If you spent your childhood in the 1990s, you’d be familiar with a white plastic bottle designed in the shape of a puppy face—its ownership would be a matter of pride among your peer group. A coloured cap that signified its flavour, detachable eyes, tongue and nose would make the bottle even more attractive to children. When opened, flavoured calcium pills would delight the taste buds.
Calcium Sandoz by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis was one of the most significant turning points in the emergence of the Indian candyceutical market in the 1990s.
The rise of consumerism back then in the post-liberalisation era opened the gates for a flood of brands to emerge and prosper, and with it came advertisements that lured the consumers into buying those products. Calcium Sandoz became synonymous with children’s health and well being and the official provider of calcium supplements sold over the counter.
Its popular advertisement Agdam Pagdam Tigdam claimed two pills a day after breakfast to strengthen the bones of growing children. Later, the brand launched Sandoz Women, a dietary supplement for women, to further increase its consumer base. Then came the popular jingle, Vicks ki goli lo, khich khich dur karo, and the flavoured toffees became the official cough candies, often sold in large quantities over the counter. Orange-flavoured Strepsils, medicated lozenges for the sore throat, were given a similar welcome.
Often brought without the prescription of a doctor, be it medicated candies or nutritional gummies, they have always found consumers waiting for a quick cure and dose of health. What adds to their popularity is heavy and effective advertising that often suggests consumers to make these a part of their daily diets to maintain their nutritional intake or as remedies.
What started as a few brands in the space in the 1990s has now emerged as an organised sector foreseeing huge growth in the coming years. With new brands in the space, the candyceutical market is only growing and the pandemic has given it the right push as healthcare and nutrition intake take centre stage.
The only difference is that candyceuticals have now evolved with an increased emphasis on being sugar free and naturally procured to cater to the post-pandemic, health-conscious crowd. Nikita Naterwalla, founder of Caim by Arelang, an Indian candyceutical company that makes plant-based nutraceuticals in the form of delectable confectionery, says that the concept of candyceuticals so far in India has mostly been restricted to nutraceutical gummies.
“What a fun concept that was several years ago, to be able to get your vitamins in a fun-shaped gummy bear. Although popularised predominantly in the children’s supplementation segment, adults too wanted a piece of the same pie and enjoyed it through the delicious treats. This demand growth has given wings to players that wanted to provide supplementation in more than just gummy forms,” says Naterwalla.
Can they replace real nutrition?
Recently, on Instagram, Kylie Jenner became the first woman to gain more than 300 million followers. When a celebrity of her stature and fan base promotes a product—it gains instant popularity. Few years ago, Jenner was constantly seen posing with vitamin gummies SugarBearHair and claiming that they made her hair better. The brand also had celebrities like the Kardashians, Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Thorne endorsing it.
In India, Indian dietary supplement gummy brand Power Gummies, founded by Divij Bajaj in 2018, introduced actor Shraddha Kapoor as its brand ambassador in 2021. Power Gummies come in two variants—Gorgeous Hair & Nails and the Beach Body Gummies for weight management. During the same time, nutrition brand Yours Truly introduced mango-flavoured immunity gummies as 100% vegan, gluten-free and allergen-free.
The celebrity and influencer push for the gummy segments (collagen, weight loss, hair, nails, skin) has led to its popularity. However, it is important to take note of its ingredients and doctor’s recommendations before popping the pill.
Naterwalla of Caim by Arelang feels that nothing can replace a healthy diet. “Fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and healthy fats represent the foundation of a wholesome diet. They carry macronutrients which cannot be replaced by supplements. Supplements, as the name suggests, do just that—supplement your nutritional needs and fill in the dietary gaps, especially micronutrients that your body needs,” she explains.
Ananya Kejriwal, founder and CEO of Nyumi, says that their gummies are formulated to meet daily nutritional requirements for adults and are certified over the counter and can be safely bought without prescription or outside consultation. If a customer is pregnant, lactating or has any pre-existing medical conditions, the brand recommends consulting a doctor before consuming any supplements.
Brands also caution that medicines and supplements must not be mixed. Harish Singhla, country sales manager, Forever Living Products (FLP) India, says that food supplements fill the gaps of nutritive requirements and perform the role of disease prevention. “Supplements are not medicines. However, any person with a medical condition must consult a qualified physician before consuming supplements,” he adds.
