Invest in Your Future
NCA’s Future Leadership Program (FLP) is designed to provide support, education, access and opportunity to young professionals who wish to advance into the ranks of confectionery leadership. Through its implementation, NCA hopes to encourage more young professionals to assume such leadership positions and develop a more diverse pool of leaders within the industry.
Each year, NCA’s Future Leadership Program awards up to eight deserving young professionals (40 and under) an exclusive opportunity for networking and professional development. For one year, Future Leaders receive recognition among their colleagues and a hand-selected professional industry mentor, as well as complimentary registration to NCA’s three signature events, NCA’s Leadership Summit held in July and the Candy Hall of Fame weekend.
For more information on how Future Leaders are selected, view the Future Leadership Program evaluation criteria. If you have questions about the application or selection process, please contact [email protected].
- Participation in meaningful discussions to help shape the confectionery industry
- Formal mentorship by an industry leader, facilitated by NCA
- Networking opportunities with rising stars from the Young Professionals Network (YPN)
- Opportunities to collaborate with established thought leaders from the confectionery industry and NCA community
- Complimentary registration to NCA’s signature events, including the State of the Industry Conference, Sweets & Snacks Expo, NCA Leadership Summit and Washington Forum
- Complimentary registration to the Candy Hall of Fame weekend
- Industry recognition including, but not limited to CandyUSA.com and Candy & Snack TODAY magazine
- Candidate must be a current employee of an NCA member company or qualified retail customer.
- Candidate must be 40 years of age or younger as of January 1, 2023.
- Candidate must have at least three (3) cumulative years of professional experience in the confectionery industry as of January 1, 2023.
- Candidate must aspire to executive leadership within the confectionery industry.
- Candidate must demonstrate commitment and dedication to NCA and the confectionery industry.
- Candidate must have the support of their employer to participate if selected.
2022 Class of Future Leaders
Customer Business Leader, Mars Wrigley North America
Ashton Batten leads Mars Wrigley’s largest U.S. sales desk: the Walmart take-home candy business. In this role, she is responsible for executing Mars Wrigley’s confectionery vision and strategy with the world’s largest retailer. Ashton is passionate about cultivating collaborative relationships, developing people through great line management and finding novel solutions to business problems. She is based in northwest Arkansas where she lives with her husband, Cody.
Industry Mentor: Sylvia Buxton, President & CEO, Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc.
Key Account Manager – Target, Ferrara Candy Company
William Felder is the Ferrara Candy Company’s national key account manager for Target’s seasonal confectionery business. After beginning his confectionery career at Mars in category management supporting Family Dollar and Target, he joined Ferrara Candy Company in 2019 as a category manager supporting Target and Albertsons. He then moved to be the key account manager for convenience, before being promoted to his current position. In addition to his current role, William serves on Ferrara’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and is a co-chair of the Black Employee Resource Group. William currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
Industry Mentor: Rick Brindle, Vice President, Industry Development, Mondelēz International, Inc.
National Account Manager, Haribo of America, Inc.
Tony Fontana is Haribo’s national account manager supporting the Target, Walgreens and Rite Aid businesses. After a short stint selling copiers and nine years in analytics and category management at the Nielsen Company and ConAgra, he joined the Haribo team, progressing through roles in marketing, category management and regional sales before taking his current position. Tony is an active member of the National Confectioners Association and its Young Professionals Network and has served on NCA’s State of the Industry Conference and Sweets & Snacks Expo committees.
Industry Mentor: Mike Gilroy, VP of Trade Development & Sponsorship, Mars Wrigley North America
Director of Sales, North, Shankman & Associates, Inc.
Jonathan Hartigan brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as director of sales for Shankman & Associates, Inc., where he oversees Shankman’s north region. Blending analytics, sales experience, and relationship building, Jonathan has previously held multiple roles in category strategy and sales within Shankman, all while playing a significant role with sales teams in developing meaningful customer and client strategies. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife and two sons.
Industry Mentor: Brandon Sagotz, Director Customer Marketing & Industry Relations, Ferrara Candy Company
R&D Manager, Guittard Chocolate Company
Rebecca Kuehn provides technical leadership in innovation and chocolate-making at Guittard Chocolate Company, and her work has led to new product launches, improvements and production line startups domestically and internationally. Introduced to the industry while researching chocolate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rebecca earned her M.S. in Food Science & Technology from University of California – Davis and worked in previous R&D roles at Nestle Confections & Snacks and Olam Cocoa before joining Guittard. She also serves as Professional Manufacturing Confectioners Association’s West Region Chair.
Industry Mentor: Mitchell Goetze, Chief Executive Officer, Goetze’s Candy Company, Inc.
Director of Global Marketing, Mauna Loa, Hawaiian Host Group
Danielle Laubenstein is the director of global marketing for Mauna Loa, overseeing the brand’s repositioning into becoming Hawaiʻi’s premier health & wellness brand by transforming the Macadamia Nut into new product categories across grocery aisles. Danielle has worked in the CPG health & wellness and luxury confectionery space for over a decade for companies such as Chocolove, Godiva and DFS (an LVMH company), delivering double-digit revenue growth.
Industry Mentor: Emily Edmondson, Sales Director, Galerie
Associate Director, Seasonals and Innovations, PIM Brands, Inc.
As associate director of seasonals and innovations for PIM Brands, Inc., Daniel Mendelsohn applies his extensive experience in brand and product development, for international CPG brands, and his passion for innovation and design thinking. In addition to his current role, Daniel serves as a mentor and advisor at Pace University on the topics of design and innovation. He is based in New York with his wife and daughter.
Industry Mentor: Byard Ebling, Vice President of Sales, Shankman & Associates, Inc.
Marketing Brand Director, Ferrero USA, Inc.
Miguel Zorrilla is the senior director of marketing at Ferrero USA. Over the last two years, he has led Ferrero’s Butterfinger business, unlocking 15% growth on the core business and managing a cross-functional team that executes on projects across the Butterfinger business. Before joining the team at Ferrero, Miguel worked at Mars Wrigley in a variety of roles focusing on brand management and innovation.
Industry Mentor: Josh Shapiro, Chief Marketing Officer, PIM Brands, Inc.