• Edmond F. Opler
Chairman & CEO
World’s Finest Chocolate
Chicago

Ed Opler currently serves as the ceo and chairman of Chicago-based World’s Finest Chocolate, Inc. His family’s business was started in 1939 by his grandfather, Ed Opler Sr. (Kettle Award winner) and run by his father until 2002.

The business manufactures chocolate for sale within the retail, gift and youth fundraising markets in the United States, Mexico and Canada under the brands World’s Finest ChocolateandQueen Anne Candy.

In propagating the family legacy that started with his grandfather and continued with his father, Opler has brought many new dimensions to the forefront of World’s Finest Chocolate. He remains committed to the enhancement and promotion of the company’s unique personalized approach to chocolate; and doing so by delivering premium quality and excellent value to the consumer. This value-added approach has helped make the lives of volunteers around the continent simpler and more productive in their efforts to raise money.

Opler has served on the Chocolate Manufacturers’ Association board for close to 10 years, serving most recently as vice chairman. He was recently elected as a trustee to the National Confectioner’s Association.

• Gary Guittard
President
Guittard Chocolate Co.
Burlingame, Calif.

Gary Guittard, president of Guittard Chocolate Co. of Burlingame, Calif., represents the fourth generation of chocolate makers, a legacy that goes back to the 1850s and his great grandfather Etienne Guittard.

“My family has been involved in the manufacturing of chocolate for 139 years,” notes Gary Guittard. “Chocolate is not just my business – it is my passion.”

As former chairman of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, Guittard faced intense media scrutiny when child slave labor issues arose in 2001. Having familiarity with various cocoa-growing regions in the world, Guittard helped mobilize the industry in addressing allegations that threatened the very foundation of the chocolate manufacturing industry.

More recently, Guittard has lead the fight to prevent the tampering of the “gold standard,” the standard of identity that determines when chocolate is chocolate. To this end, he established a Web site to facilitate consumer and manufacturer comments.

Naturally, throughout his involvement in the industry, Guittard has refashioned Guittard Chocolate Co. into one of the leaders of the premium chocolate segment, a trend that has enticed new consumers into the fold.

• Patrick Huffman
President
The Warrell Corp.
Camp Hill, Pa.

Patrick Huffman has worked and been involved in the confectionery industry, particularly in the chocolate sector, for more than 35 years. Huffman’s experience spans a broad range of companies within the industry, ranging from family-run businesses to multinational corporations.

Under his leadership, sales and profits have consistently increased for those operations, a result of Huffman’s emphasis on organizational excellence, plant efficiency, a streamlined supply chain and unwavering dedication to quality.

As current president of the Warrell Corp., a company involved in both contract manufacturing and specialty distribution businesses, Huffman has applied those same principals to fuel growth. As a result, the company has invested in the installation of several new manufacturing lines.

Actively involved in the American Association of Candy Technologists (AACT), Huffman served as the organization’s president from 1984-1986. He’s currently chairs the Stroud Jordan Award Committee for the AACT.

Huffman also serves on the National Confectioners Association (NCA)’s board of trustees and continues to be active in the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Confectioners Association.

• Lance Gimbal
President
Gimbal’s Fine Candies
South San Francisco, Calif.

In 2008 Gimbal’s Fine Candies will celebrate 110 years of quality. Continuing that tradition of quality is Lance Gimbal, his personal commitment evident in every step of his business.

As a teenager, Lance began his career in the factory – and took that opportunity to learn the confectionary artistry of his great grandfather, Alexander Gimbal. This experience formed his foundation for making truly exceptional candies, bursting with flavor in each and every bite.

Later in his career, on the advice of his father Raynor Gimbal, Lance took an interest in the retail side of confectionary. It was there that he learned to truly listen to customers – coining the phrase “Only good things happen when you talk with customers!” as a company motto.

Since becoming owner in 1985, Lance has pushed his families’ 110-year “Pledge of Quality” to new heights.

Under Lance’s leadership – quality, building a professional management team, and sharing success from top to bottom – are a constant. His breakthrough commitment to “We can accomplish more as a team than any one individual” has resulted in a company that prides itself on long-term customer relationships many spanning decades, a loyal dedicated team that has fun together, and a prosperous business-that has grown more than seven-fold since he has taken the helm.