‘Hey Doc, welcome to my candy kitchen!’

Whether you’re wearing an apron or a lab coat, the art and science of confections unites us all.

I’m pretty sure Haribo founder Hans Riegel, Sr. didn’t have supplements and vitamins in mind when he invented the gummi bear in 1922. But in case you hadn’t noticed, more and more vitamins and supplements are now available in gummi form, be it a bear, a raspberry, fish or whatever.

According to a September 2015 Nutraceuticals World article, only about half of all supplements are now in pill form, with soft gels comprising 27 percent; gummies nearly 10 percent (9.8); chewables 3.7 percent; liquids 3.2 percent; effervescent 2 percent; and vegetable caps 1.2 percent.

Moreover, IRI data pegged gummi vitamin and supplement sales in 2015 at $625 million. What’s even more astounding is that they are projected to reach $1 billion by 2017. Seems like this category is coming into its own, eh?

Pardon my Canadian affectation, but I picked that up while visiting Herbaland Naturals, Canada’s leading nutraceutical gummie manufacturer, last month. Musharaf Syed and Aisha Yang, co-founders of the company in 2009, have taken a fledgling business and watched it grow in leaps and bounds — doubling and/or tripling sales annually.

They will be featured in our October issue, and it’s a fascinating story. What’s even more fascinating is this explosion of confectionery nutraceuticals, be they in gummi or chewy format. Combine gummi and chewy formats together and one realizes that 13.5 percent of all vitamins and supplements come in a confectionery carrier.

What’s driving this segment? All of us I’m led to believe. First off, we all know that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way.” OK, so that reference really dates me, doesn’t it?

But as kids, we can all remember having to take that sickeningly sweet cough syrup that never really masked the medicine. But thanks to masking technology and processing developments, children can get their needed supplements and vitamins in gummi form. And yes, they do taste much better.

It’s a far cry from cod liver oil, isn’t it? But shouldn’t we all be getting our vitamins from just normal food intake? Certainly a noble goal, but unless you’re living on a different planet, where leisure rhymes with pleasure and everyone’s an aristocrat, complete with a Downton Abby kitchen staff, that’s not the case.

Moreover, it’s not just kids who prefer consuming vitamins and supplement in gummi form. Guess what, Millennials, Gen-Yers and Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation all prefer gummies and chewy candies to horse pills.

First, you don’t need water, although I believe every Millennial, Gen-Yer and half of Gen-Xer carry bottles with them. Say, whatever did happen to water fountains?

Second, I don’t have to gag when swallowing. That may not sound important to young folk, but to us elders, it plays a huge role, especially when you’re popping more than one pill.

Finally, there’s the taste factor. Sure, there are products out there that don’t quite mask the vitamins or supplements. But trust me, I’ve tried several that make these nutraceutical products — dare I say it — yummi.

One thing I’ve noticed, however. Most people producing nutraceutical confections don’t consider themselves part of the confectionery industry. And, I’m sensing that most confectioners don’t consider gummi supplement and vitamin manufacturers part of their own industry, either.

Seems like a shame that we can’t get together in the same room and share insights. After all, aren’t nutritional bars, breath mints and whitening gums functional candies? Kissing cousins, I’d say.

Besides, a billion-dollar segment is kind of hard to ignore. Maybe it’s time to reach out to those candy makers in lab coats.