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National Confectioners Association

One voice for the confectionery industry

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) take the idea very seriously that candy is a fun treat. Since 1884, the NCA, one of the oldest trade associations in the world, has worked to uphold its vision to foster industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry and its consumers.

Lawrence T. Graham spearheads this vision in his role as President of the NCA. “Our objective is to promote and protect the industry,” he says. “We represent the candy, chocolate, and gum industry in the United States; domestic and foreign companies selling candy.”

The NCA represents all participants in the industry including brokers, suppliers, and manufacturers, offering leadership, education, and representation on legislation and regulation as it effects the industry. For example, the NCA, with help from its members, recently amended the U.S. sugar policy, which the NCA believed to be too restrictive for its members. The NCA sent representatives to Washington, D.C. whose visits to the Department of Agriculture and the White House resulted in real regulatory changes; the administration increased the sugar quota by nearly 600,000 tonnes and reallocated unused quotas to countries with sugar to sell, illustrating the collective weight the NCA has when representing its members’ interests.

“By being a member, you support your industry and help your industry grow,” says Graham. “If you are in the industry and want this category to grow, you join.” Membership has grown from the original 69 confection companies that originally formed the NCA. Today, there are over 400 business members, many of whom are third-generation family-owned companies who look to the NCA for practical information pertaining to labelling, exporting, where to look for suppliers and providing information on shopper insights, category management solutions and best practices of top performing retailers.

Confection communication

The NCA speaks to its member base through a number of channels, providing periodic newsletters ranging on a variety of subjects, such as quarterly commodities reports, nutrition and health updates, and its Sweets Stats newsletter which provides retail sales and confectionary updates.

“Customer relations are very important, and we also work closely with retailers to emphasize the importance of having candy in your store and having the best ways to sell it,” says Graham. “Candy is profitable and attracts traffic to the store. When you think of a chain drugstore during Easter it will have decorations and seasonal things, so we work closely with retailers to promote our category there.”

Seasonal sales during Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and St. Valentine’s Day make up 30 percent of retail sales says Graham and is a catalyst for real innovation in marketing and manufacturing as well. “There is a lot of innovation, and the seasonal sales help that innovation with new gifts, new packages, so it keeps people excited by our industry. Our everyday products are what really drive our industry, however,” continues Graham.

While candy may not be recession proof, it is “recession resistant”, with overall growth between three and four percent in 2010. “During the last couple of years, we didn’t see much downturn, certainly in terms of dollars. Last year was a really good year and this year looks like it is going to be good as well.”

To help its members capitalize on a good market and to protect them during a slow period, the NCA strongly support its members’ efforts to build relationships with trade customers to show the value candy brings to their stores. To do so, the NCA holds the annual Sweets and Snacks Expo (being held this year May 24 and 26 in Chicago). According to Graham, the expo’s success is largely a function of members with more than 14,000 confectionery and shack professionals attending annually. Buyer attendance increased 12 percent last year, and exhibit space up seven percent. “And about 6,000 retailers attend, [so] where else could a small candy company see so many retailers and customers in one location in one time?” asks Graham.

Chocolates, candy, and gum offers a fun treat for consumers, but the NCA goes out of its way to work with dieticians and health practitioners to dispel myths about candies—that sugar produces hyperactivity in children, for one, which Graham says is not scientifically supported—and promotes good news for the industry that modest consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa is associated with health effects in the form of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This kind of education helps consumers make smart and healthy decisions.

There is a place for a little sweetness is everyone’s diet. The NCA proudly works for and with confectioners to promote products which mark celebrations of love, holidays, milestones and small moments. “Candy is a good product; it makes people happy. All our members are proud to bring a little pleasure to the world and be in an industry that does that.”


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