Consumer perspective

  —  Column 

Sweet solutions: exploring consumer perceptions of candyceuticals



Consumer perception

Nutritional supplements

Gummy vitamins

Wellness trends

Digestive health

Immune health

Immune health

About the Author

Michelle Niedziela

Dr. Michelle Niedziela (PhD) is a behavioral neuroscience expert in neuropsychology, psychology and consumer science. Experienced from academia (Monell Chemical Senses Center) and industry (Johnson & Johnson, Mars Chocolate) in R&D of innovation technologies and methodologies for consumer research. As Scientific Director, HCD Michelle focuses on integrating applied consumer neuroscience tools with traditional methods used to measure consumer response.

VP Research & Innovation - HCD Research

Imagine indulging in squishy, fruity, sweet-tasting treats shaped like adorable teddy bears, stars, and berries. Picture them not in ordinary plastic packets, but vibrant tubs or elegantly designed subscription boxes. Surprisingly, we're not referring to children's candies; rather, we're diving into the realm of gummy supplements. These delightful morsels promise thicker hair, healthier skin, stronger nails, improved sleep and mood, and even better digestion. Advocates claim that a daily dose can help us navigate the rigors of modern life with ease. It's no wonder that these products are making waves in the market, capturing the attention and wallets of consumers seeking a delicious twist on wellness.

As consumer preferences shift towards healthier lifestyles and convenient wellness solutions, the intersection of candy and pharmaceuticals has given rise to a burgeoning market: candyceuticals and gummy supplements. the allure of candyceuticals over traditional supplements is no accident. It's a dance of psychology and preference, where convenience, taste, and social influence converge to shape our choices. With their enticing flavors and chewy textures, these confectionery products have captured the attention of health-conscious consumers seeking enjoyable alternatives to traditional pills and capsules.

Why gummies?

Gummy vitamins offer a convenient solution for individuals who struggle to remember their daily dose or find swallowing pills challenging. Their delicious taste and chewable form make it easier to incorporate them into your routine, potentially increasing adherence to supplementation. They can also be seen as more fun and better tasting, making them more appealing.

The enjoyment derived from consuming candyceuticals, due to their sweet taste and appealing texture, can provide a form of positive reinforcement. This positive association may encourage individuals to incorporate candyceuticals into their daily routine, making it more likely for them to continue using them over time. This may activate reward pathways in the brain, like the pleasure experienced when eating candy or other sweet treats. This can lead to a sense of gratification or reward, motivating individuals to continue using candyceuticals as a means of obtaining that pleasure.

The chewable format of candyceuticals may appeal to individuals who have difficulty swallowing pills or capsules. This convenience factor can reduce barriers to supplementation, making it easier for people to adhere to their supplement regimen. For those with a sensitive stomach, gummy vitamins may be preferable, as they are less likely to cause nausea, particularly on an empty stomach. Traditional tablet or pill vitamins, especially those containing calcium, vitamin C, or iron, can trigger stomach upset for individuals with conditions like reflux, peptic ulcers, gastritis, or IBS (1). Gummy vitamins, which start digesting upon contact with saliva, are generally gentler on the stomach, making them a more comfortable option for those with digestive sensitivities.

The trendiness and novelty of candyceuticals, particularly those marketed with appealing packaging and branding, may influence individuals' purchasing decisions through social influence. Seeing others, including influencers or peers, endorse and enjoy candyceuticals can create a sense of social desirability around their use.

Overall, the psychological and behavioral drivers for indulging in candyceuticals often revolve around their sensory appeal, convenience, social influence, and perceived health benefits, which collectively contribute to their popularity among certain individuals. Particularly, perhaps, for parents hoping to encourage vitamin consumption for their children.


Candyceuticals are designed with vibrant colors and enticing shapes and flavors, captivating children's senses and igniting a sense of novelty and excitement. This candy-like allure fosters an enjoyable experience, enticing children to embrace these supplements eagerly and integrate them into their routines. For children, the act of consuming candyceuticals evokes feelings of reward and pleasure akin to indulging in their favorite sweets. This delightful association establishes a consistent habit of supplement intake, as they perceive each dose as a delightful treat.

Clever marketing strategies that use colorful packaging, familiar characters, or engaging advertisements can capture children's attention and make candyceuticals more appealing. Children may be drawn to products that are marketed as fun, exciting, or endorsed by their favorite characters. Children, not surprisingly, are tagged as a valuable “end user” for these products (2). In a competitive market for food, drinks, and supplements, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on children as a key demographic, with parents driving healthier choices, particularly emphasizing clean-label claims like organic, additive-free, and low sugar. To succeed, supplement manufacturers must satisfy both parents and children to secure loyal customers and repeat purchases.

