NCA announces 2021 Future Leadership Class

Jan. 20, 2021

The Future Leadership Program provides support, education, access and opportunity to young professionals who wish to develop leadership skills and grow their careers in the confectionery industry. NCA's first FLP class was formed in 2016.

The National Confectioners Association recently announced the five confectionery industry professionals selected for its 2021 Future Leadership Program, which is dedicated to helping young professionals across the confectionery industry access networking and professional development opportunities to grow their careers.

“The Future Leadership Program has become a premier experience for young professionals in the confectionery industry,” John Downs, NCA president and chief executive, said. “Our Future Leaders have been instrumental in everything from bolstering our advocacy efforts and understanding our role in social justice initiatives to reimagining and planning for the future of the industry – and much more in between. I look forward to working with the 2021 class – but more importantly learning from them – as we continue to innovate to take NCA to a higher level of success in the years to come.”

The 2021 class includes:

  • Serena Bitzer, Senior Business Analyst, The Hershey Co.
  • Nisha Desai, Director, Strategy and Business Development,, Inc.
  • Mark Puch Jr. (MJ), Key Account Specialist, Primrose Candy Co.
  • Sandi Santa Ana, Category Management Director, Ferrara Candy Co.
  • Becky Silberfarb, Director of Marketing, Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of The Topps Co.

In addition to receiving educational and networking opportunities through the Future Leadership Program, participants will be matched with a highly-regarded industry leader who will serve as a formal mentor.

The 2021 mentors are:

  • Troy Pearley, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Divine Chocolate
  • Sarah Atkinson, Executive Vice President, Atkinson Candy Co.
  • Kirk Vashaw, Chairman & CEO, Spangler Candy Co.
  • Anthony Trani, Vice President of Global Marketing, Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of The Topps Co.
  • Marty Palmer, President & CEO, Palmer Candy Co.

The application process for the 2022 class will open in the summer. Those interested in applying for the program or learning more about how to get involved as a young professional or as a mentor should visit

About the National Confectioners Association (NCA)

The National Confectioners Association is the trade organization that promotes the unique role of chocolate, candy, gum and mints in a happy, balanced lifestyle and the companies that make these special treats. Through advocacy and regulatory guidance, communications, industry insights and retail and supply chain engagement, NCA helps create an environment that enables candy makers and confectionery retailers to thrive. As the leading association for the $36 billion U.S. confectionery industry, NCA works to ensure that chocolate and candy are celebrated for their contributions to culture, society, the economy and everyday moments of joy. Confections are produced in all 50 states, creating jobs for approximately 55,000 workers in more than 1,300 manufacturing facilities across the country. Learn more at or follow NCA on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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