Calcium chews, omega-3 gummies and sports beans. Which new delivery formats have legs? Part I

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Sales of Jelly Belly's vitamin-laced sports beans are growing in the double digits
Sales of Jelly Belly's vitamin-laced sports beans are growing in the double digits

Related tags: Dietary supplement

While consumers are constantly urged to boost their omega-3 intakes, not everyone wants to tuck into a plate of oily fish twice a week to get the benefits.

But many of us don’t greatly relish the prospect of swallowing large capsules of fish oil every night either, prompting manufacturers to seek ever more appealing ways of delivering a meaningful dose of what’s good for us without making us pop pills.

Calcium chews, probiotic straws, omega-3 gummies…

Cue DHA and vitamin gummies, probiotic straws, calcium chews, energy strips, vitamin sports bubblegum,sports beans​, omega-3 yogurt tubes, powdered omega-3 stick packs​, a raft of shots, plant sterol chews and a whole swathe of other novel supplement formats to hit shelves in recent years.

Indeed, a very quick glance at what’s on offer in this space throws up a raft of “confectionery-like​” supplements in the form of chews (ActiFruit cranberry soft chews, Johnson & Johnson’s Viactiv, Pfizer’s Caltrate soft chews); jelly beans (Jelly Belly’s sports beans); chocolates (Adora calcium chocs); gummies (Nordic Naturals omega-3 gummies, Hero Nutritionals vitamin gummies); on-the-go tube yogurts (Coromega Kids High DHA Omega3 Squeeze ) and chewing gum (vitamingum).

But who is the target audience? And are these products likely to remain a niche part of the market, or could they build a sizeable share?

They appeal to people that don’t usually take supplements

Jeff Hilton, co-founder of marketing consultancy IMG, thinks new delivery formats “definitely have legs, especially in the omega-3 category​”, although not all of them have been a commercial success.

“They tap into the trend for nutrition on the go – convenience and so on – that’s appealing to all ages, and there’s also the fun factor. I know it’s not a supplement, but look at Mio from Kraft ​[which consumers squeeze into water to give it color and flavor]. When it launched I thought it wouldn’t last, but they are expanding it.

‘I also think stick packs of powders you can sprinkle on your foods have legs. But there are other products such as the probiotic straws which haven’t taken off yet, so the proposition has to be right.

“You have also got to be careful to avoid using too much sugar or artificial colors and flavors but still mask the taste of vitamins and botanical ingredients, which can be quite bitter.”

New formats, new usage occasions?

He adds: “New formats also create new usage occasions. You can have products for consumption at home, and shots or gummies for on the go.

“But I don’t think that adults already taking supplements will necessarily stop taking them and switch to these new formats. I think they appeal most to people that traditionally haven’t taken supplements at all.”

Are food manufacturers – and not supplement firms –better placed to cash in?

Which means new customers, and incremental growth, although the firms most likely to succeed in this market may prove to be food manufacturers rather than supplement firms, he observes.

Meanwhile, firms in this space will also need to be aware of possible regulatory challenges if they appear to blur the line between a dietary supplement and a conventional food or beverage, he adds.

“The line is only going to become more blurred as more new formats come out.”

Click here ​to read part two of our report on novel supplement formats.

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