At this year’s Vitafoods Europe, gummy innovation was front and center as exhibitors showcased novel solutions to classic gummy problems.
It is no secret that gummy supplements are a huge trend that brands throughout the industry would like to capitalize on. According to Nutrition Business Journal, non-pill dietary supplement format surpasses pill formats in 2019, and in 2021, gummies saw 74.9% sales growth and had the largest market share among non-pill formats of 21.3%. The appeal of gummies is that consumers are often more inclined to take a gummy supplement on a daily basis than a tablet or capsule, which they may avoid, put off, or simply forget to do. “Pill fatigue” is often cited as a reason for consumers moving away from traditional dosage formats. Gummies, in short, are enticing and have the potential to increase compliance. Of course, gummies are not without their challenges.
“[Gummies are] deceptively simple as a dosage form, but actually it's very complex to make one that is effective, that has all the actives at the end of shelf life and is pleasurable, because sensory is a key component,” said Sara Lesina, general manager, Europe, for Sirio Europe (Pritzwalk, Germany). “When you take a pill, a tablet, the sensory element is less important and it is mostly about the size of the tablet/capsule. On the gummy, you want something that tastes great. [Consumers want ] good flavor, good mouth feel, good texture, and no bad after taste and all the functionality of the active ingredients, so that increases the level of complexity to actually be able to make a gummy that is fit for market.”
In fact, those critical of gummy supplements will point out that gummies do not contain enough of the active ingredient to be effective, and they are sugar-laden to make palatable products. Some ingredients cannot even be used in gummies at all. While this has been largely true in the past, gummy technology has seen great strides to become a rather viable solution in the nutraceutical space. At this year’s Vitafoods Europe, gummy innovation was front and center as exhibitors showcased novel solutions to classic gummy problems.
Starch-free gummy manufacturing
Gelita (Eberbach, Germany) and Rousselot (Son, The Netherlands) were among the brands offering starch-free gummy manufacturing solutions. Gelita’s Confixx, for example, is a new fast-setting gelatin that offers a faster and more flexible manufacturing process. As Oliver Wolf, head of B2B marketing, global marketing and communications for Gelita explained to Nutritional Outlook, gummy production is traditionally done by stamping a mold into a tray filled with starch and the gummy mass is poured into that mold. The gummies in the mold are then dried for up to two days. The challenges this creates is that starch used in the production is recycled and reused which can cause cross-contamination. This is not ideal when it comes to fortification. The dust created by the starch also makes it more difficult to comply with cGMP standards.
With Confixx, manufacturers can replace starch with silicone or polycarbonate molds, and with the fast-setting gelatin, the gummies are ready in two hours, as opposed to two days. This makes production faster and less expensive. Additionally, Confixx makes it easier to work with more temperature sensitive ingredients, which Wolf says can be incorporated into the cooking mass later in the process, exposing ingredients to less heat.
Rousselot’s starch-free process, SiMoGel, has been around since 2020, but received a U.S. Patent in December of 2022. This solution can create a liquid filled gummy that can be deposited directly into a blister pack. This creates what could be referred to as a gummy capsule, allowing for accurate dosages and versatility across a range of active ingredients.
Working with difficult actives
Difficult-to-work with active ingredients are among the biggest limitations of the gummy dosage format, but they also create a great deal of opportunity if the right solutions are found. TopGum Industries (Sderot, Israel), for example, launched a caffeine gummy at Vitafoods Europe, showcasing its microencapsulation technology.
“We were trying to find unmet needs in the market and we found out that there was no good caffeine gummies in the market and the reason is because caffeine is very bitter. Even if you are adding very small amounts of caffeine into a gummy, it creates all this bitterness,” explained Doron Delouya, vice president of product foundations at TopGum. “So, we looked for an off-the-shelf solution from suppliers and we couldn't find anything that was also masking the flavor and working in the gummy manufacturing process. We then realized that we need to maybe develop our own technology. So, we opened a microencapsulation internal startup and we worked very hard to create microcapsules that we work also in the gummy manufacturing process and we are calling it TopCaps technology.”
While microencapsulation exists in other dosage formats, TopGum’s microencapsulation technology is tailored to also work in a gummy matrix. In the case of caffeine, says Delouya, the microencapsulation technology serves as a flavor masker while the company can leverage microencapsulation for other functions such as sustained release in the future. For Top Gum, the caffeine gummy is more of a lifestyle solution than a nutraceutical, offering consumers something convenient and easy to take when in need of some energy. With 40 mg of caffeine in one gummy, just shy of the 64 mg one can find in a shot of espresso, the gummies can have a lot of utility for consumers, and a lot of potential for brands owners.
Lubrizol Life Science Health (LLS Health; Bethlehem, PA) is also found a way to incorporate microencapsulation technology into gummies, specifically its microencapsulated iron ingredient Lipofer. “We did pretty sophisticated AI based research to learn about this consumer and in that study, we learned that consumers really care about scientifically substantiated ingredients. Brands are important, but it's really the scientifically substantiated ingredients [that consumers want]. They also care about the sensory experience of product formats,” explained Zakaria Benmerzouga, MS, MBA, commercial manager for nutraceutical ingredients at LLS Health. “Coupling the story between scientifically substantiated ingredients as well as what the consumers are seeking from a sensory experience, we decided to develop one of the most popular formats today and for the next coming years, which is the gummy.”
