Miami — A crowd of more than 670 was on hand to honor the 2014 Confectionery Leadership Award winners, Jamal Parker, of Sam's Club, and Tim Erceg, of Hy-Vee, Inc.
Given to celebrate trade customers that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to promote the category, the awards were presented by Bob Simpson, NCA chairman and president and COO for the Jelly Belly Candy Co., and Peter Blommer, Association vice-chairman and president and COO for the Blommer Chocolate Co.
Before presenting Erceg, Hy-Vee purchasing specialist, with his crystal bowl, Blommer highlighted the challenge Erceg has in building programs to promote both everyday and seasonal products and in the commitment he needs to persuade each employee-owned store to get behind those plans.
Erceg thanked his family, friends and the NCA for their support, telling Candy & Snack TODAY: “After 40-some years in the retail business, this award has been a highlight of my career.”
He said his success has been in part because of his commitment to keeping an open mind, always being positive and showing loyalty to the industry. “This business is a collaboration among everyone involved. They know they can come to me anytime, day or night, and I'm always ready to listen and be positive.”
Before presenting the award, Simpson noted that as the senior buyer for candy and snacks at Sam's, Parker is responsible for ensuring the satisfaction of the nearly 50 million club members, which breaks down to almost one in five adults living in the U.S.
“Jamal fights for every inch of space at retail for the candy category and as part of go-to-market programs, helps manufacturers learn more about working with Sam's Club,” Simpson added.
Parker said the award gave him reason to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of his team and partnerships with manufacturers in developing experiences that aim to please the end consumer. “That's why we are here,” he added, continuing: “This award motivates me to do more in the category.”
He told Candy & Snack TODAY that if he could give one piece of advice to someone just getting into the business, it is to get involved. “Whether it is joining the Candy PAC or a board, support the business any way you can. This is a great industry, and it is everyone's responsibility to promote it.”
Shawn Baldwin, senior vice-president, food, beverage, candy and tobacco for Sam's, said Parker's success is in part because of his constant commitment to keep consumers at the center of all his decisions.
“It's a recognition well deserved,” Baldwin said. “He's very humble, and this will inspire him to do even more.”
Caption: (Top) Peter Blommer, NCA vice-chairman and president and COO of Blommer Chocolate Co., presents Tim Erceg, of Hy-Vee, Inc., with his Confectionery Leadership Award, (bottom) Jamal Parker, of Sam's Club, is congratulated on his recognition as a category champion by Bob Simpson, NCA chairman and president and COO of Jelly Belly Candy Co.