Would it be too much to ask for a strawberry-flavored jelly bean that can also act as a painkiller, deliver a daily dose of caffeine, and pick up the kids from school?

According to the latest trends in the better-for-you candies department, candy just might be able to do all of that (except for, you know, the most important one of those selections — carpool duty. Not yet anyway).

 The newest better-for-you confections give you the best of multiple worlds — one in which you can consume a yummy piece of candy, and one where you can actually enjoy having it, guilt-free. That’s because manufacturers are finding ways to ensure the candies we love aren’t delivering empty calories, but are actually doing something beneficial for those chewing them.

 With functional confectionery on the rise, candy is increasingly being viewed as the ideal vehicle for supplements, vitamins, and better-for-you additives.

 In the gum department, manufacturers are ensuring their products do more than freshen bad breath.

 For example, functional gums offer advantages over typical medicine delivery methods. They don’t require water and more importantly, they’re quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, first locally in the mouth, and later through the digestive tract.

 “Gum is the delivery vehicle that we have chosen to use versus all the other delivery vehicles out there,” says Regis Nesbitt, v.p. of marketing at Vitamin Gum, a gum product that packs 12 essential vitamins in each pellet.

“We didn’t do cough drops — we just wanted to be different with chewing gum,” he says.

 As a functional gum, Vitamin Gum provides a much more enjoyable way for consumers to get their daily vitamins when compared to taking a capsule or pill. The product offers 10% of one’s daily vitamin needs per serving — all delivered through the simple act of chewing.

 “For those individuals who like to chew gum and freshen their breath, why not get some balanced nutrition along with that?” says Nesbitt.


Not your average gummy bears

 Gums aren’t the only medium for confectionery products with a purpose. Gummies are proving that better-for-you ingredients don’t necessarily have to be swallowed in pill form just to simply get the act over with. In fact, their intake is being drawn out — and consumers are enjoying it.

 Gummy Owlsare a chewy gummy candy launched earlier this year. At first glance, they’re just owl-shaped chews that come in cherry, strawberry, and lemon flavors.

 But these birds pack more than meets the eye — Gummy Owls are designed as a family weight loss gummy product that contains glucomannan, also known as konjac yam, a yam super fiber clinically proven to promote weight loss.

 “People like to eat something sweet and delicious,” says Tom Gardner, senior director of marketing at Neuliven Health, the company that manufactures Gummy Owls. “At that same time, they don’t want to add unnecessary calories and they want something that’s helpful, so the gummy experience is a way to deliver that.”

 Although other manufacturers currently offer the yam super fiber in capsule — and even in pasta — form, Gardner says candy is the perfect delivery method for the weight loss-inducing ingredient.

 “You can’t necessarily chew a capsule or conveniently carry around pasta,” he says. “With gummies, you can put them in your pocket and carry them around with you, so it’s really a convenient, delicious form of weight loss.”

 Protein Twistis another better-for-you candy looking to offer more than a sweet treat in the form of a gummy. Whereas most people associate protein intake with a chocolate-flavored protein shake or food bar, Protein Twist is neither chocolaty nor a drink. Instead, it’s a gummy product that comes in seven different fruity flavors, and packs 15 grams of protein and 1 serving of fruit per container.

 And it’s selling precisely because it’s not a shake or bar.

 “Candy is in one of those categories where regardless of whether you have a lot of money or a little bit of money to spend, whether or not it’s on the shopping list, it always ends up in the shopping cart,” says James Duffy, president at Protica, Inc., the company that makesProtein Twist.


Back to basics

At the end of the day, nothing screams better-for-you louder than healthy ingredients. At a time when most foods contain more unrecognizable jargon than intelligible foods in their ingredient lists, it makes sense that health now means reverting back to simplicity.

 “We have so many foods out there that are processed, and they don’t need to be,” says Kimberly Crupi Dobbins, founder of Simple Squares, whole food snack bars made with only five ingredients. “So I just wanted to bring it back to basics with five simple ingredients.”

 The square treats are comprised of nuts, honey, vanilla, sea salt, and herbs that provide health benefits to the consumer. For example, the cinnamon clove square variety, which debuted in February this year, is geared to deliver anti-inflammatory benefits.

 And it looks like squares are trending this year.Kashi just launched Soft-Baked Squares, a treat that combines unexpected food ingredients, such as sweet potatoes and beans, with the company’s signature blend of seven whole grains. The Kashi squares derive their sweetness from all-natural cocoa, chocolate chunks and agave nectar, providing 4 grams of fiber and 10 grams of whole grains per square.

 “We know that parents are always on the lookout for good-for-you foods that their kids will enjoy eating,” says Keegan Sheridan, natural food and lifestyle expert for Kashi. “Our new family-friendly Soft-Baked Squares give moms and dads a ‘win-win’ option as a great-tasting lunch box or after-school snack that provides surprising nutrition through wholesome ingredients.”

  As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, the marketplace is calling for snacks that satisfy their cravings — but not at the expense of their well-being. Candy’s always been a long-time consumer favorite, and consumers now have multiple more reasons to love it.  Whoever said candy wasn’t good for you?