There’s good news for health-conscious adults who have a sweet tooth: functional candy is on the rise. Functional candy goes the extra mile and contains ingredients that target specific health needs or provide healthful vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. Some functional candy even contains grown-up ingredients like caffeine or CBD. The practice of healthful sweets is nothing new. Medicines, starting with herbal formulas in the 1800s, have been sweetened with sugar for more than a hundred years. Lozenges, invented by pharmacist Oliver Chase, were the first medicated candy. Medicinal candies have evolved into vitamin gummies for children. And they continue to evolve as the Seattle Gummy Company (SGC) recently formulated the first true gummy medicines, which are about to be approved by the FDA.
What is Functional Candy?
However, functional candy isn’t medicine, even though it may have healthful properties. They are generally made with more healthful ingredients (though it should be noted that healthful doesn’t mean healthy—sugar is still sugar, even if it’s sourced from fruit or of higher quality) like organic sugars, fruit sugars, or other organic ingredients. Then they’ll have herbs, vitamins, and other nutritional supplements added to give the candy an extra boost.
Functional candy taps into childhood nostalgia and gives grown-ups an excuse to have a healthy treat. Functional candy is often sophisticated and targets the wellness-conscious market. It has an enormous market, valued at 5.7 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2026. It makes sense too. Functional candy allows adults to eat candy and feel good about it—quite often literally. At their core, functional candies are designed to solve problems and taste good doing it.
Functional candy targets specific health needs people have like a lack of energy or poor sleep. You can resolve those issues with a chocolate bar infused with either green tea or melatonin. Feeling down? Try a crunchy chocolate confection infused with stress-reducing herbs like ashwagandha. Need a protein-rich snack? Try a protein bar that tastes more like a candy bar than 16grams of healthy protein. Want to stop a cold in its tracks? There are gummy candies with elderberry, apple cider vinegar, and turmeric that will boost your immune system. Struggling with menopause? There’s a chocolate bar for that, and every other health problem you can think of, like stress, low-libido, and PMS. If you want to supplement with healthful, medicinal mushrooms, there are mushroom gummies full of reishi, lion’s mane, and chaga, that taste like raspberries but deliver thousands of milligrams of mushrooms. Or if you’d rather take your greens supplement in lollypop form, they have that too.
Sometimes the problem that functional candy solves is poor quality ingredients. Some functional candies take advantage of the innate health qualities of common candy ingredients like chocolate, nuts, and coconut, and make delicious confections using high-quality ingredients. Often they are still supplemented by ingredients like beetroot juice or vitamin Bs.
If there is a health problem, there is a functional chocolate candy or bar that offers a solution. Chocolate has the added benefit of being a functional candy itself, with its high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds. Antioxidants prevent cell damage from free radicals, which prevents many diseases. Chocolate is also very nutritious and is full of fiber and minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
Functional candy takes advantage of the health benefits of chocolate and mixes it with a variety of herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other nutritious, healthful substances. Herbs like ginger for digestion, ashwagandha for stress, and passionflower for sleep are commonly used. B vitamins often make an appearance for their energy supporting abilities, and for the way they increase brain function. Of course, there are many menopause and PMS chocolate formulas on the market, with herbs like dong quai and chaste berry (vitex).
Functional Candy Uses
One of the main reasons a person will choose a functional candy is because it addresses a specific health issue or condition. There are many functional candies on the market made for specific health concerns. Here are some of the common health problems that functional candy addresses.
One of the more popular health areas targeted by functional candy is the immune system. Elderberry is commonly featured, as is vitamin C, probiotics, and zinc. Apple cider vinegar is often touted as immune-supporting and is often found in gummy form. SGC makes an elderberry Immunity gummy and an apple cider vinegar gummy.
Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are commonly addressed by functional candy. You’ll find a whole genre of functional candies, from gummies to chocolate, designed to help calm anxiety and support our body’s responses to stress. They will often include herbs like ashwagandha, chamomile, passionflower, holy basil (tulsi), oat straw (avena sativa), and Ginkgo Biloba. B vitamins and the mineral magnesium are often found in stress-related functional candies.
There are many functional candies devoted to supporting women’s health. These candies can address PMS with ingredients like vitamin B6 for energy and mood and peppermint oil for digestive troubles. Other functional candies for PMS contain evening primrose oil, maca, vitamin D3, cinnamon, ginger, and saffron. If some of those ingredients sound like they’re more at home in the kitchen, it’s true. However many spices are also used as herbal medicines as you see here.
There are also functional candies targeting women who are in menopause. These candies feature anise seed and fennel seed extract to ease uncomfortable menopause symptoms. One menopause-focused chocolate bar contains wild yam extract, chaste berry, licorice root, dong quai root, evening primrose oil, and black cohosh. That list looks more like what you’d see on the back of a tincture bottle, rather than a chocolate bar.
Pregnant women have their pick of functional candies to support them during this important time in life. Many functional gummies for pregnancy also work as nutritional supplements. Others are formulated for issues expectant mothers may face during pregnancy like morning sickness. These formulas feature ingredients like ginger, peppermint, and vitamin B6.
Women who want to support the health of their hair, skin, and nails can try SGC’s Beauty multivitamin gummy. Biotin-based supplements for hair, skin, and nail health are quite common. SGC’s gummy goes beyond the classic supplements and adds vitamin Bs, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and hydrolyzed collagen, which are all key building blocks to support healthy skin and elasticity. It also has the prized Chinese anti-aging herb, angelica, in it as well. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought to promote a healthy and youthful complexion.
Sleep is another big category for functional candy, with many of their ingredients overlapping the stress and anxiety candies. However, the big difference with sleep candies is that they’ll likely feature a bit of melatonin to help aid people into a restful, deep sleep. Ingredients commonly included in sleep candies are lavender, chamomile, ashwagandha, passionflower, lemon balm, and valerian. All of these herbs are classic relaxers or sedatives. Candies with melatonin should be taken according to the packaging instructions. SGC makes a potent Slumber Shot gummy that contains the highest concentration of valerian root of any sleep candy out there.
Mental energy and brain support
Supporting mental performance is one reason many people reach for functional candies. Having the energy needed to live life and perform well at our many duties often leaves us at a deficit. Functional candies that support brain function offer the benefits of different herbs and vitamins that support mental performance. Some candies in this category will also contain caffeine, like SGC’s Mocca Shot, which combines 200 mg of natural caffeine with nootropics like B vitamins and ginkgo biloba. B vitamins help the body make energy while helping the brain to function optimally. Gingko biloba increases circulation to the brain and contains powerful antioxidants.
This is a well-established functional candy niche. There is a multitude of gummy multivitamins that even the pickiest palate will enjoy. More vitamin functional candies land closer to the candy end of the spectrum. They still offer a sound nutritional boost with ingredients like B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. The list of herbs, vitamins, and minerals offered by functional candy is as endless as the types of functional candy that support general nutrition.
For a healthier snacking alternative
Many adults want to satisfy their sweet tooth, but don’t want to eat junk food. Sugar and low-quality fats can contribute to health problems, so functional candy offers a solution. Grown-ups can snack on candy made from high-quality, often more healthful, ingredients. This often includes darker chocolate, organic sugars, and gluten-free ingredients.
Energy for exercise
Sugar, or the glucose it breaks down into, is the perfect fuel for an endurance athlete. Many athletes use candy before and during races, or before an intense workout. Sometimes a functional candy is designed for an athlete to use and will contain sugars that release at different speeds for an extended period. SGC makes a pre-workout sports gummy, the Power Up. Its controlled release of carbohydrates boosts and sustains energy levels. They are also easily digestible, making them perfect for any athlete.