Confectionery Leadership Awards Go to Walmart, Five Below Execs

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Confectionery Leadership Awards Go to Walmart, Five Below Execs

By Bridget Goldschmidt - 02/05/2020
Confectionery Leadership Awards Go to Walmart, Five Below Execs Melody Phan Rich
Melody Phan Rich, Walmart

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) and Candy & Snack TODAY magazine have revealed the recipients of the 2020 Confectionery Leadership Awards: Melody Phan Rich, senior buying manager – seasonal candy at Walmart Inc., and Michael Smull, senior buyer at retail discount chain Five Below. The awards are presented annually at the NCA State of the Industry Conference, set for March 1-3 in Boca Raton, Fla., to honor the confectionery industry’s best and most innovative confectionery retail and wholesale professionals.

“Turning an innovative new confectionery product into a consumer favorite would be impossible without the hard work and leadership of our dedicated retail partners,” noted John Downs, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NCA. “The leadership that Melody and Michael have shown in the confectionery category should serve as an example to those looking to continuously impress their shoppers and build partnerships within the confectionery industry.”

In her six years of representing Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart in seasonal candy, Rich has demonstrated a talent for bringing together stakeholders to create seasonal candy moments. Her high level of engagement and appetite for new ideas make Walmart, No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States, a unique destination for each season.

“Any piece of candy you eat has some sort of emotion or memory tied to it that brings back those happy feelings,” said Rich. “Not many other categories out there have that happy connection.”

Confectionery Leadership Awards Go to Walmart, Five Below Execs Michael Smull
Michael Smull, Five Below

Eight-year confectionery veteran Smull’s passion for the confectionery industry is a key part of Philadelphia-based Five Below’s success. He has earned a reputation for encouraging innovation and pinpointing the trends that excite younger shoppers.

“Consumers associate candy with milestones of family and life,” observed Smull. “They link brands and products to life experiences and have emotional attachments to specific products, and that is a lot of responsibility as a buyer. It’s fun to be part of something that brings such joy to people.”

NCA and Candy & Snack TODAY magazine created the Confectionery Leadership Awards program in 2011 to enable NCA manufacturers and brokers to recognize outstanding retailers and wholesalers in the confectionery community for effective customer marketing, shopper-driven shelving practices and promotion of new items.