Meeting customer expectations for gummies is increasingly difficult. Sugar is on its way out and today’s nutritional and beauty enhancing compounds need more refined formulation and manufacturing techniques to ensure efficacy and therapeutic performance, writes Sara Lesina, General Manager, Sirio Europe
One of the most popular confection formats in history, the loveable gummy is fast gaining ground as a versatile way to administer a broad range of compounds that deliver cosmetic benefits — an integral element of well-being for many.
To understand why the gummy is one of the fastest growing formats to deliver nutricosmetic compounds is to know what’s driving the consumption of nutraceuticals.
That healthy glow
The largest organ of the body and part of the integumentary system, the primary function of the skin is to protect the body from environmental factors such as heat and cold, as well as threats to internal organs like bacteria.
How human skin ages and loses its youthful aspect with time is influenced by many internal and external factors, including ethnicity, general nutrition, exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the ebb and flow of a broad range of hormones.
As such, many consumers are choosing to “feed” their skin in more natural and effective ways. Unfortunately, dietary norms throughout society are less likely to provide the specific nutrients that are best for the skin, which is why nutricosmetics are becoming so popular.
A variety of ingredients and compounds are becoming increasingly widespread because of their beauty benefits, with nutricosmetics driving the “beauty from within” concept. Collagen is still leading the nutricosmetic trend because it continues to demonstrate a positive effect on skin elasticity and hydration levels, which promote a youthful texture.
Consumers are also becoming more aware of the cosmetic benefits of vitamins, such as vitamin C (VC), vitamin E’s (VE) antioxidant function and vitamin B’s (VB) ability to condition hair from within.
VB is believed to naturally promote healthy hair because it’s involved in the production of keratin, the main component of hair. Furthermore, ingredients such as coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid and ceramides are also found in a growing numbers of beauty supplements.
According to analysts at Straits Research, people are taking care of themselves using organic products that help the skin to maintain elasticity, treat skin problems and promote that “healthy” glow.1
As well as antioxidants such as VE from wheat germ oil or pomegranate, other botanical ingredients from natural sources, such as lycopenes from tomatoes, rosemary extracts and resveratrol, are gaining traction.
These herbal nutraceuticals tend to aim to improve mental well-being and sleep, which can offer the indirect advantage of enhancing appearance: the most important ingredient for beauty is sleep, goes the adage.
Ongoing R&D is also seeing the introduction of probiotics to support beauty and nutrition. Nutraceutical developers are investigating the use of probiotics to treat acne breakouts, rosacea and dermatitis, conditions that are creating new opportunities for cosmetic and skin product developers.
As it stands, the nutricosmetics category is gaining impressive momentum. Straits Research reports that the global nutricosmetics market is projected to grow to $15.8 billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% — a considerable jump from $7.3 billion in 2021.
Notably, Strait’s analysts project the Asia-Pacific market (now valued at $3.6 billion) to double to $7.7 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 9%.1
Collagen and collagen peptide delivery
Collagen peptides have been identified as an effective tool to fight the effects of ageing on the skin. Sirio researchers have developed a collagen peptide that is more absorbable and therefore more bioavailable; it’s capable of delivering a more robust effect with a smaller collagen peptide payload than other offerings on the market (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Use of special collagen peptides; better absorption and bioavailability
Better package better results
When it comes to skin-enhancing supplements, gummy delivery is proving to be a sure bet to win consumers. To understand the skin benefits and therapeutic performance of collagen in this format, Sirio’s R&D lab applied its formulation experience to develop a special collagen gummy.
To measure the effect and performance of the gummy, Sirio measured skin moisture levels, elasticity and eye wrinkle volume. Studies revealed that skin conditions improved and eye wrinkles were reduced by significant levels after only a few short weeks of consumption (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Health effects on skin moisture and elasticity
User experience is everything
Nutricosmetics and nutraceuticals set themselves apart from prescribed medications because consumption is not compelled by sickness or a physician’s direction. Consumers want these products to deliver real and tangible health benefits, such as smoother skin.
This is prompting change, product innovation and new challenges if nutraceuticals and supplement developers and manufacturers are to secure consumer choice and increase their products’ relevance to healthcare.
For nutraceutical developers and their contract manufacturing partners, that means delivering products in ways that people prefer and increasingly enjoy consuming.
Enter the gummy: the preferred format
It is a prominent maxim in pharma that no matter how effective the active ingredient may be, it will never deliver its therapeutic effect if it’s not taken as prescribed or as recommended.
To attain those mass-market product goals and meet consumer demands, the industry is increasingly being prompted to access more application science from its external pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing partners to find the best user experience (UX) for their products.
Dietary supplements are available in numerous forms, including tablets, softgels, capsules, powders, liquids and gummies.2 There was a time when tablets and capsules, along with their simplified manufacturing techniques, were perfectly suited to the vast majority of products on the market.
