NCA Future Leadership Program

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].

Program Benefits:

  • Participation in meaningful discussions to help shape the confectionery industry to be more inclusive of young professionals
  • 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 and Candy & Snack TODAY magazine

Eligibility Requirements:

  • 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, 2022. 
  • Candidate must have at least three (3) cumulative years of professional experience in the confectionery industry as of January 1, 2022. 
  • 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. 

2021 Class of Future Leaders

Serena Bitzer

Serena Bitzer

Senior Business Analyst, The Hershey Company

Serena Bitzer is a senior business analyst at Hershey and has previously worked in Hershey’s Continuous Improvement and Operations Business Development divisions. Serena’s life-long passion for candy started as a child! For her elementary school play about Pennsylvania history, she chose the role of the Hershey Kiss; it was fate that she ended up working at The Hershey Company. Serena holds degrees in Engineering, Food Science, Supply Chain Management and is pursuing her MBA. Serena is proud to serve on the board of the Professional Manufacturing Confectioners Association and the leadership team of the Hershey Women’s Business Resource Group as well as other community organizations.

Nisha Desai

Nisha Desai

Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Daily Harvest

Nisha joined Daily Harvest in 2021 as Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships. Prior to Daily Harvest, she had been with, Inc. since 2014, working on multiple growth initiatives, including the management of the business transformation process following the Harry & David acquisition and the launch of the company’s newest brand, Simply Chocolate. Nisha is passionate about leveraging macroeconomic trends and consumer insights to drive growth. Nisha began her career as an economics officer at the State Department, advocating on behalf of American companies abroad. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a B.S.F.S from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

MJ Puch

Mark Puch Jr. (MJ)

Key Account Specialist, Primrose Candy Company

A fourth-generation candy manufacturer, Mark Puch Jr. is a key account specialist focusing on new business development at Primrose Candy Company. Mark is passionate about creating innovative and cutting-edge products that contribute to the growth of the confectionery industry and is involved in the Chicago Candy Production Club and the Chicago Entrepreneurial & Family Business Council. He graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.

Sandi Santa Ana

Sandi Santa Ana

Category Management Director, Ferrara Candy Company

Sandi Santa Ana is a director of category management at Ferrara, helping build Ferrara’s category management function since its inception five years ago. She brings to the role her enthusiasm for storytelling and ability to turn data into actionable insights across multiple customers and channels, driving growth in the category. Sandi is passionate about driving diversity & inclusion in the workplace as the co-founder of the ¡UNIDOS! (United Latinos of Ferrara) employee resource group, and she is an active member of Ferrara’s Diversity & Inclusion Council. Before joining the confectionery industry, Sandi started her CPG career through the Sales Leadership Development Program at Johnson & Johnson.

Becky Silberfarb

Becky Silberfarb

Director of Marketing, Bazooka Candy Brands, a Division of The Topps Company

Becky Silberfarb is the director of marketing for Bazooka Candy Brands (BCB), leading brand strategy and driving growth on some of the most fun, nostalgic and innovative candy brands. Since joining the company in 2016, Becky has commercialized several key innovations for the company including Ring Pop® Gummy Gems and Push Pop® Gummy Roll. Additionally, she leads brand positioning and integrated marketing campaigns for all U.S brands. Before joining BCB, Becky supported marketing activations at Dannon on the Activia® and Danimals® brands. She holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

2020 Class of Future Leaders
Lisa Eustic

Lisa Eustic

Senior Marketing Director, The Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc. Lisa Eustic is currently a senior marketing director at The Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc. (PIM), focusing on the company’s snack portfolio. Since joining PIM in 2011, Lisa has worked to drive growth across the company’s portfolio of consumer loved confections and snacks, including America’s #1 fruit snacks brand, Welch’s® Fruit Snacks, via impactful 360-degree marketing and disruptive innovation. Prior to joining PIM in 2011, Lisa worked on market-leading beauty brands at Avon and L’Oreal.

Betsy Hritz

Betsy Hritz

Regional Sales Manager for Vending, Military & Special Markets, Just Born Quality Confections Betsy Hritz is a regional sales manager for the specialty, vending and military channels for Just Born Inc. Betsy has been with Just Born for over 10 years, beginning in Just Born’s internship program and progressing to its national convenience and grocery retail programs. She has held multiple roles across Just Born’s sales and trade show teams. Earlier this year, she received her MBA in food marketing from St. Joseph’s University.

Liz Miller

Liz Miller

Liz Miller was most recently the senior marketing manager at Divine Chocolate, where she led the company’s marketing efforts for five years. She began her career in various nonprofit marketing and communications roles and completed a Master’s degree in International Human Rights. Liz also volunteers on the leadership team for the Washington D.C. Chapter of Ellevate Network, a global professional development network committed to helping women succeed in business.

Takuma Oka

Takuma Oka

Director of Sales, Morinaga America, Inc. Takuma (Tak) Oka is the director of sales for Morinaga America Inc. He joined Morinaga America in 2010 and was involved in the early stages of the introduction of HI-CHEW fruit chews to the U.S. market. In his current role, he manages HI-CHEW’s business portfolio and strategy across all classes of trade. Tak previous held the role of National Sales Manager.

Mathew Rubinstein

Vice President, Billie-Ann Plastics Packaging Corp. Mathew Rubinstein is the vice president of Billie-Ann Plastics Packaging Corp. and has been with Billie-Ann Plastics since 2008. After receiving an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business, he has committed to modernizing and continuing the legacy of Billie-Ann Plastics, which has been in business since 1973. To that end, Mathew became certified through NYU’s Sustainability Training for Business Leaders in order to work toward a goal of making the company zero-waste certified.

2019 Class of Future Leaders
Steve Casey

Steve Casey

National Sales Manager, Melville Candy After attending Boston College, Steve moved to Los Angeles where he became a talent agent in Hollywood representing celebrities and brand endorsements. From there he became the VP of Business Development for an experiential marketing agency called NVE based in Los Angeles. Steve then co-founded a marketing agency which was bought out shortly thereafter representing high-profile brands such as Beats by Dre, GoPro and Sonos by age 28. In 2014, he moved back east and has been with Melville Candy as the National Sales Director worldwide. Since joining, the company has grown over 75% in gross sales. For the last five years, Steve has been a member of NCA and active in YPN.

Natalie Herr

Natalie Herr

Senior National Accounts Sales Manager, Hawaiian Host Natalie worked in the confection industry for nearly four years at Russell Stover Chocolates. Over that time she took on many new roles and challenges within the wholesale department. She began with 10, smaller regional grocery accounts as a new hire and within five months was promoted to manage larger grocery and mass businesses. Since then Natalie continued to take on new and larger accounts and was promoted to a Team Leader position where she was able to explore mentoring and managing a team. Most recently, she has made the move to Hawaiian Host as Senior National Accounts Sales Manager.

Michele Polito

Michele Polito

Corporate Buying Director, Sugar Factory Michele launched her professional career in 2002 as an Assistant Buyer for Dylan’s Candy Bar. In 2006, she took her passion and acquired expertise for retail buying to Saks Fifth Avenue, buying and developing products in categories such as Intimate Apparel and Designer Men’s Shoes. Always having a craving to get back into the Candy Industry, she returned to Dylan’s Candy Bar in 2013 as a buyer for Everyday Candy and Collaborative Partnerships. Soon after her return, she was promoted to Senior Buyer where she was the driving force on all R&D of Dylan’s Candy Bar branded and licensed product. She worked closely on licensing deals with partners like Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, Sanrio and Nickelodeon. Michele spearheaded all product assortments as it pertains to global expansion, launching Dylan’s Candy Bar in Canada and the Middle East. Michele joined Sugar Factory as Corporate Buying Director in May 2019. Outside of work, she continues to give back to her community by supporting two philanthropic organizations: the New York Chapter of St. Jude and Habitat for Humanity. serving on both for over 13 years.

