Downs to Global Chocolate Leaders: Be Radically Open Minded

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This week, I was honored to address a group of global industry leaders at the annual CHOCOVISION conference in Davos, Switzerland. What follows is an excerpt from my speech to more than 200 delegates representing senior executives and key stakeholders from around the world.


No matter how the industry changes and shifts in the years to come, we know our category will continue to be relevant and grow. How can we be sure?

Because there is no end in sight to the emotional and social connections that consumers have with our products.

In fact 90 percent of Americans have said that a world without chocolate and candy is no world at all.

But, that does not shield us from the same disruptions that face other industries. We need to be radically open-minded about these challenges, while still being mindful of the opportunities they present.

One opportunity exists in addressing e-commerce, online competition and the pace of technology. People are increasingly shopping online, even for their groceries. This is a big opportunity for our category and for our retail customers that requires smart navigation.

CEO John Downs speaking at CHOCOVISION 2018Remember – while brick-and-mortar stores may be challenged, they will not disappear. Retailers around the world are already working on delivering experience in connection with shopping trips.

Our second opportunity lies in shifting consumer demographics. Our customer base has changed with the rise of  both millenials and multiculturalism.

Our demographic destiny is coming right at us! And we will be ready with the products, the flavors and the innovations – PLUS the values and the transparency demanded by our consumers.

Addressing the ethical needs of our consumers in creating a sustainable future for chocolate is a conversation we must keep having – our consumers demand it.

The third opportunity ahead for us is the worldwide interest in food and nutrition policy.

It’s clear that Americans understand that chocolate and candy are treats. In the U.S., people enjoy candy 2 or 3 times a week, averaging about 40 calories per day from confectionery items.

Last year, five leading confectionery companies and their well-known brands came together in a ground-breaking commitment, the Always A Treat Initiative, to provide consumers more options in smaller pack sizes, portion guidance and clear calorie labels right on the front of pack.

These efforts build on what has already been done by many other companies. Your innovations have helped lead to the sizes, packaging, ingredients and flavors that consumers want today and will want in the future.

Our category is unique. We’re not just making great-tasting products, we’re helping to create memories.


I also had a chance to sit down with conference organizers to discuss the importance of cocoa sustainability efforts.