It’s been 10 months since I joined Candy Industry, but it wasn’t until a week ago that I had a chance to partake in an event hosted by the Retail Confectioners International (RCI).
I didn’t realize it, but I was in for a treat.
Aside from celebrating RCI’s 100th birthday during the association’s annual convention and expo, held June 12-16 at the Westin in Lombard, Ill., it was my first glimpse at how the tight-knit group operates: as a family.
“That’s what this group is,” said Francis Cox Jr., president of Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates and past RCI president, during the opening day of the expo.
Cox Jr., whose Wareham, Mass.-based company hadn’t exhibited in awhile, offered a few words between hellos and hugs from customers and fellow manufacturers. He noted RCI, which has a strong history of education, also has a tradition of collaboration.
“There isn’t a person in this room if I had a problem with a recipe or something I couldn’t call,” he said.  
Dan Andersen, who works in sales for West Bridgewater, Mass.-based Hilliard’s Chocolate System, agreed, calling RCI events opportunities for “great friends” to “pick up where they left off.”
“These are the kind of people who want everyone to succeed,” he said.
Andersen also pointed to the importance of bringing young confectionery industry professionals into the mix. Chair of RCI’s associate advisory board, Andersen also heads the committee responsible for the Next Generation initiative, designed to help RCI members in their 20s and 30s build lasting bonds and foster continued interest in trade shows.
“We want people to feel good about being here,” he said.
If the convention’s finale — a 1920’s-themed bash complete with candy cigarettes, gambling tables and a caricature artist -- was an indication, RCI members enjoyed being there. Many were dressed to the nines in pinstripe suits and bedazzled flapper dresses.
Roughly 20 RCI members took part in a murder mystery, which turned the Westin’s Junior Ballroom into “The Juice Joint,” a speakeasy owned by Rosie Marie, also known as RCI Executive Director Angie Burlison.
While I didn’t help the “flappers” and “gangsters” reveal who killed one of their own, I enjoyed watching them work the room and play their roles. It was a great way to end a week of camaraderie and collaboration. Here’s to another century.