The Board of Trustees of the National Confectioners Association announced the appointment of John Downs, Jr., to president of the trade association, according to Robert Simpson, NCA Board chairman and chief operating officer of Jelly Belly Candy Co.
Downs, a senior advisor to the president of Coca-Cola Americas for The Coca-Cola Co., will succeed Lawrence Graham, who will have served the Association for 22 years when he retires later this month.
“We are pleased to welcome John to the Association,” Simpson said. “John’s strong leadership and record of accomplishments will serve our membership well. His public affairs background in the consumer product goods arena, coupled with his business acumen and experience with member-driven trade associations, provide him with a solid foundation for understanding the needs and capably serving the small, medium and large companies the NCA represents.”
In his most recent position at The Coca-Cola Company, Downs has focused on strategic stakeholder engagement, government relations and public affairs in North America and Latin America. Prior to this role he was vice president of global government, diplomatic, and stakeholder relations for The Coca-Cola Co. He also previously served as the senior vice president of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola Enterprises, one of the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottlers. Downs has been with the Coca-Cola organization since 1986 when he joined the Mid-Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co. as a vice president. He has broad experience in public affairs, government relations, communications, association management, international affairs, and corporate social responsibility.
Downs began his career in government relations as a legislative assistant to the Speaker of the House in Maryland before joining the Glass Packaging Institute and then the American Beverage Association, both national trade associations in Washington, DC.
“John will be joining an organization with a strong foundation, and I want to personally extend my gratitude to Larry Graham for his leadership of the Association,” Simpson said. “The NCA enjoys a reputation for getting things done, for building relationships and for its professional staff, thanks in large part to the culture that Larry worked to establish. Both Larry and John are committed to a smooth transition as we look to the future.”
“I am thrilled to be joining this incredible organization and becoming a part of its rich history,” said Downs. “NCA member companies have an impact on consumers around the world, and the Association helps make that possible. I look forward to working with the outstanding staff, members and Board to ensure continued success and increase the reach of the NCA.”
Downs will assume the role as president of NCA in the summer of 2014. As the chief representative of the Association, he will be responsible for managing both strategic direction and daily operations. The 25-person office in Washington, DC, has an extensive public policy agenda; is the organizer of the American confectionery industry’s largest trade show, the Sweets & Snacks Expo; conducts both scientific and shopper research; has a well-established international marketing program for U.S.-made products; and serves as the primary voice for the chocolate, cocoa, non-chocolate and gum industries in the U.S. across a variety of audiences. The U.S confectionery industry employs 70,000 people and produces annual retail sales of $34 billion. The Association has approximately 600 members.
A native of Maryland, Downs holds a degree in political science from Washington College in Chestertown, Md. He has served on a number of charitable and business boards and is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society. Downs and his wife, Molly, have four children.