Mintel’s 2016 Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements Report underscored that supplement shoppers are looking to formats like gummies because they like taking vitamins and minerals in fun and easy delivery methods. The report noted that innovative delivery platforms such as gummies, and other confectionery methods, “provide an appreciated departure from consumers’ routine, allowing [the consumer] to have a more sensorial, enjoyable experience than with a tablet.”
According to Mintel data, the majority of MULO (Multi Outlet) gummy vitamin, mineral and supplement (VMS) brands saw increased sales for the 52-weeks ending May 15, 2016. The report cited that Nature Made, one of the strongest performing brands in the VMS category, also happens to have one of the largest SKU assortments of gummies. Coincidence? It seems unlikely. Other new gummy launches, including Centrum Multi-Gummies, First Response Gummies, and the new Olly line, were all strong performers in 2016. In fact, Mintel pointed out that Olly even discontinued several tablet SKU’s from its line, as they paled in comparison to its gummies’ sales.
A recent article on the gummy market featured in The New York Times cited data from Nutrition Business Journal and research company IBISWorld, which found gummy multivitamins accounted for 7.5% of the $6 billion multivitamin market in the U.S. in 2016. Additionally, gummy products now account for $1 billion of the $41 billion supplement market, up 25% from 2015.
Once considered a supplement format reserved for kids, gummies now offer mainstream appeal with adult consumers.
Lara Niemann, marketing director, Americas, for GELITA USA, Sioux City, IA, suggested consumer preference for gelatin gummy delivery systems is wide-reaching and continuing to expand. “What started in the U.S. decades ago in the children’s vitamin category has now exploded to reach a broader audience—including all age groups (teens, adults, seniors) and within those groups to reach specific nutritional requirements (active adults, prenatal, brain health, heart health, skin health, etc.).” However, she noted children continue to have an affinity for ingesting their daily vitamins in this fun and easy delivery system. Adults on the other hand enjoy the familiarity of a gummy, while embracing “the departure from traditional pills or tablets that are often associated with a chalky and unpleasant aftertaste.” She added, “Seniors, in particular those with a compromised ability to swallow (dysphagia-like symptoms), find gummy formats as a great alternative to large, hard-to-swallow pills.”
As the gummy format becomes more pervasive across all consumer categories, specific considerations are needed in order to effectively deliver taste and nutrition.
“Gone are the days of simply adding a vitamin mix to a traditional gummy candy formula,” commented Liz Clarke, CFS, applications scientist at Nitta Gelatin NA Inc., Morrisville, NC. “With advancements in ingredient technologies and product development, gummy supplements can now be customized to meet specific consumer preference. For example, reduced sugar, increased fiber, natural colors and flavors, and specialized texture are all possibilities.”
While vitamins are popular ingredients in the gummy format, Ms. Clarke suggested the number of other nutritional ingredients available in gummies have grown within the past five years. “From your standard multivitamin, to omega-3s and melatonin, to collagen peptides and probiotics—if you can think of it, it can most likely be added to a great-tasting gummy. Gummies designed for specific demographics (prenatal, men’s, kids, etc.) which contain a variety of beneficial micronutrients are also increasingly popular.”
To reach this diverse audience, gummy manufacturers have made innovative developments in recent years. Ms. Clarke explained, “Traditional gummy processing uses starch molds to create the shape of the gummy, and aid in curing. More and more companies are producing starchless molding equipment, which leads to faster processing times, and reduces the possibility of ingredient transfer from batch-to-batch.
GELITA’s technical experts and industry partners are also exploring new gummy concepts, according to Ms. Niemann. For example, GELITA has been exploring ways to replace or reduce sugar in gummies with protein or fiber. “These gummies provide a number of gut health benefits; soluble fiber supports the digestive process and, even at high dosages, they show very good digestive tolerance—and with the added benefit of less sugar.” Ms. Niemann said GELITA also develops gummy supplement concepts that include collagen peptides for skin, joint, and/or bone health applications.
Additionally, Ms. Niemann observed the category evolving to include products for targeted health conditions and specific demographic groups, ranging from brain health, to gut health, to heart health, skin health, men’s, prenatal, women’s, seniors, and more. “Industry efforts are also centered on loading gummies with combinations of ingredients, as opposed to single nutrient formats,” she added.
While gummy supplements are easy to consume, they’re not necessarily easy to produce. Formulating with a gummy as a delivery system presents its own set of unique considerations and challenges.
Director of product development for MegaFood (the Derry, NH-based brand from FoodState), Stacey Gillespie, discussed some of the difficulties with the gummy format. “Outside of the fact that there are a limited number of qualified and experienced manufacturers of gummy vitamins today, one of the biggest hurdles is the limited amount of active nutritional ingredients you can add to the gummy matrix, compared to the amount you can include in a tablet and/or capsule,” she said. “For example, to deliver 250 mg of vitamin C in a gummy, you would need three to four pieces to equal one serving, versus one tablet or capsule to deliver 250 mg vitamin C.”
Nitta Gelatin’s Ms. Clarke said thermoreversibility is both the blessing and the curse of gummies. “Gelatin-based gummies are easy to work with from a production standpoint, because as long as the product remains hot, it can be easily pumped and molded into endless sizes and shapes. However, as anyone who has left a bottle of gummy vitamins in a hot car will tell you, they do have a tendency to melt if subjected to temperatures over 100 F.”
Ms. Niemann from GELITA suggested that formulating gummies with gelatin can help with the temperature-sensitive nature of gummy development. She said gelatin offers ease of use, as well as being “highly soluble and requires lower dissolution temperatures than other hydrocolloids.” Furthermore, she said gelatin’s end product provides the “melt in the mouth” texture, clarity, and “chewability” consumers look for in a gummy supplement.
Clean Label Demands
Many consumers today consider recognizable, naturally sourced products as premium when it comes to supplements, food, personal care, household products, and more. With that sentiment in mind, demand for clean label gummy supplements is gaining steam.
“Clean label options have gained popularity in the gummy supplement segment just as they have in the traditional food and beverage markets,” observed Katie Stevenson, business development manager for Nitta Gelatin. She noted that products are being developed with naturally sourced colors and flavors, often derived from fruit or vegetable juices. “Traceability of ingredients has increased, and so have options for gelling agents,” she added. “Gelatin works particularly well for clean label gummy formulations, as it is derived from sources that are inherently non-GMO, and available in a variety of certified formats (e.g., Kosher, Halal, etc.).” Nitta Gelatin’s R&D team is working to develop more options and prototypes to meet the demands of health conscious gummy supplement users.
MegaFood’s Ms. Gillespie further emphasized strong consumer demand for clean label, as well as its impact on the company’s development of its own gummy line. “As consumers become more mindful over their choice in products, top-selling gummy brands have begun to move away from gelatin-based gummy vitamins to non-GMO and plant-derived pectin versions,” she explained. “This change in formulation is not an easy transition because the finished product attributes between gelatin and pectin are very different, but consumer's preference of pectin over gelatin so far has been substantiated through sales at the register,” she said. Additionally, she noted that many of the most commonly used ingredients in gummy products, such as flavors, colors, corn syrup, and corn starch, are derived from genetically modified foods/ingredients. “Consumer's avoiding genetically modified foods and purchasing gummy vitamins need to closely evaluate the label and look for third-party, non-GMO certifications to ensure they are purchasing a non-GMO gummy product.”
To meet the needs of consumers seeking clean label gummies, MegaFood is on the path to creating its own line of gummy supplements, while allowing consumers a front row seat to its development process.
From concept to finish, MegaFood’s “Gummy Bare All” is giving consumers the opportunity to follow the real-time evolution of the products from conception to market. The company is also seeking consumer feedback along the way.
Discussing the company’s initiative, Ms. Gillespie noted several key factors that drove MegaFood to jump into the gummy market. The first reason was requests from retailers and consumers looking for gummy alternatives to its tablets. Next, she said, “Many requests also asked that we make ‘Mega’ gummies made with farm fresh foods, simple ingredients, and up to the standards of quality they expect from MegaFood. And just to be sure our new gummy concept would resonate with consumers, we also surveyed 1,000 consumers who regularly take dietary supplements to see if they liked the MegaFood gummy vitamin concept and if they would buy them. Fortunately, the survey showed that consumers had a very high degree of likeability of a MegaFood gummy vitamin and that they had a very high level of intent to buy.”