Tessa Porter

Tessa Porter

President & Owner, Sprinkk Tessa is the president and owner of Sprinkk, a Nebraska-based startup focusing on confectionery process design and small scale manufacturing. She is a food science graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and she completed her master’s degree at the UW-Madison studying sucrose crystallization under Dr. Rich Hartel. Tessa has been involved in the confectionery industry since 2007 through her work at the UNL Food Processing Center, The Hershey Company and Ferrara Candy Company. In 2016, she joined Glanbia Performance Nutrition to combine her passion of confectionery science with her health and wellness interests, and in 2018, she returned to pure confections at Ferrara. She has been actively involved with PMCA, AACT and NCA events focusing on student involvement.

Mike Terroni

Mike Terroni

Vice President of Grocery, HWY Partners A second generation in the confection industry, Micke attended industry events as a child with aspirations of becoming a part of it. With 10+ years of industry experience, Mike is the Vice President of Grocery and leads a broker sales team in the NYC Metro market. A recent recipient of Ghiradelli’s Top Broker Award, Mike has a track record of delivering results. Prior to joining HWY Partners, Mike held various positions at Mars Chocolate, including national sales with responsibility for a top 10 customer and in customer marketing where he was on development teams that launched over 50 new products.

2018 Class of Future Leaders


Channel Lead – Brand Licensing & Ingredient Sales, Mars Wrigley Confectionery Arsh Ghuman is the Channel Lead – Brand Licensing & Ingredient Sales for Mars Wrigley Confectionery. During her time with the company, Arsh has transformed e-commerce into a core competency at Mars Chocolate – shaping the value proposition and positioning. She has also built an assortment management framework to identify opportunities for product, pricing, and promotion on Amazon and Traveling the world is in Arsh’s DNA as she has visited nearly 20 countries and doesn’t foresee stopping anytime soon.


Head of Marketing, HARIBO of America, Inc. Lana Jones began her career within CPG in 2008 with ECRM. During her time as a Retail Director, she was given the opportunity to work closely with retailers and developed a passion for the confectionery industry. Since leaving ECRM, she has had the opportunity to work as a Brand Manager for Russell Stover, Associate Category Manager for Candy at Walgreens, and Brand Manager for HARIBO of America. Through these experiences, Lana has developed an understanding of manufacturing, product development, brand marketing and merchandising.


Inside Sales Manager, Adams & Brooks Originally from a small town, farm and big family, Sharon learned early on the value of hard work and dedication. Now, she says she’s blessed with a fun and challenging career in an industry that she loves. Sharon started with Adams & Brooks as a Marketing & Sales Assistant, and has since climbed up the ladder increasing her responsibilities as Inside Sales Manager. She interfaces directly with brokers and customers, developing strategies and products, and enjoys staying abreast on industry issues. She is passionate about building relationships and developing her leadership skills.


President, Jason Scott Specialty Foods Jason Musick’s whole life has been surrounded by the food business. His father, Gary Musick, ran various food companies while he was growing up. Jason graduated with two business degrees at Drake University, followed by an MBA in general business at Lynn University in Boca Raton. During his time in school and shortly after, he worked multiple jobs in various food areas from hospitality to catering to production. Through these experiences, Jason has absorbed as much knowledge as possible which led to the creation of his own business in 2015.


R&D Corporate Manager – Product Development, Blommer Chocolate Company Melissa Tisoncik has worked for Blommer for seven years and was recently promoted to the position of R&D Corporate Manager-Product Development. In her role, Melissa leads a cross-site team of managers that provide technical services support in North America, Canada, and China. She earned her B.A. in chemistry from Illinois Wesleyan University and a M.S. in Food Science from the UIUC. She has served as the Chairperson of the AACT Chicago Section since 2013 and has spoken at both AACT and PMCA national conferences since joining the industry.

