Candy manufacturers and suppliers experience the magic of Ojai Valley Inn and Resort while keeping abreast of industry realities.
When videographer Jay Drose quizzed Western Candy Conference (WCC) attendees on their knowledge of California last week during the event’s opening reception, it quickly became clear that many out-of-staters were stumped, most lacking even the basics about the famed Golden State. But there wasn’t anything lacking at the conference itself, which took place March 29 –April 2 at the Ojai Valley Inn and Resort in Ojai, Calif.
Ever since 1937, when movie director Frank Capra used the sweeping mountain vistas of the valley as Shangri-La in his film Lost Horizon, Ojai and its famous resort have captivated Hollywood’s movie stars and movers and shakers. This year it proved to be the setting for confectionery glitterati.
Nearly 200 participants enjoyed sunny skies in one of the nation’s leading resorts, taking in not only the warm temps, crisp air, an engaging program and a spectacular golf venue, but a private tour of the Ronald Regan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. And then there was chocolate desserts and wine tasting to boot.
Conference Chairman Jerry Swain of Swain Creations oversaw a conference blessed by the sun and a program riveted in the realities of the day. Presenters on the first day touched on the following: litigation trends and strategies — Janet Hickson of Shook, Hardy and Bacon; emerging cyber security trends — Pierson Clair IV, USC Viterbi School of Engineering; and commodity and supply chain solutions — a panel consisting of Jeff Rasinski, Blommer Chocolate Co., Tom Rodd, Sweetener Products Co.,  Matt King, Batory Foods, and Jared Herschberger, Barry Callebaut. 
Attendees also had the opportunity to break bread with John Downs, president and ceo of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), who provided an update on the association’s activities, as well as a regulatory update by Liz Clark, NCA’s v.p. of government affairs on the final day of the conference. 
On Thursday evening, WCC attendees were bused from the resort to the Ronald Regan Presidential Library. Highlights included viewing clips from Reagan’s acting career, retracing milestones during his time as governor of California, tracking the campaign for president and acknowledging key moments during his presidency, from the release of hostages in Iran to his talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Visitors were able to view a replica of the Oval Office and the Berlin Wall (as well as an authentic segment sitting just outside the building), the original Air Force One presidential plane and Marine One helicopter (donated by the Jelly Belly Co.), and the gravesite of Ronald and  Nancy Regan. The evening concluded with a cocktail reception and dinner in the Air Force One Pavilion.
Next year, the Western Candy Conference will be held in Palm Springs, Calif. at the La Quinta Resort, March 21-25. For more information, visit