As per consumer data published by Glanbia, the gummy is now the “preferred format.” In addition, dosage form is one of the most influential factors in decision making after “highest quality ingredients” and “most affordable option” for consumers when making a supplement purchase. The right format is more important to consumers than its taste, label claims and brand.3
Nutritional science is advancing its understanding of the chemistries and therapeutic potential of a myriad different nutritional compounds and extracts. But it is important to remember that the entire category is driven primarily by consumers … who are increasingly selective about the supplements they buy.
Consumers want their nutraceuticals to possess five fundamental things:
Predominantly, they want them to be tasty, easy to chew, swallow and afford.
Gummies offer consumers and developers something to chew on
Gummies have a better taste, texture and offer a more enjoyable user experience. They also function better, offering excellent bioavailability characteristics. According to Research and Markets analysis, gummies are one of the fastest-growing trends in dietary supplements.
Projected to reach $16.5 billion by 2028, the gummy supplements market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.3% during the forecast period.
This growth is attracting new players. Research and Markets analysts note in particular that the industry’s contract manufacturers are now receiving orders for products that move beyond conventional ingredients. This change is prompting continual innovation in gummy processing and formulation.4
Recent innovations in manufacturing and formulating gummies has the industry working to develop even more market/therapeutic potential from gummies, including beauty oriented ones. Much of the gummy’s popularity has to do with taste, something the industry used to fix with sugars and fructose syrups.
However, dietary and health trends — especially in this category — are forcing sugar out of gummy recipes. It is a major issue and has been identified as one of the bigger challenges facing the gummy industry in 2023.
Fortunately, pharmaceutical-grade nutraceutical formulation science is providing solutions that won’t take the smile out of chewing a delicious gummy while supporting your health and beauty.
The general perception is that gummies raise blood sugar levels; but, the truth is that — with the right formula — gummies can control the glycaemic response.
A study of low-sugar and sugar-free nutraceutical gummies from a team of Sirio Pharma researchers demonstrated that not only can gummies deliver taste and texture without sugar, but the formulation can also support a better glycaemic response in humans.5
Investigating the effects of gummy dosage forms
Sirio’s study was designed to investigate the effects of the gummy dosage form and sugar types on glycaemic response control. In this study, sweetener alternatives maltitol and erythritol were applied in gummy candies (total [T-SG] and partial [P-SG] sugar substitutes), with sucrose-based gummies used for comparisons (CG).
A prospective crossover study was then done on 17 healthy adults. The effects of different types of gummies on glycaemic response in healthy adults were evaluated on the basis of the participants’ glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) values.
Every 3-day interval, participants took CG, P-SG, T-SG and a glucose solution, respectively, and the theoretical glucose conversion content was kept the same in all groups for each trial. Each participant performed four tests with each sample and recorded the changes in blood glucose after food consumption.
It was found that all three types of gummies slowed down subjects’ glycaemic response when not taken in excess, and the improvement effect was followed the trend of T-SG > P-SG > CG. Both P-SG and T-SG were low-GI candies (54.1 and 49.9). CG that was not consumed in excess of 18 g had a high GI (81.9) but a low GL (<10).
Texture analysis and in vitro digestion were used to explore the effect of the gummy matrix on glucose release. T-SG and P-SG retained a higher hardness and were less hydrolysed to release glucose during digestion compared with CG (Figure 3 and Figure 4).
Figure 3: Glucose release profiles of low GI/CL nutraceutical gummies
Additionally, experiments have revealed that gummies can reverse poor glucose tolerance in women. Sirio’s researchers concluded that gummies are a good carrier for dietary supplements owing to their sustained-release characteristic of available carbohydrates and provide healthier options for people in control of glucose homeostasis.5
Nutricosmetics delivery performance: more than a gut feeling
Targeting nutricosmetic compounds to the digestive tract and beyond is a gummy strength, but it does take a decidedly pharmaceutical approach to formulate gummies to deliver therapeutic payloads effectively. Sirio’s sugar-free gummy formulation, for example, can provide better controlled release of actives both in the gastric and intestinal phases of digestion (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Comparison of gastrointestinal release rates of nutrients in different gum bases
Similar results were found when Sirio researchers compared the release rates of iron and VB2 between sugar-free gummies and tablets. In both the stomach and intestinal tract, the gummy demonstrated superior release rates and a desirable increase in the bioavailability of the compounds (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Comparison of iron and VB2 gastrointestinal release rates (gummies versus tablets)
Importantly, these formulations support a better, more controlled release of specific proven compounds such as collagen — an effect that’s highly desirable to enhance the performance of gummies in this category.
Gummies give both industry and consumers more to smile about
Given their popularity and functional attributes, there is little doubt in the minds of both consumers and nutricosmetic product developers that the gummy format will come to dominate the skin health/beauty category.
However, meeting consumer expectations and delivering all of the gummy’s sweet and chewy fun is increasingly challenging … especially given the long list of compounds and nutrients identified to enhance skin health.
To win in the marketplace, pharmaceutical-grade formulation science is now virtually mandatory to produce the kind of advanced nutricosmetics that consumers want to chew on day after day.