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Sebastian Krawiec is Editor at Nutritional Outlook.
Adults have made up the larger portion of consumers of gummy supplements compared to kids.
Gummy supplements continue to drive new consumers to the dietary supplements aisle, breathing life into a market that’s been traditionally dominated by pills. Alternatives to pill-form supplements made up 47% of dietary supplements in 2017 according to numbers presented by the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) at Natural Products Expo West 2018, up from 34% in 2015 based on IRI data analysis from the previous year, when gummy supplements made up 30% of the non-pill segment. New research from Transparency Market Research (Albany, NY) estimates that the gummy vitamins market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.2% between 2017 and 2025 to reach $4.17 billion. The growth and popularity of gummies can be attributed to their taste and convenience, motivating children and adults alike to take their vitamins.
In fact, adults have made up the larger portion of consumers of gummy supplements compared to kids. In 2017, reported NBJ, adult gummy products accounted for 65% of all gummy supplements. According to Gary Ricco, president and CEO of Mount Franklin Foods (El Paso, TX), the adult-gummy portion of the gummies market is now bigger than it was in 2017. “The children’s market is only 20% of the gummy supplement market today,” he tells Nutritional Outlook. “The majority of our products target adult consumers. Multivitamins are the most popular supplements among adults and children.”
Adults have more incentive to incorporate gummy supplements into their regimen considering that they are more likely to be taking a prescription drug daily and susceptible to pill fatigue. A 2005 AARP study found that adults 45 and older on average take four prescription medications daily.
Continued demand for gummies creates challenges for manufacturers who have to find solutions for on-trend ingredients and other consumer demands. “The trends in ingredients are focused on healthier products: reduced sugars, clean label, organic, and non-GMO,” says Ricco. “A continued challenge in the industry is flavor masking to make the best tasting piece possible. Additionally, our process continues to evolve on overcoming gritty textures on some ingredients and balancing supplement load with piece size.”
Sugar content has definitely been a concern for consumers and part of the give and take of gummy supplements. They taste great because they are sweetened, and doses are smaller per gummy compared to pills which means one must eat more gummies to get the desired nutrients, increasing sugar consumption in the process. (The number of gummies that must be consumed can also depend on the type of ingredient in the gummy. For example, recent vitamin C gummies on the market contain 2 g of sugar per serving of two gummies. However, some multivitamin formulas have a bigger serving size such as six gummies per day, amounting to 7 g of sugar per serving.)
Manufacturers are offering consumers different gummy options with sugar-free products as well as using alternative sweeteners. One innovation that is gaining traction, Ricco says, is the use of honey as a natural sweetener in gummies. This is in line with consumer preferences for honey as a sweetener, as published in a recent white paper by Kerry.
There are a few considerations when formulating gummy supplements, especially when trying to reduce sugar content, starting with the gummy itself. “Mount Franklin Nutritionals development work to date on the non-supplement side has focused on sugar reduction using inulin (fiber) and fruit juice as sweetness replacers and maltodextrin to support texture,” explains Ricco. When reducing sugar in a gummy with a gelatin base, “You need to verify the right amount of inulin for texture and taste,” he adds. “The use of fruit juices and specialty starches can improve the flavor impression when properly balanced in the formula.”
When it comes to adding the nutrients, that’s when it gets more difficult. It’s all about striking a balance and understanding which nutrients work best in a gummy and require minimal masking. “Not all actives are suitable for gummies,” explains Ricco. “Iron is difficult to mask and can be harmful if a child were to eat too many. Gummies are most effective when they taste great and carry a reasonable supplement load when compared to a pill or capsule.”
B-vitamins, zinc, and herbs are also difficult to mask, says Ricco. “At Mount Franklin Nutritionals, we are using taste modifiers developed specifically for certain classes of compounds,” he explains. “In addition, we use flavors which also mask off-flavor components.”
Gummy supplements have their limitations and pose some challenges to manufacturers but definitely offer value to brands who can give their consumers a more convenient way to get their vitamins and minerals. Anticipate more competition in this space and continued innovation to meet consumer demand for specific ingredients as well as organic, non-GMO, and low-sugar options.