NCA’s Downs Outlines Category Opportunities to Global Chocolate Leaders

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Davos, Switzerland — Pointing out the strong emotional and social connections consumers have with confectionery products, NCA President & CEO John Downs outlined three market opportunities during a presentation to more than 200 attendees at the annual Chocovision conference this week.

Confirming the industry is faced with the same disruptors as many other sectors, Downs said: “We need to be radically open-minded about these challenges, while still being mindful of the opportunities they present.”

Noting 90 percent of Americans have said a world without chocolate and candy is no world at all, Downs stated that regardless of how the industry changes and shifts in the coming years, “we know our category will continue to be relevant and grow.”

NCA President & CEO John Downs addressed Chocovision 2018 attendees this week in Davos, Switzerland.

He pointed to ecommerce and the pace of technology as an opportunity for both the category and its retail customers, but noted that it requires smart navigation. “Remember, 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.”

Shifting consumer demographics is another area Downs said offers potential. “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.”

The worldwide interest in food and nutrition policy is another topic Downs touched in his presentation. “It’s clear that Americans understand that chocolate and candy are treats. In the U.S., people enjoy candy two or three times a week, averaging about 40 calories per day from confectionery items.”

He also told attendees about the Always A Treat Initiative, which launched in 2017. “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,” he explained.

These efforts, he noted, 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.”

Conferences such as Chocovision underscore the importance of private/public partnerships, he told attendees, noting they offer a transparent view of how the industry operates as well as facilitate discussions on addressing issues the category is facing.

“Since my arrival at NCA four years ago, I have maintained a comprehensive list of domestic and global topics that have the potential to disrupt — or fundamentally change — the confectionery business in the U.S.,” he said. “No matter how this list changes and shifts, we know our category will continue to be relevant and grow.”

Chocovision attendees also learned about the economic impact the industry has in the U.S., directly employing some 55,000 people and supporting more than 400,000 additional workers whose jobs rely in part on confectionery manufacturing.

Read more excerpts from Downs’ speech and watch a short video interview here.