With Lipofer, the company is able to create a pectin gummy with 10 mg of iron, which they say is twice that of the typical iron gummy supplement. Despite this high inclusion, Lubrizol is able to avoid the metallic taste associated with the mineral, as well as the side effects of consuming high amounts of iron such as constipation or nausea. The daily value of iron for adults and children over the age of four is 18 mg, therefore two gummies per day of is ideal meet daily requirements.
The iron gummy can be marketed toward a number of demographics, including children, pregnant women, and vegans, said Benmerzouga. Iron deficiencies are not uncommon among children. In fact, in industrialized countries, 20.1% of children between the ages of 0 and 4, and 5.9% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 experience iron deficiency anemia. These numbers are 39% and 48.1%, respectively, in developing countries. During pregnancy, women need 27 mg of iron per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Finally, with vegans and vegetarians, insufficient iron consumption can be a problem because meat is a major source of iron. One review of literature on the iron status of vegetarian adults found that a higher proportion of vegetarians, compared to nonvegetarians, had iron deficiency anemia, particularly among premenopausal vegetarian women. The pectin base of the gummy makes it easy to market to vegans and vegetarians.
Cranberry powder is another difficult ingredient to incorporate into gummies. This is why Fruit D’or (Villeroy, QC, Canada) launched an 80-mesh particle size of its organic 100% cranberry powder (Cran Naturelle) containing 7.2% of soluble and insoluble proanthocyanidins (PACs) at Vitafoods Europe. This allows for better dispersibility of the powder, creating a higher mg count per gummy. In this case, manufacturers can manufacture gummies with up to 250 mg of cranberry powder in a single gummy. The smaller particle size also prevent leakage, allowing for more uniform gummies with complex shapes.
The use of cranberries, a notoriously tart ingredient, may call to mind the need for sugar to offset the tartness. Kaare Axelsen, business consultant for BerryCeuticals (Lelystad, The Netherlands) acknowledges this fact, but points out that many suppliers utilize pectin from apples to make gummies, which has a natural sweetness that can offset the tartness of cranberry, but he also says that leaning into some of the tartness may be beneficial if you find the balance between sweet and sour. “Our experience is that people really like the combination [of sweet and sour],” he explained. Fruit powders could also be used to offer some sweetness as well as a complementary flavor to a gummy.
Sirio Pharma recently partnered with Lonza (Basel, Switzerland) to incorporate 40 mg of Lonza’s patented undenatured collagen type II ingredient, UC-II, into a gummy, alongside 12 mg of vitamin C. Sirio showcased this new gummy positioned for joint health support at Vitafoods Europe as well as a gummy positioned for beauty, containing 500 mg of collagen peptides in addition to 10 mg of UC-II, which the company says is the highest inclusion rate for collagen peptide on the market in a gummy. Lesina boasts that Sirio’s 15 years of experience in gummy nutraceutical manufacturing and access to over 200 research and development experts, gives the company an edge in developing complex gummy solutions. For example, undenatured type II collagen like UC-II comes with some baggage.
“UC-II collagen is heat sensitive because when you heat a protein it will hydrolyze, it will degenerate,” explained Morgan Laloux, head of sales, Southern Europe, for Sirio Europe. "Since manufacturing of gummies typically implies high temperature, this was a very challenging application. Thanks to our expert Sirio R&D team we were able to find the process to create a gummy that ensures the correct amount of UC-II after manufacturing. Analysis shows that UC-II collagen levels remain high after production.”
Every year, gummies have fewer boundaries, and therefore fewer compromises. Beyond making palatable gummies with the right texture, these innovations are also about creating products that are effective and that consumers can rely on. Companies like ADM (Chicago, IL), for example, have positioned themselves to be a well-rounded and experienced partner to manufacturers, supplying a wide range of actives, including botanicals, probiotics and post-biotics, fiber, and plant-based proteins while also being able to provide flavor modulation to challenging ingredients across a range of applications. And while taste and texture, are king, these products are only as good as the benefits they might provide.
“One of the things that shouldn't be lost is that while it's all about sensory [profile] in terms of the taste, behind that there’s huge amount of science and clinicals,” said John Rea, president, global dietary supplements for ADM. “We’ve got a very extensive portfolio and very well adapted medical affairs team that works directly with your own CRO companies designing the clinical trials.”
Companies like ADM and Kerry Group (Tralee, Ireland), which are historically well-versed in food-based solutions, have been actively expanding their portfolio of nutraceutical ingredients, and using their expertise in food to create novel solutions for alternative dosage formats. For example, ADM recently acquired Deerland Probiotics and Enzymes and opened a new facility in Spain to increase the production of probiotics and postbiotics five-fold. Kerry, for its part recently acquired Natreon and Biosearch Life, and even sold its sweet ingredients portfolio to IRCA. Gummies are just one option in the push for more alternative dosage formats but represent an important way to bridge the gap between dietary supplements and functional food.
And although there are fewer limitations for gummy supplements, and consumers are really interested in the format, capsules and tablets are not going anywhere. There is a lot of talk about “pill fatigue,” and while there may be some truth in that, not everyone in the industry is convinced.
“I don't think pill fatigue really exists,” said Berryceutical’s Axelson. “I think the market has just expanded and there are additional products on the market. I don't think [gummies are] taking away anything from the tablets [or capsules]; not in our experience.”
He went on to explain that it’s difficult to change consumer habits. So, consumers who have a favorite capsule product may not necessarily be convinced to switch to a gummy. But gummies do offer a gateway into the dietary supplement market, which opens up to a whole world of nutraceuticals.