John H. Downs Jr NCA President
John H. Downs, Jr.

The new president of the National Confectioners Association (NCA) has most recently worked at Coca-Cola, and has a background in public affairs and public relations.

John H. Downs, Jr. has been appointed to the role by the NCA’s Board of Trustees and will succeed Lawrence T. Graham, who will have served the NCA for 22 years when he retires later this month.

Downs currently is serving as a senior advisor to the president of Coca-Cola Americas for The Coca-Cola Co.

“I am thrilled to be joining this incredible organization and becoming a part of its rich history,” Downs says. “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.”

Robert Simpson, NCA Board chairman and coo of Jelly Belly Candy Co., says they are pleased to welcome Downs to the association.

“John’s strong leadership and record of accomplishments will serve our membership well,” he says.

Specifically, Downs has a background in consumer product goods and member-driven trade associations. 

“[That will] provide him with a solid foundation for understanding the needs and capably serving the small, medium and large companies the NCA represents,” Simpson says.

In his most recent position at The Coca-Cola Co., Downs has focused on strategic stakeholder engagement, government relations and public affairs in North America and Latin America.

Prior to this role, he was v.p. 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 Company as a v.p.

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 of which are 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 says. “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.”

Downs will assume the role as president of NCA in the summer of 2014. As the association’s  chief representative, he will be responsible for managing both strategic direction and daily operations.

The 25-person office in Washington, D.C., 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 United States 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.