SIRIO suggested that, although consistent growth is likely in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., the drivers differ in each market. Demand in China is being propelled by the increasing popularity of probiotics, gummy, and drink formulations, and an easing regulatory environment. However, expanding contract services in the U.S. reflects a relatively low penetration of private labeling for gummy formulations, suggesting that there could be considerable growth in this area in the year ahead.
“In the United States, we predict the gummy segment is at the late growing stage and is entering into maturation. Therefore, as with all mature segments, we will see the private labeling market share going up for the next few years and there will be more competition for basic products,” said Rui Yang, CSO of Sirio Pharma.Another major trend across U.S. is the shift toward “low sugar” or “no sugar” products, specifically those with “no artificial flavors” and “no sweeteners.” Gummies are likely to be the primary dosage form and the challenge, and potential unique selling point for manufacturers will be the ability to provide customer-friendly shapes, textures, and taste profiles. Therefore, major investments and partnerships across R&D in these areas are likely, as companies seek to bring more compelling products to consumers.
In China, gummies are also predicted to see increased market penetration in 2019, with many global brands exploring market entry, and domestic firms looking to meet the rising consumer demand. One factor that has limited entry in China has been the comparative complexity of securing a regulatory (“Blue Hat”) approval for gummy forms. Consequently, branded companies are seeking experienced partners for their commercial launches. Sirio is aiming to lead the market here—as the company is both an innovator and contract services provider in China—boasting more than 130 health foods registrations (“Blue Hats”).
“Though the ‘Blue Hat’ is still the mainstay of the nutrition and health food market in China, the general trend is towards less registrations, and more filings—as the latter takes less time to market. However, only basic nutrients like vitamins and minerals can currently get a license through the filling system, which theoretically shortens the process from three years down to one. Gummy supplements for example, cannot be approved as a filing dosage form and must go through the longer registration track. However—as vitamin gummies might shortly be able to use the filing system— there may in fact be a major opportunity here and we would expect quick growth as the market demand is clearly there. In parallel, we also expect to see customers working increasingly with partners that have a strong pedigree in gummy technology, regulatory approvals and product innovation to overcome these challenges,” commented Yang.
In both Europe and the U.S., vegetarian softgel options are also likely to see expanding growth over the next two years, with consumers becoming increasingly aware of the alternatives to animal-based (gelatin) products. In fact, with rising vegetarian and flexitarian diets—mainly plant based and occasional meat—the vegetarian softgel market is likely to see sustained progress from its relatively low-base over the next three to five years.
In terms of nutrient types, the company reported that some vitamin and mineral nutrients—for example, single vitamin K or combined with vitamin D and calcium, and vitamin B series—are seeing steady growth. The company added that eye protection is becoming increasingly popular across all dosage forms (gummy/softgel/tablet/powder).
For brand-side companies in mature markets, competition is now increasing. So, in 2019, brand owners will be searching for new points of differentiation that can help products standout and command higher margins.
Yang added, “something new is always a magic key to attract the consumer and get a premium price. It could be more convenient packaging, new ingredients, special appearance, whole nature ingredients or vegetarian to support the brand’s value proposition. This is where I expect to see a big concentration of industry effort—how can we improve the consumer experience. Areas like taste, appearance and texture studies are going to become increasingly the norm—especially as vitamins and nutrients are seen by consumers as more like food lifestyle choices.”