2017 Class of Future Leaders
Becca Mandru


Director, Drug Channel, Carlin Group
Becca launched her career within the retail industry in 2009 as a Merchandise Analyst at Kohl’s Corporation. In 2010, she took her knowledge and passion for retail to Walgreens Corporation, where she landed on the promotional planning team. She analyzed the effectiveness and profitability of the promotions run at Walgreens and developed an innovated new promotional planning tool that aided decision making across all retail categories. In July 2012, Becca was promoted to a Category Specialist of Confections and has been in the Confection Industry ever since. During her time at Walgreens, she was busy establishing a reputation of taking on new categories and ensuring growth. She also had a wonderful opportunity during her time at Walgreens to help launch WNEXT, Walgreens Young Professionals Business Resource Group. In 2015, Becca took her experience and moved into the broker community, working first as a Business Manager at the Carlin Group (formerly Carlin O’Brien). She used her wealth of knowledge from a retail perspective to help drive growth and advise confection manufacturers on the development of best in class retail programs. In 2016, she was promoted to Director of Business Development and Strategy for the Carlin Group, tasked with the execution of the strategic vision of Carlin Group’s clients within the Drug Channel.

Kate McAleer


Owner & Founder, Bixby & Co.
Kate McAleer is an owner and founder of Bixby & Co., an artisan confectionary producer located in the historic working waterfront of Rockland, Maine. Bixby & Co. was founded in 2011 to produce and sell unique natural and organic chocolate products. Kate earned her honors BA from New York University and holds diplomas in pastry arts and culinary management from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. The first Bixby Bars were developed after experimentation and trial and error in the family kitchen and are currently sold across the country in over a 1000 specialty and natural food stores. Kate is the 2014 Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad Winner, MaineBiz 2014 “Nexter” of the top 10 people impacting Maine’s economy, and the 2015 Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Maine and 2016 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow and Tory Burch Foundation Grand pitch prize winner of $100,000.

Rutherford Ross


Vice President of Sales, nib mor, Inc.
Ross Rutherford began his career in the CPG industry with The Carlin Group (formerly BeaconUnited Cincinnati) as a Category Analyst shortly after completing his Master’s Degree in Organizational Communication at the University of Cincinnati. Within six months, Ross was promoted to a Senior Confection Analyst and began working on numerous special projects for Kroger’s Seasonal Category Manger. In his first year as a Business Manager, Ross won Ghirardelli’s Broker Incentive Trip for year over year sales growth. In October 2014 Ross made the transition to the manufacturer side of the industry, joining DeMet’s Candy Company as the Central Region Business Manager. In January 2016, DeMet’s and Godiva – both owned by Yildiz Holdings – merged their North American sales teams to create pladis North America, a division of pladis global. In the new organization, Ross transitioned to Manager, Customer Marketing and has started to lead an organizational change in the way DeMet’s and Godiva communicate their story to the trade. In addition, Ross is working to build the brands by driving a deeper understanding of channel specific needs and opportunities, managing the flow of communication between sales and marketing, and strengthening the way the team operates as a holistic unit.

Caitlan Servian


Assistant Brand Manager, Just Born Quality Confections
Caitlin Servian is a passionate and dedicated Assistant Brand Manager for the PEEPS® Brand at Just Born Quality Confections. A 2011 summa cum laude graduate of Moravian College, Caitlin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Management, with a focus in Marketing and a minor in Mathematics. Caitlin currently works on the iconic seasonal candy brand, PEEPS®. In her role, Caitlin works on brand partnerships, manages the Christmas portfolio, and is currently planning for the Easter 2017 launch of PEEPS® Delights™. Selfless service is important to Caitlin. Each summer, she serves as a Just Born mentor to a select group of high school students through Lehigh University’s Iacocca Institute’s Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship, coaching the students on a project and preparing them to present in front of Just Born leadership. Caitlin also participates in a yearly program that allows college students to learn more about business and marketing through job-shadowing.