Children are a lucrative target demographic for candyceuticals, with manufacturers increasingly focusing on them in a competitive market for food, drinks, and supplements. Parents play a crucial role in driving healthier choices, emphasizing clean-label claims like organic and additive-free. Early introductions of children's chewable vitamins in the 1960s and 1970s, endorsed by cartoon characters, highlighted the enjoyable aspects of supplementation, though controversy arose over potential health risks (3). The packaging of children's supplements employs various marketing techniques to convey health benefits, often featuring cartoon characters to appeal to kids (4). However, concerns extend beyond health, as marketing often prioritizes fun over nutrition, potentially influencing purchasing behavior based on children's media preferences and the perceived value of health.

No sugar-coating it

It’s important to consider the impact of sensory experiences on consumer perceptions and behavior. The vibrant colors and appealing textures of gummy supplements can trigger positive associations, reminiscent of enjoyable candy consumption. This sensory appeal may contribute to the perception that gummies are more palatable and enjoyable to consume compared to traditional pills, influencing individuals' preferences and choices.

Research suggests that the color and texture of pharmaceuticals can impact their perceived taste and efficacy, with brightly colored tablets and capsules often associated with stronger flavors and greater effectiveness. Additionally, the association of white with a lack of taste prompts pharmaceutical companies to add color, like pink, to indigestion medicine to make it more appealing (5). The use of colorful packaging and engaging advertisements for gummy supplements can evoke emotions and desires, shaping consumers' attitudes and intentions towards these products. These marketing strategies leverage psychological principles to create a sense of desirability and attractiveness, potentially influencing purchasing decisions. However, it's essential to recognize that the sensory appeal and marketing tactics used for gummy supplements may overshadow considerations of their nutritional value. Despite their candy-like appearance and taste, gummy supplements may lack significant nutritional benefits compared to traditional pills. This discrepancy between perceived enjoyment and actual nutritional content highlights the importance of informed decision-making and critical evaluation of product claims.

While many gummy supplements offer enticing flavors and textures reminiscent of candy, they often lack substantial nutritional benefits compared to traditional pills. In a recent conversation with a fellow parent, he expressed skepticism that gummies offer any nutritional value. This perception may be driven by the fact that these gummies are frequently high in sugar and may contain controversial ingredients like titanium dioxide, prompting concerns about their safety and efficacy (6). Titanium dioxide, a white mineral, is widely used in everyday products like sunscreen, cosmetics, plastics, and food items for color enhancement and while legal in the US, has come under fire by several groups concerned about its safety, particularly for children. Further, many parent are concerned about their sweetness, many gummy supplements primarily do consist of sugar, with even multiple forms of sugar listed as the main ingredients to contend with the less desirable flavors from the vitamins themselves. This reliance on sugar raises questions about their suitability as dietary supplements, particularly given increasing concerns about sugar consumption and its impact on public health.

Overall, understanding the interplay between sensory experiences, marketing strategies, and nutritional considerations is crucial for evaluating the role of gummy supplements in promoting health and well-being. Perhaps even more-so for children as they learn healthy habits.

Next steps for candyceuticals

Today's consumers prioritize healthy diets, particularly for children, driving demand for natural, nutritious food products. This has spurred trends in the food industry towards low-sucrose, additive-free options with high antioxidant, protein, and fiber content, as well as certifications like vegan, halal, and kosher. As a result, traditional confectionery products like gummy, chocolates and other candyceuticals are losing popularity, prompting research and development into plant-based and functional GC alternatives. Recent innovations such as alternative gelling agents and sweeteners, natural flavors and colorants, and the addition of medicines, fiber, protein, and antioxidants to candyceuticals presents opportunities for developers to look forward to (7). Incorporating healthier alternative ingredients such as natural flavors and colorants, natural and low-calorie sweeteners, plant and algal proteins, and dietary fibers into candyceuticals shows promise in enhancing the nutritional profile of these confectionery products.

Addressing these concerns head-on with new innovations and healthier alternatives will prove powerful in attracting wellness-focused consumers. They prioritize products with transparent labeling and easily understandable ingredient lists. These consumers often prefer supplements made from whole food sources or plant-based ingredients. Additionally, they look for supplements that are scientifically backed, safe, and effective, targeting specific health concerns such as immunity, digestion, energy, or stress management. Sustainable sourcing and environmentally friendly packaging also appeal to wellness-focused consumers.

Consumers are increasingly health-conscious and seek products that offer both nutritional benefits and sensory enjoyment. R&D teams must balance consumer preferences for taste and texture with nutritional considerations, such as reducing sugar content, incorporating functional ingredients, or enhancing bioavailability. Understanding consumer attitudes towards nutrition and health can guide development efforts for candyceuticals that meet both sensory and nutritional expectations. Understanding consumer preferences and needs is essential for identifying market opportunities and determining the potential demand for candyceuticals. Consumer insights can inform development teams about which flavors, shapes, and packaging designs are most appealing to target audiences, helping them develop products that align with consumer preferences.