Sharing a sweet treat with a friend or loved one is the best way to celebrate Valentine's Day, according to a recent national survey by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Some 94 percent of Americans say they would like to receive a gift of candy or chocolate this Valentine's Day. 

On February 14, 70 percent of Americans will give chocolate or candy to one to three friends or family members. And those sharing a sweet treat are embracing moderation as it relates to enjoying chocolate, candy, gum and mints, according to NCA's survey. More than 80 percent of percent of Americans believe that candy is treat, and its one that makes holidays even more special. Most people in the U.S. enjoy candy about twice per week, averaging less than 50 calories per day from confectionery items.

NCA projects that retail sales of Valentine's Day candy in 2016 will be $1.1 billion (up 1.6 percent from 2015), a boost to the U.S. economy that helps support 55,000 manufacturing jobs and hundreds of thousands of jobs in related industries.

"People understand that candy is a transparent and fun treat, and they are choosing to enjoy it in moderation this Valentine's Day and all year long," John Downs, president & CEO of the National Confectioners Association, said. "Chocolate and other sweets have long been associated with celebrations. Even a small taste of your favorite candy can transport you to another place, and conjure up happy memories. Because of this, candy plays a wonderful and unique role in a happy, balanced life."

According to NCA's research, 94 percent of Americans say they would like to receive candy or chocolate for Valentine's Day this year, compared to 89 percent who would like to receive a card and 87 percent who would like to receive a handmade gift. Perhaps indicating that Americans are still focused on affordable luxuries, 71 percent said they would like to receive flowers and only 67 percent would like jewelry.

Not having a special someone to celebrate with on February 14 will not stop Americans from enjoying the day. 43 percent of Americans say they will buy their own box of chocolate this year, and nearly half of all consumers say they plan to bake or decorate with chocolate or candy for Valentine's Day. Women (47 percent) are more likely than men (42 percent) to treat themselves, and millennials under age 30 (55 percent) are the most likely of any age group to shop for themselves. 

Regardless of whether the chocolate was purchased as a gift, chocolate lovers can rejoice in this fact: scientific evidence indicates that the nutrients in cocoa and chocolate may be associated with heart health. These effects have been attributed to flavanols, which are natural compounds that occur in a wide range of fruits and vegetables and have been extensively studied in cocoa. Over the past decade, studies examining the eating patterns of adults and their overall health over the course of several years suggest that those who regularly included cocoa products and chocolate in their diets maintained better cardiovascular health. Other studies have shown that chocolate and cocoa are associated with improved well-being and happiness.

That's no surprise to the 55,000 people in the United States directed employed by the manufacturers of chocolate, candy, gum and mints. More than 400,000 jobs in agriculture, retail, transportation and other industries rely in part on the sale of confections for their livelihood, as well. For every job that is created by the confectionery industry, seven more are supported in related industries, which means that candy drives a multiplier effect of 1:7 or an impact of 700 percent. The industry is comprised of hundreds of small and medium-size, family-owned businesses as well as the multi-national companies with global brands that operate more than 1,000 manufacturing facilities in all 50 states.