Downs Highlights Importance, Role Of Industry

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Miami — Highlighting the role candy plays in U.S. economics and consumers’ diets, NCA President and CEO John H. Downs, Jr. opened the Association’s State of the Industry Conference by shining a spotlight on gains made during his first year and a half at the helm as well as the trade group’s plans moving forward.

“During the past 18 months, I’ve witnessed firsthand the amazing collection of companies and people that make up this industry,” he says. “The people who work tirelessly for our companies and brands have more passion than any industry I’ve observed.”

“I’ve learned that everyone in DC loves chocolate, candy, gum and mints, whether a Democrat or Republican,” Downs says. “The industry is the quintessential American success story with America products, produced by American works. Everyday chocolate, candy, gum and mints fuel the businesses in our communities.”

Reviewing the results from NCA’s Power of Sweet economic impact study, Downs highlighted not only the 55,000 people directly employed by the candy business, but also the fact that for every one industry job seven other positions are supported in adjacent industries.

“The Power of Sweet is more than just the economic impact,” Downs says, noting the industry is leading the conversations around the most pressure food issues today including GMO labeling and sugars in the diet.

“There is a war on sugar, but there isn’t a war on candy,” he says. “This is a special category with a special connection with consumers. It is a small part of diets, but a big part of their lives.”

As consumers are more concerned with transparency around the things they eat, giving them accurate information is vital. To this end, the NCA has launched the Your Candy, Your Questions section on candyusa.com. The portal offers consumers answers about ingredients used in candy such as colors and flavors as well as sugar.

Using a clip from the film “The Reverant” featuring a bear attack to illustrate his experience during his tenure with Coca-Cola Co., Downs says: “That was what life was like for me for 10 years at Coke; attacks from everywhere and they were relentless. But if we can smartly navigate our way through this, we won’t have to deal with any bear attacks.”

To accomplish this, NCA will continue to leverage fact-based science and health information to lead dialogues about candy’s role in diets and at retail. Highlighting some of these fact-driven findings, Downs explained the average U.S. consumer only eats confectionery twice a week and the category accounts for less than 2 percent of caloric intake.

In addition, he touched on some of the headway the Association made this past year on issues impacting the industry. This includes the repeal of the country-of-origin-labeling law that could of negatively impacted the category to the tune of some $800 million. Further, NCA’s advocacy efforts helped to defeat candy taxes in Vermont, Kansas and Pennsylvania.

“Because of what you do every day, we’re working to make sure every stakeholder knows we’re responsible, a small part of diets, but a big part of life,” he said.