Last year, FLP introduced Forever AloeTurm, a turmeric lozenge with the goodness of aloe vera, in India. “It is a globally patented formulation which ensures buccal absorption of curcumin. Medicines absorbed from the buccal cavity directly enter the bloodstream known as buccal absorption and give instant relief compared to a gummy which is metabolised in the gut,” explains Harish Singla.
A growing market
Several new brands emerged in the segment in 2021 while others strengthened their portfolio in the last two years. Earlier this year, dietary health supplement brand Power Gummies established itself as a leader in the candyceutical segment in India after bagging funding worth $6 million from the likes of Wipro Consumers, Venture Catalyst, 9Unicorns and others.
In April, medical device company Abbott Laboratories launched orange-flavoured Arachitol Gummies, dietary supplements for daily vitamin D, approved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) in India to address the vitamin D deficiency that affects 76% of Indians in the 18-30 years’ age group. Another New Delhi-based D2C health and wellness startup Welly was founded in 2021 by Urvi Raghbeer that offers gummies for restful sleep, immunity and healthy hair, skin and nails and boasts of sustainability in packaging and being 100% vegan, gluten-free with no added preservatives, colours, artificial flavours, gelatin and sugar—a demand of the new consumer.
Kejriwal of Nyumi, which was also launched in June last year, says that within the first nine months, the company has seen a growth of more than 300%.
“There is a growing demand for products that contain natural ingredients and hold transparency at their core. Our customers are spread across the country, including all the key metros and Tier II cities,” she adds.
According to Research and Markets’ 2022 report ‘Gummy Vitamins Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2022-2027’, in 2021, the global gummy vitamins market reached a value of $6.4 billion. Further, the market is expected to reach $8.6 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 5.31% during 2022-2027. The report also states that rising health consciousness among the masses, along with increasing awareness of the benefits of dietary supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle, is leading the market growth.
Another report from market researcher Data Bridge titled ‘Asia-Pacific Gummies and Jellies Market—Industry Trends and Forecast to 2027’ shares that though the market is segmented into gummies and jellies, in Asia-Pacific, the gummies dominate the market due to the increase in the health awareness.
The key countries driving growth in the Asian region, according to market research reports firm Technavio, are China and India. Its 2022 report ‘Gummy Vitamin Market by Distribution channel and Geography—Forecast and Analysis 2022-2026’ suggests that the presence of a large consumer base that is increasingly paying attention to their health in countries such as China and India will facilitate the gummy vitamin market growth in APAC over the forecast period.
Avnish Chhabria, founder of Wellbeing Nutrition, however, feels that despite the spotlight, the gummy market is on a major decline, both in India and globally, as customers have become far more conscious about the kind of nutrition supplements they are consuming.
“Given the host of negative reports and lack of evidence around the dosage, the audience has become far more sceptical about consuming them. Almost all of the products on shelf are sugar filled / artificial sweeteners filled along with gelatin and other substances that most consumers are now tending to stop or reduce in their diets. The actual dosage of actives in each gummy also poses multiple challenges in their real efficacy as lower doses under 100 mg are mostly ineffective. However in order to make them more appetising, companies add a lot of artificial colours, additives and sweeteners,” he adds.
What’s in a gummy?
The fancy-sounding gummy pills are the candy-meets-supplements that help with vitamins and protein requirements of the body
To suit the health-conscious consumer, brands have introduced gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan variations that are formulated with plant-based ingredients
This means enjoying a candy or a chocolate without worrying about its impact on health
What the doctor says
Dr Jagadish J Hiremath, chairman of Aasra Multi-speciality Hospitals, says he does not believe in supplements and nutraceuticals. “In my opinion, consuming nutritious food is the right way to give the body nutritional support rather than choosing supplements. It is hard for vegetarians to get vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Supplements are advisable only in such cases,” he adds.
He cautions that the right dosage might become a problem for those consuming supplements without medical consultation. “With these supplements, there is no control over hypervitaminosis. Trace elements that these supplements claim such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, etc, cause problems when they are in excess in the body. For instance, when the body has excess zinc, it leads to increased fungal infection.
Hence, it is important to be extremely careful before consuming these supplements,” he adds. Hiremath suggests prioritising a balanced diet.