pladis North America, Anthony Trani


Vice President, Global Marketing, Topps Confections
Anthony Trani is currently the Global VP of Marketing and Innovation for Bazooka Candy Brands (BCB), the confectionery division of The Topps Company. Prior to joining BCB in 2009, Anthony worked in the Snacks Business Unit of Kraft Foods, currently a part of Mondelez. Since joining BCB, Anthony has worked to consistently grow both the BCB business and confections category by ramping up innovation activity and enhancing marketing programs. Through his work, Anthony has also had the opportunity to travel to and learn about the confectionery markets in Europe, South America, Korea, and Japan. He is incredibly proud of the BCB marketing team and the hard work they put in each and every day to drive the business forward both here in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to his dedication to work, Anthony is passionate about service in the community. He currently serves as a Board Member and Finance Committee Chair for Brooklyn Community Housing and Services, an organization that provides safe and clean supportive housing for more than 1,000 formerly homeless women, children and men, with its mission being to end homelessness in Brooklyn, NY.

2016 Class of Future Leaders
Sarah Atkinson Headshot

Sarah Atkinson

Atkinson Candy Company
Sarah is the fourth generation of Atkinson family members to carry on the Atkinson Candy Company heritage. Sarah started working for Atkinson Candy Company during high school spending the summers assisting with administrative duties, trade shows and retail sales in the factory store. In 2007, Sarah became the marketing director for Atkinson Candy Company with full-time responsibilities in trade promotions, product innovation, trade events and office management. Today, Sarah is actively involved in all strategic planning, brand management, marketing activities and event planning for Atkinson Candy Company.

Elizabeth Clair Headshot

Elizabeth Clair

Barry Callebaut
Elizabeth Clair is national confectionery sales manager for Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa company, and a third generation member of the American confectionery industry. A strong supporter of career-focused education, she actively participates in The Confectionery Foundation, the Curriculum Advisory Board of The French Pastry School in Chicago, as well as the Western Candy Conference, American Association of Candy Technologists and Institute of Food Technologists.

Byard Ebling Headshot

Byard Ebling

Shankman & Associates
Byard Ebling is a vlient development manager for Shankman & Associates. He oversees the client relationship as well as all aspects of sales, team management and revenue for the entire Shankman & Associates business for those key accounts. That client list today includes some of the most important confectionary companies that Shankman & Associates has in their total market basket of partnerships. In correlation to the success at Shankman & Associates and reputation in the market, Byard was nominated and voted in as the youngest board member for the Northern Ohio AGMR Trade Organization in January 2015.

Amy Guittard Headshot

Amy Guittard

Guittard Chocolate Company
Amy’s involvement at Guittard not only includes marketing activities, but also sourcing and sustainability, serving on several committees for the World Cocoa Foundation and often traveling to origin to meet with farmers, buyers and traders to continue Guittard’s long-standing tradition of collaborating on the ground with those closest to the source. Most recently, Amy led the brand refresh and launched several new consumer and professional products for the 146-year-old brand. In August 2015, Chronicle Books published Amy’s first cookbook, Guittard Chocolate Cookbook, Decadent Recipes from San Francisco’s Premium Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Company.

Chris Jenco Headshot

Chris Jenco

Jenco Brothers’ Candy
Chris began writing a business plan for the candy store he now owns with his brother while he was a senior at Hobart College. He did all the demolition on the building that would become Jenco Brothers’ Candy before working with a local architect. Local businesses have recognized the brand Chris created as one that is valuable to partner with. Proctor & Gamble has brought teams of engineers to the store for question-and-answer sessions with Chris on customer sensory experiences, mix and match products, and other topics relating to their fabric care line.