From unique flavors and ingredients to changes in packaging and manufacturing, the confectionery industry will continue to exist — and grow — as long as it continues to innovate.
That’s according to John Downs, president and ceo of the National Confectioners Association, who recently spoke at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s Elevate Chocolate event in San Francisco, Calif., sharing information about the future of the chocolate category.
“There is no end in sight to the emotional and social connections consumers have with chocolate,” Downs said. “But that does not shield us from the same disruptions that face other industries. We need to be radically open-minded about these challenges, while still being mindful of the opportunities they present. The industry is poised for growth — if we stay focused on meeting consumer needs and embracing the opportunities presented to us, growth will come.”
Downs also said sustainability is important to the future of the chocolate category. He announced that the NCA will provide support for the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, a not-for-profit organization that works in collaboration with U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
It brings together chocolate industry professionals, chocolate makers, farmers and chocolate enthusiasts from around the world to work to save the Theobroma cacao trees, which produce the most high quality, flavorful chocolate. It also works to identify the farmers who grow them. 
“Our member companies have analyzed and mapped their supply chains to better understand their social, environmental and economic footprints,” Downs said. “The majority of their impacts and challenges are in the agricultural area through the raw materials and commodities they source, like palm oil, sugar, almonds, nuts, raisins, dairy, cocoa and more.”
Consumers also appreciate transparency in confectionery, and Downs highlighted the Always A Treat Initiative, a commitment by America’s leading chocolate and candy companies to provide consumers with more information, options and support when it comes to enjoying their favorite treats. 
Through a five-year commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America, the industry has pledged that 90 percent of best-selling treats will have calorie information printed on the front of the pack, and half of individually wrapped products will be available in package sizes containing 200 calories or fewer. Additionally, serves as a resource for information about the ingredients used in confectionery.
“Our industry has always been known for creating transparent, fun and unique treats,” Downs said. “Transparency is fundamental to our existence. NCA was founded 135 years ago to encourage passage of the nation’s first food manufacturing laws. We take transparency very seriously, and we value the trust consumers have in our products and brands.”
Included in the speech was a preview of the results from a December 2018 survey conducted by NCA and FCIA along with Pennsylvania State University and 210 Analytics, which uncovered more information about chocolate consumers. 
Downs highlighted opportunities for the industry, including e-commerce, consumer education and a continued focus on corporate social and environmental responsibility.