A common misconception in the pharmaceutical and confectionery industries is that gummy products will not expire. Keeping in mind that gummy vitamins, supplements, and candies alike all contain water as a primary ingredient, there does come a point where they are no longer fresh or safe to consume.
Signs of expiration in gummy vitamins and supplements are not always visible at a glance. They could appear normal but have a tough texture or the active ingredients lose their effectiveness.
A more apparent sign is signs of microbial growth or mold. This often appears as a fuzzy, white or grayish-green discoloration on the outer surface. It will appear similar to how mold looks on expired pieces of fruit.
Ensuring that your gummy vitamins remain safe and of high quality throughout the duration of their intended shelf life starts with sound quality control. Identifying common warning signs before the products are packaged and prepared for distribution can prevent a “bad batch” from reaching retail outlets.
During the gummy manufacturing process, quality control occurs at the third and final stage after any finishing touches, such as coatings, are applied to the surface of the product. One of the most important aspects to check for is the water activity level.
The water activity level (measured as “aW”) is a measure of the amount of water present in a product. For gummies, it affects both the shelf life and safety of the product. If the water activity level is too high, mold and bacteria can grow, leading to spoilage. If the water activity level is too low, the gummi may become hard, brittle, and unstable.
Manufacturing gummy products requires a careful balance of water activity levels. The ideal water activity level for gummy products is between 0.35 and 0.45(3). This range ensures that the gummies are formulaically stable and are poised for long shelf life.
For this reason, your quality control team must carefully control the water activity level of their products. One way to do this is to add food-grade preservatives, which can help to keep mold and bacteria at bay. You can also add moisture-controlling packaging features, such as tightly sealed bottles and a desiccant insert.
Using a handheld water activity meter, you can quickly measure the water activity levels in gummies in a matter of minutes. Its lightweight and portable design also makes it an effortless process to examine gummies in multiple places throughout your facility.
Beyond measuring water activity in your products, there are other more visible signs of quality concerns that you should remain vigilant for. These could indicate a miscalculation in the formula, a need to recheck the settings on your manufacturing equipment, or an examination of the packaging to look for any incomplete seals.
These warning signs include:
A clear indicator of high water activity levels is if the gummies appear visibly wet or have a slippery texture. If water is seeping out of the gummy, it may also be visible in the container.
The first step to correcting this issue would be to reexamine and readjust the water levels in the formula. Lowering the amount of water can help create a drier texture without having to sacrifice a chewy, desirable consistency.
As we mentioned above, discoloration is another major sign that an error has occurred. This could be a simple issue, such as needing to readjust the food coloring in the formula. It may also mean that microbial growth has occurred.
If you notice discolored gummies, examine them closely to determine whether the source is purely cosmetic or a sign of a greater safety risk. As with excessive wetness, this could require a readjustment of the formula.
When mold begins consuming a substance like a gummy, it may emit a foul odor. This could be potentially unsafe to inhale.
When handling any gummies that have a strange or unpleasant odor, wear protective gloves and a filtered breathing apparatus. This will help prevent any spores from entering your airways or making contact with your skin.
Gummy Technologies, a division of CapPlus Technologies provides the pharmaceutical industry with the highest performing gummy vitamin manufacturing equipment possible. Our complete range of solutions also includes finishing, packaging, and quality control solutions for your facility.
To learn more about how our products can assist your team in creating high-quality gummies scalably, contact us today.