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Vitamin supplements as dissolving strips:
what went wrong?

Vitamin supplements come in different forms these days: classical tablets, tasty (or not) liquid vitamins, subtle sublingual vitamins, not-so-common spray vitamins, and recently - "grab-and-go" gel packs.

There is another delivery form of dietary supplements and vitamins which on my opinion is the most unusual, in an everyday sense.
I am talking about vitamin supplements in a form of dissolving strips, sometimes also called "thin strips", "oral film" or "edible film".

You probably have heard about, and maybe even seen and used
Listerine PocketPaks Breath Strips.

Popular mouthwash comes in a form of very thin, semi-transparent strips about one inch long, which melt almost instantly in your mouth, refreshing breath and killing bacteria.
Strips come in a small pack (half size of a match box) and are obviously more portable and convenient than bottled mouthwash.

Seeing success of Listerine strips, several companies decided to make vitamin supplements in a similar form. This was back in 2004.
You can easily find on the Internet articles and news releases dated 2004-2005 about launches of new dietary supplements of this kind.

But...

As of today (August 2008), I could not find vitamin strips for purchase, not in stores, nor on the web.
(There were several exceptions - about them later...)

Three products - dietary supplements on strips - are available on Amazon and in some convenient stores. Drug stores and pharmacies do not sell them anymore.
It looks like these products did not gain the planned popularity and did not meet the expectations of their manufacturers, as if something went wrong - but what?...

Because I like to learn new stuff and to research new topics (have you seen the page about vitamin water yet?..), I began "digging".

Here are some "pearls" I've found.


Vitamin strips: great expectations

As I mentioned, there are many news releases from 2004-2005 about launches of new vitamin supplements on edible dissolving strips.
Here are just few examples from different sources:

  • Article 1: Supplement companies sticking to vitamin strips
  • Article 2: Vitamin Strips
  • Article 3: Film strips set to impact new product development
  • Article 4: Healthy Moments Health Strips

That time, citing market success of Listerine PocketPak strips, many analysts were predicting fast growing demand for other products based on same technology. "Other products" included dietary supplements, medicines against cold and sore throat, and some more.

A company called Momentus Solutions introduced in 2004 a line of vitamin supplements on strips Healthy Moments, with 32 (!) different tastes for adults and 8 flavors for kids. Vitamins for kids were marketed under Arthur brand name. In 2004, the company executives was planning to be the first firm to sell vitamin supplements on strips nationwide in the US.

...Today, in 2008, you cannot find Healthy Moments vitamins in retail stores. Some websites still have them for wholesale, though.
More interestingly, the company website of Momentus Solutions does not exist anymore (you can try it: www.momentussolutions.com).
Another website, which was dedicated to their Healthy Moments vitamin supplements, does not have anything about vitamin strips. It carries some general health links, and it looks to be for sale.

What happened?...

Here is another failure story.

I was able to find a report dated February 2007 about the company named HealthSport, Inc. This company makes edible strip products containing electrolytes, primarily for use by athletes.
Again, we see an optimistic forecast for edible strips products, including electrolytes, vitamin supplements and others, with Listerine PocketPak mentioned as an industry beacon.
Based on this forecast, the target stock price of HealthSport was set to $8.72 - with the current price of $2.77 in February 2007, when the report was published.

...As of today (August 5, 2008), stock price of HealthSport is...
20 cent. You can check today's price on Yahoo! Finance.


Why vitamin supplements on strips failed?

Here are some possible reasons for the failure of these products.

I was not able to find a single source of information which would analyze what exactly happened, I am not sure such report exists. Most probably this was a combination of several factors.

You can decide by yourself:

  • Quality issues
    ConsumerLabs is an independent company which provides "test results and information to help consumers and healthcare professionals evaluate health, wellness, and nutrition products" (ConsumerLab.com).

    In the product review report posted in January 2007, many vitamin supplements by many well-known firms were marked as
    "not approved" because they failed to meet their claims and other quality standards.

    Among them - Healthy Moments Mint Cream Flavor Vitamin Strips, which "contained none of its claimed vitamin A. It also contained 180% of its claimed 2 mg of niacin per strip."
    Here is a link to the ConsumerLabs report.

    I do not know what happened after this report was published,
    but I guess it contributed in some way to the fact that we do not see these products anymore.

  • Technology limitations
    It turns out there are some limits as far as the amount of active ingredients a single strip can carry.
    The limit for the active components is about 30% of the total weight of the strip. A typical 120 mg film strip can only deliver about 36 mg of vitamin supplements. To put this number in perspective, a daily value (DV) of vitamin C is 60 mg, of vitamin E - 20 mg, vitamin B3 (niacin) - 20 mg, pantothenic acid - 10 mg. Obviously, several strips will be required to provide a daily value of required vitamins.

    Would you agree that the need to take several strips to cover daily value of vitamin supplements is a nuisance which could have a negative impact on the product acceptance?..

    As of minerals, the numbers of DV there are even higher:
    for example, calcium DV is 1 gram (1000 mg).

  • Artificial ingredients
    All vitamin supplements, of any delivery form, contain inactive ingredients.
    Quality of these inactive components may be crucial, like in case of solid supplements. Not less important is the question about the origin of these added elements. In other words, are they natural, or not.
    Here are some of inactive ingredients of Healthy Moments vitamin strips:
    • Acesulfame Potassium
      An artificial, zero-calories sweetener. Approved by FDA, but some reports have information about potential dangers, like the one here.
    • Sucralose
      An artificial sweetener, also known as Splenda. Accepted ny FDA, and widely used in foods and drinks. There are however reports about its potential danger, many of them are collected in Sucralose Toxicity Information Center
    • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
      An artificial compound used in different industries and products, from engine degreasers to tooth paste. Potentially harmful - check here.
    • FD & C yellow 6 dye
      Artificial colorant (orange), also known as E110. Per some research, may have negative health effects, especially on children. It is banned in Norway and Finland.

    For me this list is enough to cause me NOT to consider such vitamin supplements at all.

  • Usability issues
    In one review of vitamin C strips I found several points which are not problems per se, but taken together probably can be counted as "failure" factors.
    While that review was written about vitamin C strips, I assume that same would be true for any vitamin supplements on strips, because the technology is essentially the same.

    • Difficulties with handling
      Strips are very thin, and can stick together. Once outside the container, it is hard to put them back, and they easily brake.

    • Some people can have difficulties with handling because
      of a small size of the strips. As strips are almost transparent and very thin, it can be hard to determine how many strips were taken out of the container.

    • Taste has been always an issue for vitamin supplements, and for vitamin strips too. To neutralize that known "vitamin taste" (from vitamins of B group), manufacturers used strong artificial flavors. Many customers would not accept any artificial flavors in vitamin supplements.


Conclusion

  1. I was not able to purchase any vitamin supplements on dissolving strips. As I mentioned already, some websites would sell you large quantities of these products - probably because they got stuck with them after retailed stopped ordering...
    But this is just my assumption.

  2. Other products are available these days in a form of thin strips:
    cold medicines, sublingual B12 vitamin (I found it in Canada only, not in US), melatonin strips, energy strips.You can even find antioxidant strips and weight control strips on Amazon.com.

  3. Dietary supplements in this form are definitely more portable than pills or liquids, and they do not require water as strips quickly dissolve in your mouth. At the same time, all of them include artificial sweeteners, and have other issues mentioned above.

  4. All aspects of sublingual absorption explained on the spray vitamins page would be applicable to vitamin supplements on strips, too.

  5. Do dissolvable strips work?...
    Well, what I am positive about is that Listerine breath strips work for sure! :-)

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