Bitter Blockers: Taste Masking Strategy for Vitamin, Medicated and CBD Gummies

Bitter Blockers: Taste Masking Strategy for Vitamin, Medicated and CBD Gummies

Ashley Reinsmith

In the burgeoning market of vitamin, medicated, and CBD/THC gummies, manufacturers are constantly seeking innovative ways to enhance the flavor and palatability of their gummy candy. One of the significant challenges is the inherent bitterness of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and certain vitamins. An exciting innovation is bitter blocking, a process that works to eliminate bitter taste from gummies and various food items, which changes their natural flavor profile for better taste.

This article delves into the bitter blocker, a unique type of bitterness reduction and taste modifier that works its magic by blocking undesired flavor from reaching our taste receptors. 

Understanding Taste Perception and Bitterness

Before exploring bitter blockers, it's crucial to understand human taste mechanisms. The human tongue can distinguish five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, umami, and bitter tastes. Bitterness is a critical taste, as it often signals the presence of potentially toxic substances. However, many beneficial compounds, like certain vitamins and cannabinoids, inherently taste bitter, posing a challenge for formulators of edible products.

What are Bitter Blockers?

Bitter blockers are revolutionary flavor modifiers designed to counteract the undesirable bitter taste often present in foods, medications, and supplements. By targeting bitter receptors on the tongue, these compounds can significantly improve the palatability and overall flavor profile of a product. They are particularly beneficial in industries where taste is a critical factor for consumer satisfaction and adherence, such as in the pharmaceutical and food sectors.

How Do Bitter Blockers Work?

The perception of bitterness is primarily mediated by the taste 2 receptor family (TAS2Rs or T2Rs) proteins. These G-protein coupled receptors detect a wide variety of bitter molecules, initiating a signal cascade that culminates in the perception of bitterness. However, due to genetic variations, not everyone perceives bitterness in the same way, adding another layer of complexity to taste masking.

At a molecular level, bitter blockers function by interacting with the taste receptors responsible for detecting bitterness. These blockers either prevent the bitter molecules from binding to the receptors or modulate the receptor's response, thereby reducing the perception of bitterness. This process is essential for masking the taste of various active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and enhancing the flavor of natural foods without compromising their nutritional value.

The Role of a Bitter Blocker in Bitterness Reduction

By inhibiting bitterness, bitter blockers essentially block flavor defects from reaching taste receptors, thereby enhancing the overall taste profile of the food item. In the food industry, bitter blockers can enhance the taste of healthy but naturally bitter foods, encouraging better eating habits. In pharmaceuticals, improving the taste of oral medications can significantly increase patient compliance, especially among children and sensitive populations. Bitter blockers, therefore, play a crucial role in both industries by improving the overall sensory experience.

Understanding the Excipient Role of Bitter Blockers

Bitter blockers also play the role of an excipient, a substance that is included in the medication to improve taste and aid in the delivery of active compounds to various body receptors. These non-GMO, water soluble elements serve to block taste defects and stimulate sweet receptors, thus heightening the taste experience.

Natural vs. Synthetic Bitter Blockers: Which is Better?

When it comes to bitter blockers, there's a debate between using natural or synthetic options. Natural bitter blockers, often derived from plants or other organic sources, are favored gummy bear ingredients for their clean label appeal and are considered non-GMO. On the other hand, synthetic bitter blockers can offer more consistent results and may be more effective in certain formulations. The choice between natural and synthetic often boils down to the specific application, regulatory requirements, and consumer preferences.

How to Choose the Right Bitter Blocker

Selecting the appropriate bitter blocker involves considering several factors, including the specific application, target audience, regulatory considerations, and desired flavor profile. It's also essential to consider the quality of evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of the blocker. Collaborating with flavor scientists and regulatory experts can help in making an informed decision.

The Power of Soluble Powder Formulation

Bitter blockers are mainly available in two preparations, as a soluble powder formulation and a liquid mixture. The soluble powder formulations are often preferred as it blends well with foods, adding ease to the bitterness reduction process.

Commercial Examples of Bitter Blockers

There are several examples of commercial bitter blockers currently in use, ranging from natural extracts to synthetic compounds. 

  • Bitter Blocker Maker: TastesNaturalA bitter blocker that can block strong, bitter compounds and reduce afterburn.TastesNatural recommends TruClear for CBD/THC and pharmaceutical products.
    • Reduce bitterness of many ingredients including: Ashwagandha, Caffeine, CBD, MCT, Mushrooms and THC.
    • Used in most delivery forms, including gummies, drinks, chewables, and tinctures
    • Listed as a Natural Flavor
  • Bitter Blocker Maker: MafcoA bitter blocker series that can address bitterness in food, beverages, and nutraceutical applications.
    Bitter Blocker N:
    • Effective at Masking Bitterness from Botanical Extracts, Amino Acids, Caffeine
    • Delivery forms: Nutraceuticals, nutritional products, sports performance, energy drinks
    • GRAS Approved, Kosher Certified, Halal certifiable
  • