Food Navigator-USA sat down with Courtney LeDrew, marketing manager at Cargill to discuss the company's recent research on consumer gummy preferences and how the findings can help brands develop gummy candies that appeal to a wide range of consumers during the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago May 23-25.
In the study, Cargill's researchers created six distinct formulations of gummies, ranging from firm to soft, which appeared identical in shape, flavor, and size. Ingredients included gelatin, pectin, carageenan and other hydrocolloids which provide a range of texture profiles. A blind panel of consumers then evaluated and scored their preference for each gummy sample.
The study showed that softer gummies scored the highest. The study also found that gummies made with a combination of pectin, tapioca or corn syrup and starch were the most appealing. Whereas, gelatin gummies, which exhibit a chewier texture and gummies with a dense, waxy or sticky mouthfeel and texture scored the lowest.
“What we found was that the gummies that were softer, which were made with a combination of pectin and tapioca, pectin and corn syrup, or pectin, starch and corn syrup…were the ones consumers said they liked more,” Le Drew explained.
After identifying the highest scores, Cargill’s team developed a “texture correspondence analysis,” which LeDrew said helped the team develop “descriptive words associated with gummies,” and identify what consumers simultaneously find appealing and what they’re trying to avoid in a gummy.
“The three softer, smooth pectin gummies were described as ‘airy.’ They break down easily when chewing. And through this analysis, those attributes were determined to be more appealing. Customers really liked those types of textures in gummies,” LeDrew elaborated.
Gelatin gummies showed moderate appeal to consumers which were described by consumers as hard and taking a longer time to chew. While the corn syrup gummy was considered much harder and associated as being waxy and sticky to the teeth.
Generationally, older consumers prefer a softer gummy due to dental considerations; while younger consumers prefer chewy and sour gummies, as well as textures that include a crunch or pop.
Of the study, LeDrew highlighted that the findings are “helping us understand the language that can be used to describe the different types of textures and what types of textures could potentially be more appealing to consumers."
Gelatin-based gummies are still the most popular in the market
LeDrew emphasized that the study, despite consumers' penchant for softer textures, identified two distinct texture preferences within the consumer groups: soft gummy consumers and hard, chewy gummy consumers. She noted that while the top selling gummies in the US are gelatin-based, which include pectin and corn syrup for a chewier texture, “what’s in the market today would certainly be a bit softer.” This highlights the consumer divide in gummy textures, giving brands an opportunity to include more texture variety in its portfolio.
“This is just helping us when we talk to our customers about when they’re developing new products and potentially where there would be opportunities for them to launch products,” she added.
Despite Cargill’s team identifying the two consumer groups, LeDrew added that “there’s appeal for all different types of textures in the gummy space.”
Soft, chewy and interactive gummies on the show floor
Ultimately, the diversity of textures, flavors and ingredients gives consumers options and brands an opportunity to expand their portfolio through ingredients, textures, flavors and shapes.
During the Expo, Haribo presented its recent line of Berry Clouds gummies, featuring Blueberry, Wildberry and Strawberry flavors with “soft & fruity” as a description on the packaging. The pectin and gelatin-based candy is layered with a “cloud-like” center and ultra-soft texture.
Hammond’s featured its Gummi line, including Sour Worms, Gummy Bears, Cola Bites and Sour Bites, which was a strawberry flavor with a vanilla cream center. Both the Cola Bites and Sour Bites included “soft & chewy” verbiage on its packaging.
Bazooka launched a more interactive candy, Juicy Drop Gummy Dip ‘N’ Stix.’ The packaging describes it as “chewy sticks and sour gel,” where consumers pop open the resealable lid to dip the gummy sticks into the center of the package filled with sour gel. The brand also extended its Push Pop line to develop Push Pop Gummy Roll as another on-the-go gummy experience. The roll comes in four flavors—strawberry, watermelon, blue raspberry and berry blast.
Gummies were also popular expansions to existing portfolios for many exhibitors at the show. Impact Confections’ extended its inimitable Warheads line into sour Warheads Wedgies featuring flavors Watermelon Punch, Cherry Limeade and Pink Lemonade.
Mars featured its Skittles Wildberry Gummies in a shareable pouch; while Hershey’s turned its original lineup of Twizzlers flavors—Peach & Cherry, Grape & Cherry and Lemonade & Cherry—into gummies shaped like miniature Twizzlers.