Candyceuticals: The new nutritional delivery system?

Nutritional Outlook, Nutritional Outlook Vol. 24 No. 9, Volume 24, Issue 9

Do “candyceuticals” let consumers have their cake and not feel guilty about eating it, too?

Who can take a sunrise and sprinkle it with dew? According to the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” the Candy Man can. While most manufacturers will find sunrise and dewdrops challenging ingredients to work with, emerging trends in delivery systems are giving rise to a new class of good-for-you confectionery items that deliver functional ingredients in the form of a sweet treat.

As interest in candyceuticals grows, confectionery is offering more flexibility as a delivery system, growing beyond gummies and into chocolate, candy, chewing gum, and more. Here are some of the ways the confectionery space is transforming nutraceutical delivery systems.

Functional Chocolate Combines Decadence and Nutrition

Fortified chocolate is a relatively new invention but one that’s taking off. Nicole Smith, CEO and cofounder of The Functional Chocolate Company (Evergreen, CO), says dark chocolate, in particular, is an ideal delivery system for functional ingredients. Smith contends that dark chocolate is already a functional food due to its high concentration of antioxidants, flavanols, and minerals. Not only that, but its high fat concentration improves the bioavailability of added nutraceuticals, she says.

Perhaps most importantly, chocolate performs well where several other delivery systems fall down: in the taste department. “Our approach to making our products both functional and delicious involves pairing the right flavors to complement the active ingredients rather than trying to hide or fight the botanical flavors,” Smith explains. “For example, our Rhythm Bar for PMS includes ginger as an active ingredient. Instead of trying to cover up that strong ginger flavor, the bar is ginger snap flavored.”

The Functional Chocolate Company’s Rhythm Bar is formulated with the branded and trademarked PurGinger, a powdered ginger (Zingiber officinale) ingredient manufactured by Applied Food Sciences (Austin, TX). PurGinger is formulated to be highly water soluble and shelf stable for two years.

While some ingredients like ginger can enhance the taste of chocolate, other ingredients, like valerian root, don’t work so well. The Functional Chocolate Company uses natural bitter blockers to mask unpalatable flavors when working with bitter ingredients. Smith says her company is very conscious of consumer concerns around sugar, and its formulations aim to make the product as widely accessible as possible without compromising on taste. The company’s initial formulations contain 5 grams per serving of non-GMO, fair-trade cane sugar, and The Functional Chocolate Company is currently working to develop new formulations that use alternative sweeteners.

Confectionery Delivery Systems Parallel the Cannabis Market

Smith says that while there are endless delivery system options for nutraceutical ingredients, several of these options have stalled and remain novelties. This trend, she says, mirrors one in the legal cannabis market. Cannabis brands have added tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to all sorts of products, from hot sauce to ice cream, but the majority of these options haven’t achieved mass-market appeal and remain little more than interesting novelties.

“The top categories in edible cannabis are gummies followed by chocolate, which mirrors the vitamin and supplement space,” she explains. “Powders, drink mixes, and other traditional delivery methods will remain the top categories, and other novelties will pop up. But we anticipate chocolate will be the next big disruptor, following the path of the gummy supplement market.”

Balancing Nutritional Load and Price Considerations

While some confectionery products like chocolate and gummies are rapidly growing in popularity, challenges remain. Peter Losee, senior manager of business development for Corbion (Lenexa, KS), says creating an effective confectionery nutraceutical demands that formulators consider not only functionality and taste but also nutritional load and price.

“It comes down to the amount of [a nutrient] that can be included in the product without affecting other attributes like taste, texture, and stability,” Losee explains. “Once that balance is determined, the supplement may require a consumer to take two or three pieces to equal the nutrition in another format like tablets. Given the taste of confectionery, however, most consumers seem to be very comfortable with the increased number of pieces to gain the necessary nutrition value.”

Corbion’s internal data show that mineral-fortified gummies grew by 35% in the last 12 months, with North America accounting for 65% of the global market. Losee says many of the fastest-growing applications in nutraceutical confectionery revolve around immunity. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, nutraceutical confectionery consumers are driving a significant sales jump in vitamin and mineral confectionery products. Ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and magnesium are among those experiencing the most significant growth. Other emerging areas of focus in candyceuticals, Losee notes, include sleep, vision, and hair growth.

Confectioneries of Tomorrow

Candyceuticals continue to expand into new applications and delivery formats. While gummies have dominated the headlines as the next big thing in delivery systems, innovative brands are discovering that confectionery has much to offer. Nutraceutical chocolate, candy, and gum are on the rise, and their growth will open up new opportunities for formulators who are willing to experiment.