Director of Product Development
Brown & Haley
Sara Clair, Brown & Haley’s director of product development and chairman of National Confectioners Association (NCA)’s The Confectionery Foundation, has blended candymaking with education throughout her career. Clair formed a dessert catering business in high school and in 1978 while in college, developed a methodology to extend the shelf-life of her premium, fresh cream Silver Elegance truffles.
She hand-dipped at night, attended classes in the morning and delivered to San Francisco Bay area gourmet retailers in the afternoon. After completing undergraduate and master’s degrees at Stanford University, she joined Retail Confectioners International (RCI), sourced equipment, hired employees and increased sales through Fancy Food Show participation.
After marrying Pierson Clair, current vice chairman and ceo of Brown & Haley, Sarah sold her business to start a family. Later she began consulting in product development until her husband joined Brown and Haley as president and ceo in 1997. Upon joining the company’s product development team in 1998, Clair move into technical sales in 2005. In 2014, she formally became director of product development using her past experience and creativity to help launch 15 new ROCA Buttercrunch and MOUNTAIN Bar product extensions.
Since 2011, Clair has served as founding chairman of The Confectionery Foundation for the NCA. She focused the Foundation on education, research and philanthropy creating the Next Generation program to strengthen the industry.
Eighty industry volunteers have introduced more than 450 college-aged students and faculty from 18 schools to confectionery careers through Sweets & Snacks Expo mentor-guided tours. The Foundation is developing internships to inspire food science, robotics and engineering talent. The online map at Confectionlink.org connects consumers with factory tours and outlet stores.
For 10 years, Clair has attended the NCA’s Washington DC Forum and advocated its pro-confectionery political programs. In 2010 she campaigned for the Yes on 1107 ballot proposition, successfully reversing Washington state’s candy tax. She has testified at state and city environmental hearings to expand walkable shorelines.
As chairman and board member of the 84 year-old Western Candy Conference, she transitioned communications and registration to digital while restructuring the finances, education and marketing.
Clair is an advisory board member and guest lecturer at University of Washington, a director of the Greater Metro Parks Foundation and a member of several industry groups such as the American Association of Confectionery Technologists, the Institute of Food Technologists, the National Confectionery Sales Association and an advisory board member for the French Pastry School.