YPN Future Leaders Offer Insights On Today’s Industry

Michele Polito, Sugar Factory

Washington DC — Members of NCA’s Future Leadership Program Class of 2019, part of the Association’s Young Professionals Network (YPN)  recently sat down with Candy & Snack TODAY to talk about career moves and category trends.

Speaking on trends, Michele Polito notes that from a multigenerational perspective, healthier lifestyles and better eating habits have stayed strong for 2019. The trend of better-for-you candy has been and will continue to be a focus, she adds, noting “Smart Sweets is a great new brand of better-for-you candy. Its mission is to #kicksugar. It’s a fun on trend brand.”

Polito recently joined Sugar Factory as corporate director of buying and merchandising. She says the company is expanding its retail presence and she will be overseeing the expansion from a buying and merchandising perspective across all retail channels including brick and mortar, ecommerce and collaborative partnerships.

Natalie Herr, Russell Stover Chocolate LLC

Trends and opportunities in 2019 so far, according to Ferrara Candy Co.‘s Tessa Porter, continue to be circle around natural perception and clean labels, as well as providing unique consumer experiences.

Russell Stover Chocolates LLC’s Natalie Herr says CBD-infused products are definitely getting the most attention right now. “Many Americans credit confections with creating balance in their diet and lifestyle. CBD has become widely accepted, filling with a similar purpose, therefore marrying these two categories seems like a no-brainer. CBD also has high potential of being a long-term trend, which will extend its reach in many ways,” says Herr, a team leader with the company.

Mike Terroni, vice-president of grocery for HWY Partners – Golick Martins, Inc., points to the late Easter as having the biggest impact on the first half of 2019 for the industry. “It was the latest Easter since 2011 and it won’t be this late again until 2030,” he says. “I also believe innovation was a major driver of growth in 2018, and that trend appears to be carrying over into the first half of 2019.”

Tessa Porter, Ferrara Candy Co.

Confirming strong seasonal sales to kick off the year, Steve Casey, sales and marketing for Melville Candy Corp., adds marshmallow and crisp rice treats have been a solid sellers to start the year and are also seeing strong pre-booking for the second half of 2019.

Mike Terroni, HWY Partners – Golick Martins, Inc.

While these Future Leaders are shaping the industry from within their companies, they are also having a broader impact as NCA has tagged the members of the first three classes of the program to participate in its strategic planning initiative taking place now to position the industry for the next five years.

Terroni adds: “All of the future leaders have been put into teams tasked with writing the new strategic plan for the NCA in parallel with the board. Hopefully our work will deliver a helpful perspective to the board as the new plan is written.”

Discovering new approaches to product development, new insight into technology, and new pathways to reach consumers directly and collect valuable consumer insights, are cited by Porter.

Polito adds: “We are helping keep the industry young, fresh and on trend by using social media to promote brands and new products.”

Steve Casey, Melville Candy Co.

Concurring, Herr points out: “Future Leaders bring a unique perspective on trends, buying patterns and regulatory affairs. As millennials in the industry, we are in touch with the core baby boomers of our industry but can also easily adapt to the needs and wants of the up and coming gen Zs,” she explains. “Playing the middleman enables us to develop comprehensive strategies to impact these important areas of the confectionery industry.”

Casey adds: “Future leaders are serving the needs of existing customers and bridging the gap for the millennial shopper who is ever changing.”  C&ST