Brave new world: Downs shoots for the moon as part of confectionery’s meteoric rise in the US

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

NCA president and CEO John Downs addresses this year's SOTIC with another entertaining speech. Pic: CN
NCA president and CEO John Downs addresses this year's SOTIC with another entertaining speech. Pic: CN

Related tags Nca Candy Confectionery Chocolate SOTIC 2023

More than 700 senior members of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), along with retail partners and suppliers, gathered in Miami this week for its annual State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) where, in a keynote speech, NCA President & CEO John Downs revealed that while dollar growth remains strong there is no room for complacency moving forward.

According to a recent report by, the value of the global cocoa market was $48.3 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $79 billion by the end of 2032, increasing at a CAGR of 5% between 2022 and 2032.

On the back of this, the NCA will reveal its own sales figures in its State of Treating Report that will estimate the US confectionery market will hit $54.3bn in the US by 2027.

Downs argued that to maintain the industry’s meteoric rise over the past five years, even in the face of exceptional events such as a global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and workforce shortages, business leaders must work together if they want the sector to reach truly stratospheric levels.

The theme of this year's keynote speech from John Downs was the NASA Apollo programme. Pic: CN

Caption: the theme of this year's keynote speech was NASA'S Apollo programme. Pic: CN

The US chocolate and candy industry is a fun, dynamic, innovative business that brings sweetness to people’s lives, but it also comes with responsibility: to its employees; to its consumers; to the environment, and to the cocoa farmers at the beginning of the value of the chain.

Downs has been at the helm of the NCA for the past nine years and has been the driving force for change, recognising the need for greater diversity across the workforce, supporting sustainability issues, and influencing consumers on health and wellbeing, while still enjoying chocolate and candy.

Driving force

Taking inspiration from President JFK and his dream to put an American on the moon by the end of the 1960s, Downs said many of the NCA’s ‘moonshots’ have also been achieved, namely the ‘Always a Treat’ campaign that promoted health and wellbeing and encouraged US citizens to consume candy and chocolate responsibly, offering guidance on their sugar intake.

Downs 1 SOTIC 2023 (1)
John Downs entertains NCA members with his NASA look. Pic: CN

The success of the campaign also lifted candy companies as it countered the threat of negative publicity surrounding the role of chocolate and candy in people's lives. The NCA’s achievements in providing a healthy indulgence for consumers led to an invite to the White House in 2022 and a personal thank you from President Biden for making people’s life sweeter after the dark days of the pandemic.

The NCA is also a powerful advocacy brand in Washington DC and Downs, along with Brian McKeon, were on The Hill’s list of top Lobbyists for 2022.

National Candy Month, which takes place in June, started as an awareness initiative with focus in Washington five years ago to keep the industry at the forefront of the conversation. Commercial partners also saw it as a great marketing tool to boost sales during the quieter months between Easter and Halloween. It has since been adopted by more than 50,000 stores across the country and the popularity of the campaign continues to grow.

Astronomical achievements 

Downs said the astronomical achievements in promoting the benefits of great American treats are down to collaboration innovation and cooperation.

He praised the diversity of the industry and its unity that encompasses small entrepreneurial companies, medium-sized family companies, and large multinational companies along with the brokers and suppliers - and the NCA’s retail partners.

“One team, one dream,” was his mantra for the industry and “better together” when it comes to sharing knowledge and innovation while maintaining a competitive edge on the supermarket shelves.

“Candy and snacks is a relationship-driven business,” he said, “and being open to ideas strengthens the whole category.”

Downs ended his keynote with the observation that candy is America’s quintessential affordable treat that has a 98% penetration into households and appeals across generations. “The category has the potential to take us to infinity and beyond - as long as we stick together,” he said.

Related news

Show more