John H. Downs, Jr. – Tuesday Evening Keynote Speaker, President and CEO, National Confectioners Association
John H. Downs, Jr. was named president and chief executive officer of the National Confectioners Association and NCA’s Chocolate Council in 2014. As the chief representative of the association, John manages strategic direction and daily operations of the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, and serves as the primary voice for the $34 billion U.S. confectionery industry. The association has a robust public policy agenda, hosts the American confectionery industry’s largest trade show, the Sweets & Snacks Expo, conducts scientific and shopper research, has a well-established international marketing program for U.S.-made products and serves as the primary voice for the chocolate, cocoa, non-chocolate and gum industries in the United States across a variety of audiences.
Before joining the confectionery industry, John had a 28-year career in the Coca-Cola system, most recently serving as vice president, senior advisor to the president of Coca-Cola Americas for The Coca-Cola Company. He led a team at The Coca-Cola Company that included the international government relations and public affairs group, as well as the corporate government relations and diplomatic teams in the company’s Washington and New York offices. He built an international government relations network and public affairs capability in more than 25 countries with a focus on emerging and developing countries. Prior to this, John was senior vice president of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola Enterprises, the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottler at the time. He built the function from the initial public offering and was responsible for government relations, corporate responsibility and sustainability, crisis communications, internal and external communications, and community relations. He has a deep knowledge of the consumer products industry, as well as a keen sense of business acumen.
John began his career in government relations as a legislative assistant to the speaker of the house in Maryland. He expanded his government relations background by serving as director of governmental affairs at the Glass Packaging Institute, a national trade association in Washington, D.C., and as the director of state and local governmental affairs for the American Beverage Association. John has also served on numerous non-profit boards.
He holds a BA degree in political science from Washington College in Chestertown, MD, and undertook graduate work in the MBA program at Loyola College in Baltimore.