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February 6, 2024

Words by: Francesca Roznicki

Photography by: Emily Welz

How one Edmontonian is changing the nutritional gummy game

From a young age, Jolene Ali was fascinated with the idea of nutritional therapy. By ingesting certain minerals and vitamins, she discovered she could make her body feel and function better. After having her daughter, and struggling to lose weight, she embarked on a mission to create a better-tasting nutritional supplement that could assist with weight loss. In December 2023, after lengthy development and government approvals, Ali opened the doors to Gummy Nutrition Lab and introduced her Edmonton-made gummies to market. 

Ali’s goal was to create a great-tasting gummy product with the nutritional benefits found in products in the health food vitamin aisle. The food scientists at her lab worked with Ali to design juicy creations like a cotton candy collagen protein gummy, a dragon fruit and lime creatine gummy, and a passion fruit gummy that contains 15mg of caffeine—a small amount, in comparison to a cup of coffee which contains about 40mg. While we toured the facility, Ali shared with us the challenges of starting a food manufacturing plant in Canada and expanded on why more people should invest in manufacturing on Canadian soil.

Tell us about your background and why you decided to start this business.

I went into food science (at university) because I believed it was a growing industry; people are always going to need to eat. I graduated and worked in some food processing companies and then went back to get my master’s in business and agriculture. Afterwards, I opened a pregnancy-focused health spa, and along with that, I also started a supplement line. I knew that by manipulating a multivitamin, I could help people who were having morning sickness by increasing the amount of vitamin B6 and making it healthier for pregnant women by adding omega-3 fatty acids. I created the product and sold it at the spa and through 200 retailers across Canada. 

I ended up selling that business. I had three kids in two and a half years. I knew I didn’t want to return to the spa business, but I enjoyed the supplement side of what I was doing. I had trouble getting the baby weight off after having my daughter and I knew that Health Canada had approved ingredients that could help with weight management. I thought that a lot of people would appreciate it if I made something that helped solve this problem.

I like taking gummy medicine, and the market trends show that I’m not the only one; it’s been an upward trend for years. We believe that we are creating a new category—we want to know what people expect of a gummy vitamin and merge that with the taste of candy gummies that are on the market. We haven’t seen that in the marketplace yet but we can do it. 

Describe the process of getting from the idea stage to opening the manufacturing facility.

We first needed to find a great manufacturer, but I couldn’t find the right one anywhere. Throughout Canada, the manufacturers were either at capacity or the product they made wasn’t to my liking. I started looking in the United States but I couldn’t export to Canada due to Health Canada regulations.

The way most gummies are made outside of Canada is by mixing cornstarch and oil to create a firm texture, then stamping the shapes (like gummy bears) and pouring the gummy mixture into a cornstarch mould to solidify. It’s then put into a drying room overnight and the next day, the gummies are dropped out and the starch is re-used. If we were making something with caffeine one day and melatonin the next, there is a 100% chance of cross-contamination because you can’t sanitize cornstarch. Health Canada regulates that we use metal moulds which are washed and sanitized between each batch.

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You’re passionate about increasing manufacturing in Canada. Tell us what that means to you.

We have to manufacture more things in this country. We have to have people like us who are willing to take the risk. This is an opportunity for us to keep manufacturing here and hire people who want to live in Canada and make products like ours. We can give them meaningful jobs where they can use their creativity, their brains, and their education to make innovative products.

What is on the horizon for Gummy Nutrition Lab as the company grows?

We hope to keep manufacturing products for others and further expand our line of supplements. A lot of people have ideas and we can help guide them through the process. I feel good about it because it brings more variety into the Canadian marketplace; this industry can be a difficult one to get into. If I can help someone get their business started, it helps everybody and creates more diversity in the marketplace. 

We’re redefining a category of functional foods. I think people are going to purchase this because they want functional ingredients in something tasty that also gives them a good bang for their buck. If I can provide something extra, like weight management supplements, or a product with a little extra caffeine, that’s great. I think many of us don’t want to put junk in our bodies anymore. There are many options for food scientists to use to make things taste good. Everything should taste delicious. 

Gummy Lab Nutrition gummies can be purchased through the Gummy Lab website or on Amazon. 

www.gummynutritionlab.com

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