NCA confirms awards and sessions for its State of the Industry event

The US-based National Confectioners Association’s annual State of the Industry Conference is set for a return next month in digital form, and is due to offer the sector plenty of inspiration for the sector in 2021.

Scheduled for 9 March, the event is being streamlined to provide high-quality insights to assist the industry in generating the ever-evolving sweets and snacks ranges that have become a feature of the global market.

Normally staged in Florida each year, next month’s showcase will feature a keynote address from NCA’s John Downs, as well as conversations with retail leaders on the new shopping landscape, featuring  Dollar General’s Jennifer Dilts. There will also be online networking and social opportunities.

“The State of the Industry Conference presents fresh ideas to our industry as they seek creative and unique approaches to tackling the rapidly changing marketplace,” John Downs (pictured), NCA president & CEO, said. “The world looks very different since we gathered in March 2020, and we’re looking forward to connecting digitally this year with a powerful lineup of education, insights and inspiration.”

“COVID-19 has kept us apart, but chocolate and candy have brought us together throughout this uncertain time,” Downs said. “The confectionery industry is honoured to have played a role in supporting our consumers’ emotional well-being throughout the pandemic, and this digital gathering will allow us to both reflect on the past year and take a look at what lies ahead.”

Awards decided

Furthermore, the NCA, alongside Candy and Snack Today, have confirmed winners of the 2021 Confectionery Leadership Awards: Maureen Keenan, Category Manager – Seasonal Candy, CVS Pharmacy; and Peter Kempton Jr., Category Manager – Center Store, TravelCenters of America. This year, the Confectionery Leadership Awards will be presented remotely during NCA’s virtual State of the Industry Conference on March 9.

Having been with CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health, for more than 25 years, Maureen worked her way from store manager to her current position. Her ability to quickly pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic and analyze new industry trends ensured that CVS’s seasonal candy displays continued to inspire shoppers, allowing CVS to outperform the general drug store category in confectionery sales.

Meanwhile, Peter Kempton Jr. has been with TravelCenters of America for 11 years, serving as a category manager for the past five and a half years, and has built a reputation for collaborating with confectionery manufacturers to stay ahead of shopper trends. In June 2020, he partnered with NCA to pioneer TravelCenters of America’s National Candy Month promotion, expanding the share of total store for the confectionery category.

“The pandemic has reinforced the importance of adaptability, innovation and collaboration with our retail partners as critical components to the confectionery industry’s success,” John Downs, president & CEO of the National Confectioners Association, said. “During this challenging year, Maureen and Peter contributed to the resilience of the category, leading with a growth mindset and an eye toward our industry’s future.”

For more information and to register for the 2021 State of the Industry Conference, visit


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