While the market for gummy nutraceuticals is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.8% from 2022 to 2030, recent media reports have drawn attention to the potential limitations of the format including high sugar content and shelf-life constraints. There are also concerns that gummies may provide significant overages due to their rapid breakdown within the body, which can pose a potential health risk to certain groups.
In a 2019 study investigating the bioequivalence of vitamin D gummies and tablets, researchers from the University of South Carolina observed that VitaFusion vitamin D gummies had a greater bioavailability than the studied tablets. On the other hand, a pilot study conducted in 2020 found that both gummies and tablets showed similar absorption of vitamins E and 12, while folate was more rapidly absorbed via gummy form.
Melissa Snover, founder and CEO of Nourished, agrees that concerns around the bioavailability of gummies result from limitations typically associated with the delivery format.
“Unlike pills, gummies traditionally can't pack in as many vitamins and minerals due to space and taste constraints,” she told NutraIngredients. “Additionally, gummies often contain added sugars and preservatives, which can detract from their healthiness and raise concerns for those with dietary restrictions.”
Yet, she argues that with a growing prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in the Western diet and growing food insecurity, gummies may enhance consumer experience and improve adherence.
"Our innovation allows us to create sugar-free stacks that contain seven layers of potent ingredients, including essential vitamins and superfoods, in a single gummy," she explained. "This method not only enhances the concentration of nutrients but also ensures their high bioavailability, effectively addressing the traditional concerns associated with gummy supplements."
"If a patient finds a medication or supplement more enjoyable or easier to take, they are more likely to stick to their prescribed regimen, leading to better health outcomes," she added. "This preference can be a game-changer in the nutrition space, suggesting a shift towards more user-friendly options could be beneficial, and the demand for customers to see personalisation in their products."
Snover says that Nourished has "revolutionised" the gummy concept through its 3D-printing technology and encapsulation process to produce higher quality gummies, which aim to deliver a specified quantity of nutrients.
She referenced findings of an unpublished in-house pilot study conducted in partnership with US-based nutrition company Elo Health, which investigated the bioavailability of its vitamin D3 stacks compared to a conventional pill format.
Elo Health recruited participants with varying low baseline levels of vitamin D and administered a Nourished gummy containing personalised concentrations of vitamin D3 to 39 participants for 12 weeks daily. The control group consumed a daily dose of vitamin D in gel pill format during the same period.
The study reported that Nourished gummies successfully raised vitamin D levels, with improved adherence to the regimen in the gummy group (78%) compared to the control group. Participants also rated the Nourished gummy stack as 63% more enjoyable to consume.
"[The findings] challenge the perception that traditional pill forms are the only effective method for supplement delivery," Snover said. "By demonstrating the efficacy of gummy supplements, which are often seen as more palatable and user-friendly, the study opens up new possibilities for supplement consumption, especially for individuals who may have difficulties swallowing pills."
Potential for gummy growth
Nick Morgan, managing director of the specialised data and insights provider Nutrition Integrated, explained that despite the concerns, there is "huge enthusiasm" from consumers and a fast accelerating landscape for the gummy category.
"In the US and Europe alone, we are already tracking over 600 brands that offer over 3,000 products," he said. "What is interesting to us is that some of the basic data we report to our partners suggests that the gummy category is still immature - 54% and 47% of brands respectively in Europe and North America only provide 1 or 2 products, whilst 98% of products across both geographies only offer one flavour choice."
"Whilst the enthusiasm for gummies is already there and justified, it feels like gummies have only just scratched the surface of opportunity," he added, highlighting the potential for category growth.
He said that brands should focus on proving enhanced bioavailability to build consumer trust.
"This may also mean less of an ingredient is needed and that offers more scope to formulators. However, the only challenge with branded ingredients or ingredients that have proven bioavailability is that they cost more," he said.
"Depending on the brand and/or benefit, consumers might pay only €0.35-€0.65 per recommended serve. So if brands and products are to be competitive, the impact the ingredients have on the cost of goods will need to take this into account."