf”—a heart-shaped veal meatloaf topped with ketchup and bacon. That might sound like a bizarre aphrodisiac, but it’s no accident: There’s currently an oversupply of veal calves, and NBCA, which oversees research and promotion for the beef industry, wants you to help reduce the glut. So forget for a moment that veal has long been controversial for the treatment of the young, male calves from which it’s sourced—love can make any of us throw judgment to the wind. Or, if you can’t get past it, make a vegan sweetloaf from chickpeas, and avoid the veal quandary (and that questionable-looking bacon garnish) altogether.
Spray me like one of your French girls. The minds behind the Biem Butter Sprayer want you to know that their invention can also be used to spray chocolate, as well. And guess what? They recommend spraying “anything or anyone this Valentine’s Day.” The device is fairly simple: Insert a stick of butter or chocolate chips into the Biem, and it’ll heat the substance up and spritz it out onto the surface of your choosing. Do those instructions sound particularly suggestive today—or is that just us? (To soothe the conscience in addition to the body, check out Simran Sethi’s ethical chocolate guide here.)
Union-made. What’s sweeter than love? Solidarity. A Colorado labor advocate compiled a list of 15 union-made candies for Valentine’s Day. There’s plenty of chocolates to choose from (including Boston Baked Beans, which, it turns out, are not what they sound like). This year, skip the scab sweets and show your love—for the working man.
Love me like I love my cat. Valentine’s Day is for lovers—pet lovers, apparently. According to a survey from the pet food company Purina, 13 percent of pet owners would rather spend V-Day with their furry friend than their significant other. And why not? Half of women and nearly a third of men say the magic words “I love you” to their pet multiple times per day, according to the survey. But how to make this Valentine’s Day a special one for the four-footed objects of our affection? Ditch the bland dried pellets, Purina says, and buy some premium wet food to show you really care. Your dog or cat will appreciate it—even though the company says more than half of pet owners feel their pets already eat better than they do.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Boston Baked Beans are not a candy. As it turns out, they are—if not the most SEO-friendly variety.