With the gummy delivery platform representing more than 10 percent of the supplement market in the United States, and projected to grow by over 50 percent the next few years, according to Nutrition Business Journal, it’s clear why many brand owners and retailers are looking at adding these types of products to their portfolios. Traditionally, the gummy delivery platform has performed well in the children’s market, which will continue to remain strong. However, there appear to be even greater increases in demand in the adult and senior markets. It’s possible gummies could also see share transfer from the traditional confectionery market, surpassing current projections.
Multivitamin and mineral blends are still the most popular active ingredients in the gummy platform, based on product development requests received by Herbaland Naturals. When formulating gummies, it is important to consider certain factors insignificant in other delivery systems. For example, taste is most important, so although gummy manufacturers may have advanced taste-masking techniques, selecting good-tasting raw materials is helpful and produces a more acceptable result, ultimately yielding a greater probability of success for the product. Other factors to consider are color—as many active ingredients can have powerful or sometimes off-putting colors—and of course, dosage, which can be used to determine serving size when given usage rate.
Available usage rate in the gummy formula depends on the active(s). On one end of the spectrum, it’s possible to have more than 20 percent, typically macronutrient-type ingredients such as protein or fiber. On the other end, sometimes 0.1 percent of a raw material with a strong bitter or metallic taste is unacceptable. If dosage is known, and usage rate is estimated or determined in the lab, this information can be used to calculate serving size in terms of gummy mass. Typically, maximum usage rate for a multivitamin and mineral premix is approximately 5 percent, and maximum serving size will be a decision for the product’s marketing team.
Active ingredients that work well in a gummy other than vitamins and minerals include essential fatty acids (EFAs), which remain popular; however, vegan forms, such as flax oil, may be occupying more of the fish oil market. Plant extracts, in particular fruit, usually work well from a taste and texture perspective.
Gelling or thickening agents are added to the gummy formula to provide the structural support needed for the piece to maintain its shape. Traditionally, the original and most popular ingredient is gelatin, which is currently sourced from bovine or porcine hides as the most popular low-risk option. Gelatin is a robust coagulation agent that performs well with high active usage rates, and produces a bouncy, springy texture that many consumers love and expect when eating a gummy product. It is also a multifunctional protein and the lowest cost option in most cases. Disadvantages are primarily due to perception, and the fact that products containing animal-sourced ingredients are limited to the non-vegetarian market. Additional limitations are melting point, as well as the fact that there may be slightly higher regulatory requirements that come with animal-sourced ingredients. As an alternative, recently Herbaland developed a heat-stable vegetarian gelatin formula.
The other most popular coagulation agent is pectin, with demand for products using it beginning to surpass the demand for products using gelatin. The main advantage of pectin is it has excellent perception on labels in all markets, is plant sourced and fully vegan, supports cellular and gastrointestinal (GI) health, and products using it have very high temperature stability. The main disadvantage is that it has a lower shear, also referred to as a “quicker bite" than gelatin, which can be more challenging to work with; for example, the bond is non-reversible.
While gelatin and pectin are by far the most popular coagulation agents, there are others such as agar, which is often combined with other plant ingredients such as carrageenan or gums (e.g., locust bean). Currently, the primary advantage of these ingredients over pectin appears to be supply, as generally they can be more challenging to work with, often producing an inferior result in terms of texture, appearance and label perception.
Traditionally, the bulk of gummies were comprised of glucose (corn) syrup and (beet) sugar, with limited polyol sugar-free options, such as maltitol. Lately, ingredients with superior perceptions have become the industry standard, specifically tapioca syrup and cane juice sugar. (Note FDA recently updated its labelling guidelines to require adding the word “sugar" after evaporated cane juice, which they ruled on its own to be misleading.) The most popular premium sugar-free option has been inulin from chicory root, which is a source of soluble dietary fiber. There are also some newer, similar sugar-free fiber ingredients on the market, and one that appears to be gaining in popularity quickly is isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO). It offers several advantages over inulin such as cost and GI tolerance.
It’s no secret consumers are becoming more health conscious, so it’s important that formulas are free from potentially harmful ingredients, such as artificial colors and flavors, allergens and genetically modified organism (GMO)-sourced materials. Traditionally, gummies have been made using a starch molding process. Starch used to form the gummy molds is reused, and there is a significant residual amount left on the products after they have been shaken and blown off. Therefore, this technique presents significant challenges ensuring the gummy products are not contaminated. Newer, more advanced techniques, such as direct depositing, are vastly superior to the traditional starch molding techniques. Direct depositing usually involves depositing the gummy mixture directly into silicone or stainless-steel molds that can be sanitized and sterilized between batches, allowing for much greater control over the sanitation level of the production environment and cross-contamination prevention. It is only by using more advanced production techniques, in addition to systems and procedures in place, that products can claim to be truly free of unwanted materials, such as GMO-sourced ingredients and allergens.
John Bentley, sales manager of North America Herbaland Naturals Inc. (herbaland.ca), was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He holds degrees with dean’s list standing from the University of British Columbia in chemical and biological process engineering, as well as commerce with a finance option. Prior to joining the supplement and functional food industry, Bentley gained experience designing process equipment and brokering commercial real estate. He has a passion for health and nutrition, and is currently doing CrossFit and skiing to stay active. Bentley’s specialty is the development and production of innovative, competitive and successful natural health products.