Gummy supplements can be difficult to produce and have to clear of several formulation and manufacturing hurdles vis-à-vis taste, texture, and structural stability.
Remember back when you actually had to swallow a tablet or capsule to get dietary supplementation’s nutritional benefits?
Yeah, we can barely remember those days, either. And to the extent that swallowing a vitamin tablet, capsule, or otherwise is now a choice rather than an obligation, we can thank the gummy.
These pudgy, pleasing, and altogether palatable nutrient-delivery vehicles have virtually revolutionized the act of supplementation at the same time that they’ve broadened the base of supplement users. And few appreciate their contribution better than Doug Brown, Americas director, Sirio Pharma (Shantou, China).
“Gummies continue to be a huge deal for the supplements industry,” Brown says. “They’ve added new fuel to the category’s overall growth and clearly signify a strong consumer preference for this fun format.”
Making Nutrition Fun
So strong is the current consumer preference for vitamin gummies that his company-which has advanced the state of gummy research and development for more than a decade-announced last September the opening of a dedicated new gummy production facility in Ma’anshan, China, a mere 11 years after opening its previous gummy facility.
As far as Brown is concerned, these are wise investments, given the numbers. He cites data from Transparency Market Research predicting 5.2% compound annual growth for gummy vitamins between 2017 and 2025, sending the sector to an estimated value of $4.17 billion.1
“The real value of the gummy format,” he says, “is that it provides consumers with a more pleasant choice to address their daily nutritional needs.”
Initially, their appeal aimed mainly at children, who might have been more reluctant-or simply unable-to tolerate more traditional supplement formats. And indeed, Brown says, gummies now account for more than half the children’s vitamin, mineral, and supplement segment’s sales.
“But as it turns out,” he continues, “parents and grandparents soon discovered their ‘inner child’ and have driven strong growth of gummies across the category.” Adults now form the core of gummies’ target audience, he says, and adult-directed supplements are responsible for upwards of 65% of the market.
Matters of Taste
But gummy supplements don’t just grow on trees. Nor do they come from a candy store-although Brown notes that nutritional gummy manufacturing evolved from the confectionery process.
Fact is, gummy supplements are more difficult to produce and have to clear several formulation and manufacturing hurdles vis-Ã -vis taste, texture, and structural stability.
Consider taste. “Consumer preferences tend toward pleasant fruity flavors with a juicy quality,” Brown observes. Alas, few nutritional ingredients exhibit such profiles. Fortunately for consumers, the fruity, juicy flavors they prize also effectively mask the off flavors of most nutritional ingredients, Brown says. “For the more challenging ingredients, such as B vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s, we’re able to solve issues with our R&D team.” He says his company has built a database of ingredients, flavors, colors, and sweeteners-as well as an inventory of their interactions during manufacturing-to get better leverage over the flavor and formulation challenges.
Getting a Feel for Things
Texture is another important-and potentially vexing-consideration in gummy formulation. As Brown explains, gummy texture comes mainly from the colloidal base, but in the case of gelatin gummies in particular, some ingredients can compromise the base structure.
Consider calcium, which reduces the gelatin base’s water content. Switching to a plant base, Brown says, resolves the issue.
“To prevent crosslinking from impacting gummy stability and texture,” he continues, “more gelling agent is used to maintain the bond’s strength.”
And opting for micro-ionized forms of some nutritional ingredients, when available, can head off any grittiness in the mouthfeel while at the same time helping to address possible flavor and nutrient-loading issues.
What about those nutritionals themselves: How well does the gummy matrix protect and preserve vulnerable or highly labile nutrients?
“Gummies are an excellent protective medium for most nutritional ingredients,” Brown says. “Absorption is similar to other delivery systems.”
Nevertheless, gummy production involves complex temperature, humidity, and pH conditions that Brown says “require careful stewardship of ingredients.”
Probiotics can suffer especially “as most strains don’t hold up to this type of process,” Brown says. In response, Sirio developed a proprietary probiotic process that ensures their survival and potency in the finished gummy. They’ve even devoted an entire facility to the process, he says.
Finally, manufacturers can’t get into the gummy game without taking clean labeling into account. “Consumers have expressed a clear preference for uncompromising clean, natural ingredients with full transparency,” Brown says.
Thus, his company offers plant-based, low-sugar, and no-sugar versions of its gummies with comparable taste to traditional offerings. “We readily choose natural materials for all aspects of production, so clean label is part of our DNA,” he says.
In fact, he thinks going clean makes gummy production less complicated. Given the dynamic state of the gummy supplement market, that’s good news for all involved.