Skip to main content
Protein shake container and vitamin D bottle

Delivering differently: Pill fatigue drives delivery format innovations

Capsules and tablets lag behind in popularity as consumers reach for gummies, liquids, chews, powders, confections and more in the VMS category.
Taffel Sturgeon

Time was, capsules and tablets were the singular way consumers consumed dietary supplements. Place in mouth, add water, swallow. 

Twenty-five years ago, the Hero Nutritionals brand of children’s supplements came up with the novel idea of using gummy bears as a way to encourage supplement use in children. Sure, there were dosage limitations, and yes, sugar was a necessity, but, as Mary Poppins counseled, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

And then, perhaps because that generation of children grew up, the idea of gummies for adults began to catch on.

[Read more: The search for sleep: Fatigued consumers are driving innovation in ingredients, formats and other features in the sleep products category]

Fast-forward to 2019 and an incredible milestone was reached: non-pill supplement delivery formats, led by gummies, overtook capsules and tablets as the primary means shoppers consumed supplements.

Today, most brands use gummies. But that’s not all. Powders, shots and other beverages, tincture bottles of oils, pumps, nutrient-lined straws and more all vie for the affections of the pill-fatigued. 

“We have seen many changes since Windmill was established 50 years ago,” said Keith Frankel, president and CEO of Windmill Vitamins. “Certainly, delivery forms have expanded to include gummies, liquids, chews, powders, confections and more, which offer consumers more interesting nutritional options. Throughout the decades, we have embraced how the consumer continues to include vital nutrition in their dietary consumption. We are excited to thrive at the forefront of the development and distribution of these new and innovative products.” 

“In 2019, non-pill supplement delivery formats overtook capsules and tablets as the primary means shoppers consumed supplements.”

Some elderly shoppers have difficulty swallowing pills, while younger “smoothie nation” shoppers gravitate toward powders as part of their morning pick-me-up and go. Brands have responded. 

“While gummies are currently a smaller piece of the category in comparison to pills, they are the preferred format for Olly’s younger consumers,” said Giselle Balagat, brand director at Olly, a powerhouse hip and trendy brand for which 58 of its 77 SKUs are gummies. “Gummies are one of the fastest-growing formats in the category.” 

Even with today’s dosage limitations in gummies, brands are innovating their way around  this issue. Fish oil leader Nordic Naturals has long had to contend with the problem of delivering efficacious doses of DHA and EPA that are the heart of fish oil supplements. Through R&D work on its own and partnerships with innovative suppliers, Nordic can now offer more. 

[Read more: The burgeoning beauty supplement market]

“Normally that is the case regarding an effective dose for EPA/DHA with gummies,” said Brian Terry, director of sales FDM and specialty at Nordic Naturals. “However, we have an Ultimate Omega Chew that is releasing in the spring that will have 1,200 mg in a gummy chew serving, which will be about 10 times more potent than other omega gummies.” 

Potent products also include shots, which have moved far afield from energy shots. Urbl is a Canadian company that has built superfood shots with efficacious doses so much so that it has received Canadian regulatory approval for claims of adaptogen, stress relief and energy. 

“There are many methods to consume healthy ingredients. Certain distinctions give RTD form an edge — greater absorption, convenience, more bang for the buck, flavor, thirst quenching and simply fun,” said Suhas Verma, founder and CEO of Urbl. “Nutraceutical in a fun shot form, Urbl has distinctively merged the supplement and grocery aisles.” 

[Read more: Better off safe than sorry: COVID-19 concerns, healthy food trends are driving immunity supplement sales]

Novel delivery formats show no sign of abating as a means of meeting modern consumers where they are. While traditional tablets and capsules have their appeal to a pharma, pill-based culture, a new generation of supplement takers is looking for expanded choices for their nutritional intake — blurring the lines between supplements, foods, beverages and drugs.

Mason Natural Marine Collagen, 10 effervescent tablets, SRP: $12.49 
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is to enhance hair, skin and nails. Meant for on-the-go consumption (drop a tab in a water bottle and go), the formula contains matcha for a little caffeine kick and turmeric for inflammation modulation. It also contains antioxidants and the protective beauty boosters collagen, biotin and vitamin C.

Vibrant Health Green Vibrance, 30 servings, SRP: $44.80
The original greens powder company started three decades ago and keeps on innovating. It’s now up to version 19.1 and contains an absolute kitchen sink’s worth of nutritional bioactives. Containing more than 100 ingredients, the formulation starts with the letter vitamins and minerals, and then goes with cereal grasses, adaptogenic herbs, fibers, enzymes as well as ingredients for immune support, bone health, liver support and digestion. 

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Gummy Chews, 54 gummy chews, SRP: $42.95
There’s an ocean’s worth of innovation in this fish oil product. For one, no sugar! Yet these soft gummies still come in a tasty tropical fruit flavor. In addition, Nordic Naturals has managed to somehow cram 1,200 mg of omega-3 EPA plus DHA into a single-serving size, which is impressive even for softgels thanks to the use of concentrates. 

Urbl Roar, 2 fl. oz., SRP: $3.99
The shot category is rapidly expanding beyond caffeinated energy shots. Urbl is a new brand with a growing spectrum of single-serve shots for a range of health concerns. Its Vigor SKU features the king adaptogenic herb ashwagandha, plus beetroot, cayenne pepper and other ingredients to help the body enhance endurance and reduce stress. 

Trace Minerals Research Apple Cider Vinegar, 60 gummies, SRP: $29.99
There may be no better use of a gummy than in apple cider vinegar supplements. ACV is one of the trendiest supplement ingredients of the year, which is used to assist with digestion and for weight management — but for that vinegary taste! Gummies solve the ick factor. Each gummy provides 500 mg of unfiltered, organic ACV in gummies that are gluten free, gelatin free, certified vegan and non-GMO. 

Windmill Vitamins Evolution_18 Beauty Bites, 60 servings, SRP: $14.98
This decadent offering comes in either dark or milk chocolate and is infused with quality skin health ingredients like collagen peptides, the B vitamin biotin and hyaluronic acid. Incredibly, each chocolate piece contains only 1 g of sugar — less than a gummy! 

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds