The Love Hearts factory: where love blossoms

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You might have thought that being surrounded by sugary-coated messages of love, would be enough to put anyone off romance. But it would appear that the Love Hearts factory in Derbyshire is a hotbed of amorous liaisons.

Swizzels Matlow, the confectionery company, that makes the sweets claims that 122 of its 500 workers are in a relationship with each other and that this puts it in the running for "most romantic workplace in Britain."

The family firm, which is based in the North Derbyshire town of New Mills, released the data just a few days before St Valentine's Day, the key selling period for the little sweets. But Swizzels Matlow suggested anyone who questioned the motives behind releasing the figures were hard-hearted cynics.

Jeremy Dee, director at the company, said: "I think it's a lovely story that so many people met here. We knew anecdotally that many were either married to each other or going out with each other, but we just did a quick ask around to find out how many were together. It's a very close-knit place.”

What he failed to point out is that New Mills, on the edge of the Peak District, as well as being very beautiful, has a population of fewer than 10,000 and Swizzels Matlow is the area's largest employer if you are going to meet anyone it'll be while making Parma violets, Refreshers or Mr Chews.

Steven House, 46, met his girlfriend Laura Garlik, 38, at the factory. Despite the fact that they have both been working there together for 22 years they only got together three years ago. Miss Garlik said: "We worked on different floors and used to pass each other and just say "hiya"."

But then she moved downstairs to work alongside Mr House and their eyes met across the production line of Double Dips. "It's a very relaxed atmosphere, you can have a laugh," she said. Mr House insisted the factory uniform of white coats, hair nets and ear plugs were not a deterrent to romance. They will get married, he said, once they win the lottery.

The company makes 200m Love Hearts every year each with a message such as "I Love you" or "All mine".

It is not the only company to boast of its ability to bring people together. Bill Gates, the world's second richest man, met his wife Melinda while working for Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT - news) .

At Southwest Airlines 2,416 of the 37,000 employees are married to each other. Many of the couples met while working for the airline and Southwest was so pleased with its matchmaking role, it uses LUV as its stock market symbol. More than 100 MPs (BSE: MPSLTD.BO - news) have family members on the payroll, with many employing their spouse as a secretary or assistant.