Are little beads the future of supplements?

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Lena Clara
Getty Images / Lena Clara

Related tags Capsules

Capsules filled with little beads are becoming ubiquitous. What’s the appeal?
Close up view of Ritual's capsules, posted on Instagram by Lauren Greene (Photo by @laurendgreene).

When Los Angeles-based supplement company Ritual first launched in 2016, much of the buzz was about how the capsules looked—like crystal vials of sparkly white beads. The logic behind this design, CEO and founder Kat Schneider told us in a past interview​, was to make a supplement that would get people “really excited about sharing on social media.”

The visual effect of Ritual’s supplements came from filling clear gellan gum gelcaps with 'beadlets' of dry ingredients to protect them from the oily ones.

Orb​ is another company built on clear capsules filled with beadlets. All six of the supplement types in its portfolio use this format.

Also on the bandwagon is personalized nutrition subscription company Persona​, which last year launched a beadlet capsule format for some of its supplements.

It was even designed to be opened. “The capsules can be easily opened and the mini-tabs can be mixed into yogurt, smoothies or simply taken with water – tailored for subscribers who have trouble swallowing capsules,”​ the company said in a press release.

Contract manufacturer sees growth in demand for beadlet technology

Max Timko is the director of marketing for contract manufacturing company Ion Labs & Ion Fulfillment​. His company is one of several that makes beadlet capsules for supplement companies.

He thinks the aesthetic value of this delivery form, as well as the primacy of visually-driven social media platform Instagram, is driving the trend. “In the world of supplement marketing different visuals and product delivery can play a large part in consumer appeal,”​ he said.

“Beadlet capsules are something consumers have not seen before wide-spread. People love the new, and are willing to try it if it catches their eye,”​ he added. Secondly, there’s the endless amount of customizable variations when it comes to beadlet sizes and colors, he continued.

“This will play a huge factor in brand messaging and user recognition.”

This delivery format has driven sales growth for Ion Labs in the past year​, and not just for aesthetic reasons. Timko explained that the delivery format is well-suited to put dissimilar liquids into one capsule, or to time when nutrients are released to the gut.

Hence, he cautioned that finished product brands should be clear with manufacturers if they want the capsules to be ‘breakable’ (to let consumers open the capsule and sprinkle the beadlets) or not.

“I think it is safe to say the second you open a capsule and interrupt the formulation in its designed delivery form the product itself will not function as designed or intended. Beadlet capsule delivery is based on a product-by-product basis,”​ he said.

“Some products will require the capsule to stay together in order to have the intended user experience.”

Start-up Rootine skips the capsule altogether and serves up supplement beads in sachets.

Sprinkable beads

A further evolution of this beadlet format eschews the capsule altogether. Personalized nutrition start-up Rootine​ delivers its supplements in a sachet filled with colorful, nutritionally fortified beadlets, which users can consume in a variety of ways.

For Rootine, colorful beadlets are an answer to increasing personalization. “We realized that one person might need 580mg of calcium, and another person might need, say, 585mg. We tried to figure out what’s the best technology to make it so personalized that we can create any recipe,” ​founder Dr Daniel Wallerstorfer told NutraIngredients-USA.

Liquids are unstable, he argued, so they went with beadlets, or pellets, as they call them. The company is still in beta mode, slowly building awareness with help from the prestigious business accelerator Techstars NY.

Dr Wallerstorfer believes this format will make Rootine stand out in the personalized nutrition supplements space. “Other companies that do personalization, essentially what they do is, depending on your lifestyle, they give you a red pill or green pill,”​ he said.

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