Ask 100 people to name their favorite candy and you’ll likely get 100 different answers. Each answer is a deeply personal choice dependent on whether the respondent prefers chocolate to gummi candy, or lollipops to mints, if they live in California or Idaho, Chicago or Philadelphia. Some people will tell you they love all the candies from their childhood; others will name the latest candy craze.
There are more than 70,000 candy SKUs available in the United States today. The worldwide market for confectionery is more than $125 billion. Last year, 2,767 new candy items were introduced in the U.S. market alone.
If you think working for the national association representing the candy, chocolate and gum industries is a “sweet” job, you’re right.
The National Confectioners Association was founded in 1884 by representatives of 69 confectionery manufacturing firms. Today, NCA is one of the oldest and most respected trade associations in the world. Based outside of Washington, D.C. in Vienna, Va., NCA has 700 members and offers education and leadership in manufacturing, communications, retailing practices, government and regulatory affairs, and statistical analysis. NCA fosters industry growth by protecting and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry and its consumers.
Membership in NCA is no longer restricted just to those companies who manufacture candy. Suppliers to the industry – those companies who make equipment, ingredients or other necessary supplies – are vital to our success. We also welcome confectionery brokers to the association. Brokers serve as an extension of the sales department for confectionery manufacturers, helping them get product on store shelves around the country.
More than 65,000 people are directly employed by the candy industry in the U.S. That number easily triples when you take into consideration the number of people involved in the transportation, sales and distribution of confectionery.
There are some large confectionery manufacturers whose names are familiar to you – The Hershey Company; Mars, Inc.; Nestle USA; Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Company; and Cadbury Adams USA. There are medium sized, family-run companies that you may know as well – Ferrara Pan Candy Co., Jelly Belly, Tootsie Roll, Spangler Candy Co., and many others. However, the vast majority of the companies who make candy are small, family operations.
Promoting Candy to the Retail Trade
One of the main reasons confectionery manufacturers join NCA is to build stronger relationships with the retail community. Each year, NCA hosts the largest confectionery trade show in the Americas, the ALL CANDY EXPO. More than 8,000 candy buyers attend that show and exhibitors make valuable one-on-one contacts with these buyers. Because candy buyers are usually responsible for more than one category and a show that meets their needs on many levels is more efficient, NCA recently decided to move forward on requests to expand the ALL CANDY EXPO to include not just chocolate, candy and gum, but also cookies, crackers, sweets snacks, savory snacks, nuts and meat snacks. The response from buyers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Even more importantly, NCA offers industry statistics, news and best practices to the retail trade. In September we concluded a two-year long study of the market to learn what the top performing retailers do right, and how those practices can be used to enhance the performance of others.
Even though confectionery is a mature category, it still sees growth between 1 and 3 percent each year. With more than 2,500 new items launched annually, there is lots of innovation in the category. Candy has always been an important part of American life – from recipes for homemade delights brought to the shores of this country by European settlers, to the corner candy shops that dotted early 20th century towns, to myriad online sources of confectionery today. We look forward to as culturally rich a future as we have enjoyed in the past.
Larry Graham is the president of the National Confectioners Association. He tries not to play favorites among his members, but he does prefer dark chocolate, marshmallow, caramels and any candy with lemon or lime flavor. When not sampling candy he enjoys working for an industry with hundreds of companies, thousands of varieties and a dedicated core of industry members, including brokers and suppliers. To learn more visit www.candyusa.com.