Today’s dietary supplement gummies are more colorful, unique, and memorable thanks to manufacturer innovation.
Gummy supplements continue their impressive growth streak. Data from Innova Market Insights (Netherlands) show that supplement consumers between the ages of 18 and 25 prefer gummies over all other formats, while consumers aged 26 to 35 prefer either gummies or functional foods and beverages to traditional supplement forms.1
With this growth in popularity, though, comes competition. Experts say that offering a gummy format is no longer enough to stay competitive; brands that want to succeed must ensure their gummies are as visually appealing as possible. Here are some of the ways companies are making sure their gummies look good.
Center-Filled, Bi-Layer Gummies
Gummies are getting even more colorful these days, with new filling and layering technologies enabling manufacturers to create color-contrasting products. Michael Baumann, global strategic marketing manager, dietary supplements, for IFF Pharma Solutions (New York City), says crowded shelves mean brands need to be creative to generate interest.
Center fillings and layers, he explains, are effective both aesthetically and functionally. “Center-filled gummies allow for color differentiation within the center and shell, which is a treat for the eyes,” Baumann explains. “This approach also enables separation of nutritional ingredients. Bi-layer gummies allow for multiple layers of flavors and colors to deliver unique combinations, and they can also have different layers of actives. This allows customers to see each active layer separately, improving the perception of the supplement’s benefits.”
Natural Shapes Mimic Foods
The first generation of gummy supplements was marketed to children; thus, early gummies were designed to look like candy. Hero Nutritionals (Santa Ana, CA) is said to have created the industry’s first gummy vitamin in 19972: a gummy bear–shaped vitamin C supplement. Now, gummy shapes are trending healthier toward real-food themes, moving away from their original confectionery inspiration.
Kelly Vu, application scientist, nutraceuticals, for IFF Pharma Solutions, explains how the options are growing. For instance, gummy manufacturers are moving away from the traditional manufacturing method of depositing gel into starch powder, she says. While this method does enable high flexibility in shape, this gel-on-starch method is only economically feasible when the starch is reused, which poses a risk of cross-contamination. Vu says that while the second generation of molds, like silicon or aluminum, solved this issue, 3D printing technology is now gaining prominence as the shaping method of choice.
“3D-printed molds allow for more organic and representative shapes that help indicate flavor,” Vu explains. “Vitamin C gummy gel mass can now be dispensed into orange wedge shapes, giving the perception that the supplement is the fruit itself. Coatings can also enhance the perception of said fruit shape, such as a vitamin C gummy wedge having a sugar coating that mimics the pith of an orange.”
Gummy producers are increasingly experimenting with surface texture, giving brands more options for unique offerings. For instance, while gelatin and pectin are relatively inflexible materials, emerging solutions are enabling more creativity, says Kate Jacobsen, vice president of research and development for Catalent Consumer Health (Somerset, NJ).
“There’s not much you can do to either gelatin or pectin on their own to make a different texture,” Jacobsen says. “We predict that combining gummy formulas with other texturants will be the way of the future as companies continue to define their preferred gummy texture.”
Also remember that any gummy supplement must be able to hold its shape without a wrapper, Jacobsen says. Furthermore, consumers must be able to chew and swallow the gummy in a reasonable timeframe. Future innovations in gummy texture will need to accommodate both of these requirements.
Custom Shapes and Colors
Customizable shapes and colors enhance the customer experience while also creating unique branding opportunities. Jacobsen cites the example of an apple-shaped gummy designed to taste like an apple.
“Custom shapes can also reflect a company brand, like a disk-shaped gummy embossed with a company logo,” Jacobsen explains. Most often, “Many brands have a common shape, but change the color and flavor to match the intended effect.”
Color is also an opportunity to create a branded experience. The most common approach involves matching color to flavor—red for cherry, purple for raspberry, and so forth, says Karin Vollrath, sales and marketing director for Catalent Consumer Health.
Brands may also ask for colors that relate to their overall branding strategy. Depending on what colors they want, however, there can be limitations to what manufacturers can provide. “The color of the finished goods is greatly affected by the content of the actives,” Vollrath explains.
Plus, some there are limited natural-ingredient options for some colors, such as blue. “The blue color category rarely has Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act [permitted] colors, so there’s a limit to how much a naturally sourced color can change the product,” Vollrath says.
Pushing the Boundaries
Gummy supplements continue to reign in popularity, but as more brands adopt gummies and compete for shelf space, appearance will become more important in catching a consumer’s eyes. Vibrant colors and unique textures can help gummy brands stand out, provided they can navigate manufacturing limitations.
As new technologies enable more flexibility with shapes, fillings, and layers, contract manufacturers and finished-product brands may soon find they have more room to play with gummy appearances.