The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has announced winners of its 2017 Confectionery Leadership Awards, which celebrate honorees’ effective business collaboration, category management best practices and innovations in in-store merchandising.
Christina Groth, v.p. of general merchandise, health & beauty care and non-foods, for the Kroger Co., and Brian Rinker, confectionery category manager for the Walgreen Co., will accept their awards at NCA’s annual State of the Industry Conference, slated for March 6-8 in Miami.
Groth has served Kroger for more than 15 years, beginning her tenure as an intern for the Fred Meyer division. She directs category management teams in setting and executing the assortment, merchandising and marketing strategies for more than 2,600 Kroger stores.
“This award is really for our team — our category managers, consumer insights group and our suppliers,” Groth told the NCA. “It’s a reflection of the work they are all doing. I am just lucky to get to accept it on their behalf.”
Rinker has served Walgreen for 12 years. He develops and carries out the company’s merchandising plans for more than 8,100 stores. Before moving to the candy category, Rinker worked for eight years as the chain’s cookie buyer.
“Being recognized as a leader in the confectionery category is very humbling,” Rinker told the NCA. “I love this category and what it stands for. Everyone needs a moment of happiness and confectionery can do that.”
The NCA has also selected five young professionals to participate in the association’s 2017 Future Leadership Program. They include:
  • Becca Mandru, Carlin Group
  • Kate McAleer, Bixby & Co.
  • Ross Rutherford, Star Brands North America
  • Caitlin Servian, Just Born, Inc.
  • Anthony Trani, Topps Confections
The year-long program, launched in 2016 with support from the NCSA Candy Hall of Fame, is designed to provide education, access and opportunity to confectionery industry professionals who wish to advance in leadership ranks. Participants are paired with another confectionery industry leader who will serve as mentor. They’re also provided free registration to NCA events and the Candy Hall of Fame induction.
“The Future Leadership Program aligns perfectly with NCA’s mission to advance the industry,” says John Downs, NCA president and ceo. “The five young professionals selected will build knowledge and leadership skills while raising their visibility within the confectionery community.”
The application process for the 2018 class opens in May.