Better Nutritionals founder: 'There's magic in a gummy'

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Better Nutritionals
Photo: Better Nutritionals
Gummies and chocolates aren’t just for kids. California-based entrepreneur Sharon Hoffman jumped into confectionery supplements manufacturing when he noticed opportunity in the space.

The California-based manufacturer, Better Nutritionals​, has continued to grow since it opened its doors to orders in 2016. “We are projecting our sales to be ten-fold for 2019,” ​he told NutraIngredients-USA.

Last year, the company landed a deal with Abbott, which contracted Better Nutritionals to manufacture a pre-workout gummy for its Myoplex EAS brand, though Abbott discontinued the whole brand in late 2018.

Still, Hoffman believes that big companies like Abbott trust his firm because of its expertise in using pectin, a plant-sourced alternative to gelatin, as well as the rigorous testing it has gone through to get multiple certifications, namely, USDA Organic, Oregon Tilth-certified organic, NSF Certified for Sport, NSF, GMP Registered, Orthodox Union-certified Kosher, and more.

From the ground-up, he intended Better Nutritionals to be fit for pharmaceutical production, with a dream of creating over-the-counter products like Tylenol in gummy formats (for now, it still doesn’t exist).

If people know how gummies are made, most of them would never touch a gummy again,” ​he told us. He was specifically referring to the use of porcine gelatin, as well as the use of starch to make sure gummies don’t stick to molds.

“Most of those molds’ starch is just changed once a year,”​ he said. At his company, they use Teflon instead.

Bringing manufacturing in-house led to new business focus

Better Nutritionals’ manufacturing facility started originally to support Hoffman’s kids vitamin brand Vitamin Friends, which he started in 2012.

Hoffman told us that the impetus to start the company was when his son’s dentist told them that gummies are the ‘worst thing to give kids’ because gelatin and sugar sticks to teeth. “We looked for something to replace gelatin gummies, so we found pectin,” ​which is made from orange peel.

Back then, not many brands, especially in the US, made pectin-based gummy supplements, so Hoffman’s entrepreneurial juices started flowing and he founded Vitamin Friends.

But there were slim pickings for US-based manufacturers that had pectin gummy capabilities. Hoffman contracted several of them to make Vitamin Friends’ product, but the results left much to be desired.

“We found a gummy with a staple inside, then we found a gummy with cardboard inside,”​ he recalled. The final straw was when he was notified by South Korea’s health authority about some of his company’s products exported there.

“They took it for testing and they said they can’t find the right amount of ingredients that we claimed,”​ he said. “I called the manufacturer demanding an explanation, and they just said ‘we ran out of the raw ingredients.’”

He decided that he wouldn't depend on other contract manufacturers anymore and opened his own manufacturing facility in Gardena, CA, where he is based.

‘Chocolate is still new in the industry’

Better Nutritionals Chocolate Blister pack
Better Nutritionals packages chocolate supplements in blister-packs, so that even if it melts, it stays in shape. Photo: Better Nutritionals

Also in Better Nutritionals’ portfolio of expertise is fortified chocolate manufacturing, or dietary supplements delivered in a chocolate format.

This segment of his business is much smaller, however. “Chocolate is still new in the industry for supplements,” ​he said. “People are more familiar with gummy supplements.”

Some manufacturers steer clear of the chocolate format because it is prone to melting. To address this, Better Nutritionals manufactures chocolate supplements into blister-packs, so that even if the product melts, it retains its shape.

He predicts both delivery formats, but especially gummies, will continue to grow in the supplements space, and perhaps even OTC.

“There’s a lot of capsules and tablets and liquids manufacturers,” ​he said. “But there’s magic in a gummy.”

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