Walmart’s Melody Phan Rich and Five Below’s Michael Smull Receive Confectionery Leadership Awards

WASHINGTON – The National Confectioners Association and Candy & Snack TODAY have announced the recipients of the 2020 Confectionery Leadership Awards: Melody Phan Rich, Senior Buying Manager – Seasonal Candy, Walmart; and Michael Smull, Senior Buyer, Five Below. The Confectionery Leadership Awards are presented annually at the NCA State of the Industry Conference to recognize 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,” John Downs, president & CEO of the National Confectioners Association, said. “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.”

Melody Phan Rich has represented Walmart in seasonal candy for six years and has demonstrated a talent for bringing stakeholders from across the large retailer together to create seasonal candy moments. Her high level of engagement and appetite for new ideas make Walmart 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.”

Michael Smull has worked in the confectionery industry for eight years, and his passion for the confectionery industry is a key part of Five Below’s success. He has a reputation for encouraging innovation and pinpointing the trends that excite younger shoppers.

“Consumers associate candy with milestones of family and life,” said 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, in collaboration with Candy & Snack TODAY magazine, created the Confectionery Leadership Awards program in 2011 to recognize and honor the confectionery industry’s best and most innovative category champions and leaders. The program allows NCA manufacturers and brokers to recognize these outstanding retailers and wholesalers in the confectionery community for their effective customer marketing, shopper-driven shelving practices and promotion of new items.


About the National Confectioners Association (NCA)
The National Confectioners Association is the trade organization that advances, protects and promotes chocolate, candy, gum and mints, and the companies that make these special treats. As the leading association for the U.S. confectionery industry, NCA helps ensure the public understands and appreciates the unique role that chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle. America’s chocolate and candy companies are committed to transparency, portion guidance, choice and consumer education. Learn more at or follow NCA on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.