Who’s Who in the Candy Industry? Five Influencers to Watch This Halloween Season

A Halloween shopper browsing the candy aisle of their local grocery store faces an endless array of choices. Mini chocolate bars. Sour and chewy candy. Variety packs of all shapes and sizes. But beneath all that sugary diversity are a few major players – almost every candy on those shelves is made by one of just ten corporations. Who are these titans of the candy industry? In honor of Halloween, we took a look at the influencers who decide what trick-or-treaters will take home this year.

The Environmentalist: Grant F. Reid, CEO and Office of the President at Mars, Inc

Mars Inc. is a household name and the maker of M&Ms, Snickers, Starbursts and other Halloween favorites. Grant Reid, Mars President and CEO since 2015, has been with the company for over three decades.

Under Reid’s leadership, Mars has dedicated itself to sustainability. The company recently pledged $1 billion toward “urgent threats” like climate change, poverty and scarcity of resources. Company representatives have been outspoken in support of the Paris Climate Agreement, and in opposition to US withdrawal. Reid said in a statement:

”Mars has been in business for four generations and intends to be for the next four generations. The only way that will happen is if we do things differently to ensure that the planet is healthy and all people in our extended supply chains have the opportunity to thrive.”

In addition to his work at Mars, Reid served on the Business & Sustainable Development Coalition alongside Merck CEO Ken Frazier, Alibaba Founder Jack Ma and other leaders.

The Pioneer: Michele Buck, CEO and President of Hershey

Michele Buck became President and CEO of Hersey in March 2017. Buck is the first female CEO in Hershey history and one of only 24 women currently leading an S&P 500 company.

Buck credits her family’s modest background as the source of her work ethic. In an interview, she told Fortune:

“My mother lived on a farm with no indoor plumbing. My father was the first in his family to graduate from high school and I learned very early the values and virtues of hard work. I think there is no substitute for hard work.”

Buck is a woman to watch outside the candy industry as well. She was recently appointed lead director of New York Life Insurance Company, a private insurance company with over $27B in annual revenue.

The Polymath: Dirk Van de Put, Chairman and CEO of Mondelez International

Halloween favorites Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish are made by snack food conglomerate Mondelez International. Mondelez Chairman and CEO Dirk Van de Put hasn’t always been in the candy industry. Although his background includes early stints at Mars and Coca-Cola, Van de Put also spent time at Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. He also served on the board of Mattel as an independent director for six years.

Van de Put’s international background is likely an asset for Mondelez. The company is headquartered in the United States, but its holdings include major global brands like Oreo, Cadbury and Nabisco.

The Dealmaker: Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé

Nestlé, once a dominant presence on American candy shelves, has been making a lot of moves recently. In early 2018, the company sold its US confectionary business, including the Butterfinger and Baby Ruth brands, to the Italian candy company Ferrero International. The sale of one of many moves the company has made under the leadership of CEO Mark Schneider. During Schneider’s tenure, Nestlé has made key acquisitions in coffee and nutrition, including Blue Bottle Coffee and the rights to sell Starbucks packaged products.

Unlike Grant Reid, Michele Buck, Dirk Van de Put and other candy industry leaders, Schneider did not spend many years at the company he now leads. Before joining Nestle as CEO, he led the healthcare company Fresenius Group.

The Lobbyist: John Downs, President and CEO of the National Confectioners Association

Rounding out the list of candy industry influencers is John Downs, who leads the National Confectioners Association. Downs has a long career in government relations. He most recently served as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca Cola, and held related positions at the American Beverage Association and the Glass Packaging Institute.

As befits one of the confectionary industry’s top lobbyists, Downs is very well-connected. RelSci reveals over 2,000 connections between Downs and key industry leaders, government officials, and other decision-makers. His top connections include Tootsie Roll CEO Ellen Gordon, Galerie Founder Richard Ross, and Spangler Candy CEO Kirkland Vashaw.

Learn More

Treat yourself this Halloween to deep profiles of influencers like Grant Reid, Michele Buck, Dirk Van de Put, Mark Schneider and John Downs. Request a demo of RelSci today.

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