Sachets, dissolvable strips and vitamin gum: Which new delivery formats have legs? Part II
One firm that thinks it has the answer is Nordic Naturals, which recently launched new “neutral-flavored” stick packs of cod liver oil powder targeting consumers that want to get the omega-3 dosages found in supplements - without swallowing big capsules every day.
Each pack of the water-soluble omega-3 powder contains 500mg of EPA/DHA from microencapsulated cod liver oil and can be dissolved in drinks or added as a topping to meals and snacks, says the firm’s chief medical officer Keri Marshall.
"We found many people were complaining that their store-bought enriched foods were not delivering significant amounts of EPA, only DHA, but they liked the idea of not having to take supplements.”
Meanwhile, the firm's omega-3 gummies and worms and its Nordic Berries vitamin gummies have also been a big hit with children and adults, she says.
“The products became strong sellers very quickly due to excellence in taste, variety of shape and flavor and ease in administering to children. But many adults purchase our [kids’ gummies] for their own consumption.”
Some adults have difficulty swallowing or just don’t like taking pills or capsules
Sheldon Baker, senior vice president of nutraceutical brand marketing firm Baker Dillon Group, also predicts “growing interest in the use of gummy or chew type formats for dispensing supplements” for children and adults alike.
And while the category initially targeted kids (Northwest Natural Productsfirstintroduced gummy-based vitamins in the mid 1980s), it has since “expanded to include adults and more specifically older adults who have difficulty swallowing or just don’t like taking pills or capsules”, he says, citing One A Day VitaCraves adult multivitamin gummies, Northwest Naturals’ Vitafusion products and Hero’s new adult gummie vitamins.
But not every novel format is a winner, he cautions, citing the example of dissolving strips (edible films), vitamin-laced varieties of which first appeared in 2004 as supplement firms hoped to emulate the success of Listerine fresh breath strips.
“With any new technology, there are challenges and in this case it seems insurmountable issues that require a large financial investment and considerable time to overcome”, claims Baker.
“Several of the products launched and tested by independent laboratories did not meet the ingredients panel listings for active ingredients."
How much active ingredient can a single strip carry?
He adds: “Technology was another hurdle. It seems there are some limits regarding the amount of active ingredients a single strip can carry. The limit for the active components is about 30% of the total weight of the strip.
"A typical 120 mg film strip can only deliver about 36 mg of vitamin supplements. [But] daily value of vitamin C is 60mg].”
Meanwhile, difficulties with handling (the strips are thin and can stick together) and the use of artificial flavors to mask the ‘vitamin taste’ also put some shoppers off, he claims.
“There are some foreign strip manufacturers still trying to entice US supplement manufacturers to utilize the technology, but it’s still a hard sell.”
Sheets Energy Strips boss: Shoppers want convenience and portability
Not surprisingly, the firm behind Sheets Energy Strips – new dissolvable strips delivering an instant hit of caffeine and B vitamins – disagrees, and insists the category could be worth $1bn in the next three-to-five years.
While previous attempts to sell vitamins via dissolvable strips had not taken the market by storm, admits PureBrands chief executive Warren Struhl, his firm has worked hard to tackle taste issues that have hampered some previous launches, while the energy focus also gives his strips a different slant.
The sheets, which have some heavyweight celebrity backing from NBA star LeBron James and a host of other supporters from Serena Williams to Pitbull, are cheaper than energy shots, and more convenient than coffee and vitamin tablets, he points out.
“These are a fraction of the price of energy shots and we’re giving 200% of your daily value of vitamin B6 and B12, 100% of vitamin B5, 40% of vitamin E, 20% of biotin and 100mg of caffeine per serving [two sheets].”
Indeed, the format is key to its prospects, he says. “You can always say there are cheaper ways to get vitamins or anything else, but look at the success of things like Advil pocket packs. People like portability and convenience."
Meanwhile, technology enabling firms to incorporate meaningful doses of multiple vitamins and other bioactives in coated chewing gum is now available, says Vitaball vice president sales and marketing Regis Nesbitt, who patented a process to make this possible in the mid-1990s.
However, securing space in some retailers’ gum fixtures has proved a challenge owing to the market dominance of Wrigley (Mars) and Cadbury (Kraft), and when it comes to gum, consumers might be interested in vitamins, but they still want a product that freshens breath first and foremost, he stresses.
A tasty and fun experience?
But if manufacturers can overcome the technical challenges presented by novel formats, there is everything to play for, says Euromonitor’s consumer health analyst Monica Feldman.
“The latest trends point to making vitamins and dietary supplements a tasty and fun experience.”
Click here to read part one of our report on novel supplement formats.