Rotten, a low-sugar candy company, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $10,000 to fund the launch of its first product: gummy worms. 

The campaign offers various levels of rewards for anyone willing to support Rotten. For example, a $28 pledge, dubbed, "The Fetal Freak," includes a single box of gummy worms. 

While the $250 pledge, "The King Freak," offers 10 boxes of gummy worms. 

And a $2,500 pledge, "The Rotten Lab Rat," offers the opportunity to help the company develop and manufacture the final formulation of its gummy worms.

Atter just four hours, Rotten reached its goal. And with 24 days still left to go in the campaign, the company has now tripled that — raising $34,956 as of Sept. 13. 

So why are people so excited? Rotten is offering one the hottest products in the current marketplace — a healthier gummy. As millennials long for the sweets of their youth, while grappling with being more health conscious as they get older, they have propelled product development in this space. And now, as Gen Z grows up and gains more buying power, its commitment to eat healthy and sustainability is fueling even more growth. 

Or as Rotten describes it in its mission: “Helping people reduce their sugar intake while still indulging in the treats they love.”

Developed with leading candy scientists, Rotten Gummy Worms have 70 percent less sugar and are made with real fruit. The gummy worms are made with allulose — a natural sweetener found in foods like figs, raisins, and maple syrup — so there are no sugar alcohols or stevia. It's sweet, non-glycemic, and only has 10 percent of the calories. And of course, they are available in both sweet and sour versions. 

"I wanted to lower the sugar in gummy worms without sucking the soul out of it," said Michael Fisher, founder and CEO. "Rotten Gummy Worms are fun to eat. But most importantly — and something most other better-for-you brands forget — they actually taste good. You can feel good about what you eat and still enjoy the weird, ridiculousness of candy."

Rotten's eye-catching packaging also is sustainable and plastic-free, tapping into emerging consumer awareness of sustainability. The pouches are made of certified home compostable material, meaning it doesn't need to be taken to an industrial plant for it to decompose. And the packaging is made of wood pulp, sourced exclusively from responsibly managed plantations.

It’s healthier products like Rotten’s driving the global gummy market, which is expected to reach $42.06 billion by 2028, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., expanding at a CAGR of 12.6 percent over the forecast period. 

The report specifically points to organic, clean, and natural formulated gummy supplements by key market participants, coupled with increasing customer demand for nutrition with taste and flavor for fueling the market growth.

Perhaps more telling than the report is Lily’s Sweets’ latest launch. The brand, known for its low-sugar and sugar-free chocolates, announced this week that it’s releasing low-sugar gummies. 

The company’s new parent, The Hershey Co., is a clear pacemaker in the U.S. confectionery sector, so Lily’s gummies are notable.

The Gummy Bears and Sour Gummy Worms are non-GMO, keto-friendly, gluten-free, plant-based and have less than 1 gram of sugar per serving. They’re also made without artificial colors and flavors.

And who is the branding partnering with for the launch? A millennial, of course. 

Fashion blogger Color Me Courtney is designing limited-edition lunch boxes inspired by the gummies’ bold flavors and packaging. 

The partnership makes the target market pretty clear. And the target market is thrilled.

In the lead-up to the launch, Lily’s did teaser posts on its social media platforms, including one on its Instagram that read “No Sugar Added Chocolate” With the word “chocolate” crossed out and replaced with “sweets.”

One user commented: “This is the most stressful and anticipated product release of my life and I’m not sure I can survive much longer.”

Meanwhile, Project 7 expanded its low-sugar candy line over the last year with the addition of two new gummy products: Sour Apple Rings and Sour Gummy Worms. 

The new additions further illustrate the brand’s commitment to making low-sugar candy recipes with unique, flavor-packed fun. Project 7’s Sour Apple Rings and Sour Gummy Worms contain 3 grams of sugar, 6 net carbs, and 60 calories per bag. The Sour Apple Rings pair Granny Smith tartness and sweetness, while the Sour Gummy Worms come in unique flavors such as Tropical Nights, Lemon Sublime and Rainbow Ice. 

Like all Project 7 candy, the new Sour Apple Rings and Sour Gummy Worms are 100 percent plant-based and made with no animal byproduct; no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; and are free from sugar alcohols, inulin and IMO. Project 7’s entire low-sugar candy line is vegan, keto-friendly, low-calorie and low-carb.

“We are thrilled to expand our low-sugar offerings to include Sour Apple Rings and Sour Gummy Worms and to dive deeper into our total commitment to making low-sugar treats,” said Tyler Merrick, CEO and founder of Project 7. “We tested countless iterations of these products, perfecting these delicious recipes that are jam-packed with flavor and fun and are excited to offer even more better-for-you candies for everyone to love.”

The Grand View Research, Inc. report made a point to call out the importance of supplements in the gummy market’s growth. 

“In 2020, the vitamins application segment accounted for the highest revenue share of over 55 percent on account of high consumption of vitamin gummies due to benefits, such as enhanced bone, teeth & ophthalmic health and improvement in overall immunity,” it said. 

One new product from the last year tapping into the gummy supplements segment was mykind Organics Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies launched by Garden of Life, which partnered again with actress Alicia Silverstone to co-create its first full line of Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies. 

The gummies are certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan and gluten-free. They are formulated to promote immune system health, healthy digestion, boost energy and support weight management.

"I wanted to make these gummies special, the way I like to do everything with mykind Organics, in the most natural and healthy way," Silverstone said. "From the moment you see our label, to the first taste of deliciousness, through the way you feel when you take them, you can see they are made differently, from the highest quality, most nourishing ingredients available. That is truly what makes us different and what sets us apart."

The gummy supplements sector also saw a major acquisition in August.

Catalent Inc — which Reuters describes as “a contract drug maker known for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines” — said it would acquire gummy vitamins maker Bettera Holdings LLC for $1 billion in cash. 

“Bettera was established with a vision to serve the needs of consumers who want to experience the benefits of nutritional supplements through more enjoyable and convenient dose forms,” said Jeff L. Hull, president and CEO of Highlander Partners. “Catalent has long had a similar vision, combined with specialized expertise, a history of successful innovation, a wide range of offerings, and the resources to help Bettera continue to grow and meet customer and consumer needs. Together, Catalent Consumer Health and Bettera are well positioned to continue Bettera’s mission of serving consumers and participating in the long-term growth of the self-care market.”

If there’s anything millennials and Gen Z crave, it’s self-care. Achieving it via gummy is just icing on the healthy gummy candies.