John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), said innovation is paramount for future growth in the chocolate category.
Downs was speaking at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s Elevate Chocolate event in San Francisco over the weekend.
“There is no end in sight to the emotional and social connections consumers have with chocolate,” he said. “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.”
The head of the NCA told delegates that growth is multifaceted, and includes innovation as a key component, “from unique flavors and ingredients to changes in packaging and manufacturing, the industry will continue to exist – and grow – as long as it continues to innovate”.
He said: “The industry is poised for growth – if we stay focused on meeting consumer needs and embracing the opportunities presented to us, growth will come.”
Consumers also appreciate transparency in confectionery, he said and highlighted the Always A Treat Initiative, a commitment by America’s leading chocolate and candy companies to provide consumers with more information, options and support when it comes to enjoying their favorite treats.
Through a five-year commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America, the industry has pledged that 90% of best-selling treats will have calorie information printed on the front of the pack, and half of individually wrapped products will be available in package sizes containing 200 calories or less. Additionally, AlwaysATreat.com is a robust resource for information about the ingredients used in confectionery.
“Our industry has always been known for creating transparent, fun and unique treats,” Downs said. “Transparency is fundamental to our existence. NCA was founded 135 years ago to encourage passage of the nation’s first food manufacturing laws. We take transparency very seriously, and we value the trust consumers have in our products and brands.”
Downs used his speech to preview results from a December 2018 survey conducted by NCA and FCIA along with The Pennsylvania State University and 210 Analytics that uncovered more information about chocolate consumers.
The survey highlighted opportunities for the industry, including e-commerce, consumer education, and a continued focus on corporate social and environmental responsibility.
Downs also declared that sustainability is important to the future of the chocolate category.
“Our member companies have analyzed and mapped their supply chains to better understand their social, environmental and economic footprints,” Downs said. “The majority of their impacts and challenges are in the agricultural area through the raw materials and commodities they source, like palm oil, sugar, almonds, nuts, raisins, dairy, cocoa and more.”
To support the industry in the mission to protect the future of chocolate and cocoa, Downs announced that NCA will provide support for the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund.