NCA Announces 2024 Future Leadership Program Class

WASHINGTON (January 22, 2024) – The National Confectioners Association announced today that eight confectionery industry professionals have been selected for the 2024 Future Leadership Program. The program is dedicated to helping young professionals across the confectionery industry access networking and professional development opportunities to gain career experience.

“The Future Leaders are shaking things up in the world of chocolate and candy, and they’ve got what it takes to drive our industry ahead,” John Downs, NCA President and CEO, said. “Our Future Leadership Program ensures they get the right tools to flourish and achieve their fullest potential. I am excited to work alongside these inspiring individuals and watch their career paths unfold.”

The 2024 class includes:


Chase Brown

Regional Business Manager- Grocery & Convenience – Texas/New Mexico

Perfetti Van Melle


Lori Davis 

Director of Sales West

Burdette Beckmann, Inc. 


Kate Duffy

Director of Human Resources, North America

Storck USA, L.P.


Steve Edminister

Team Leader

Russell Stover Chocolates


Cody Heinz

Director of Sales

Bell Flavors & Fragrances


Christina Jenkins

Customer Cocoa Research and Development Project Manager

Barry Callebaut


Mark Slusser

General Manager

Blommer Chocolate Company


Franki Smurro 

Sr. Customer Marketing Manager

Mars Wrigley 

Launched in 2016, the Future Leadership Program provides support, education, access, and opportunity to young professionals wanting to develop leadership skills and grow their careers in the confectionery industry. Participants are matched with a highly regarded industry leader as a mentor. They are also invited to attend NCA’s signature events and other industry gatherings, including the State of the Industry Conference, Sweets & Snacks Expo, NCA’s Leadership Summit, the Washington Forum, and Candy Hall of Fame weekend.

The application process for the 2025 class of the Future Leadership Program opens on August 4. Those interested in applying for the program or learning more about how to get involved as a young professional or mentor should visit

About the National Confectioners Association (NCA):

The National Confectioners Association is the leading trade organization for the U.S. confectionery industry, which generates $42 billion in retail sales each year. NCA advocates for an environment that enables candy makers to thrive and works to ensure that chocolate, candy, gum, and mints are celebrated for their contributions to culture, society, the economy, and everyday moments of joy. The industry employs nearly 58,000 workers in more than 1,600 manufacturing facilities across all 50 states and supports an additional 635,000 jobs in related fields. The U.S. confectionery industry has made a commitment to increasing transparency, providing more portion guidance options, and educating consumers about the role of confectionery in a happy, balanced lifestyle. Learn more at or follow NCA on FacebookX, and Instagram.

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