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National Confectioners Association Generating ‘Positive Brand Identity’


Downs-led organization touts Always A Treat campaign

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

The new focus of the National Confectioners Association is on four goals – advocacy communication, trends and disruptions, thought leadership and financial strength.

According to John Downs, the NCA’s president and CEO, these aspects “matter the most to the confectionery industry.”

And while NCA leads events, such as the State of the Industry Conference and the Sweets and Snacks Expo, another part of the plan is how to connect with and give back.

“We use a model called Candy 360, and it’s a way to put our strategic plan into action and deliver results for our industry, in terms of how we engage with our industry stakeholders, with our retail partners, with the media, with other people that are part of our ecosystem,” Downs explained.

“We’ve generated a lot of results. We have a very, very solid value proposition, and we’ve got the right level of engagement and energy with a high caliber of industry thought leaders that are on our board and part of our industry.”

Downs joined NCA six years ago. He always wanted to work in the trade realm.

“I started in a trade association when I was a young guy way back when, and I’ve always enjoyed the intersection of business and policy and politics,” he said.

“It’s a unique and special category, which is what was drove me. And then the other thing was I always wanted to try to figure out if I could run a trade association.”

And the candy industry appealed to Downs for its consumer-driven nature and beloved brands.

“I love brands, I love marketing, I love communications, and I thought that I could really turn this organization around. And they thought so, too, and it’s been a great journey together,” he said.

Under his guidance, the NCA has been able to launch its Always A Treat campaign and to create the Retail Advisory Council.

Always A Treat is a commitment to the Partnership for Healthy America. The initiative provides more transparency for the front-of-package labeling of NCA products, as well as providing portion-guidance packaging – 200 calories or less.

In addition, NCA also provides education for consumers and their families related to managing their sugar intake through alwaysatreat.com. Downs added, “I think one of the biggest achievements has been our Always A Treat effort with PHA – getting that across the finish line.”

In addition to Always A Treat, Downs has been a player in developing the association’s five-year 2025 Strategic Plan.

“The really cool thing about this plan was that I wanted to have the future leaders – the leadership classes from NCA of our young professional network – be the real architects of this plan,” Downs said. “One of the things that came out of that plan was the establishment of our Strategic Advisory Council and Disruption Task Force that we created.

“And we did it before we even knew there was going to be a pandemic.”

From the association’s strategic plan came development of core values and new goals, which were formed with input from the young professionals, industry thought leaders and NCA’s board, as well as the Retail Advisory Council – another facet of the plan.

As for Downs’ time with NCA, it’s been six years well spent.

“I think that I’ve been successful with this great team that I’ve assembled here to transform NCA into an effective mission-driven advocacy organization,” he said.

“I’m proud of the powerful narrative that we’ve created for this great industry, and I’m really proud of the positive brand identity that we created for NCA here in Washington, as well.”

NCA, candy companies say Halloween is still happening. Click here.

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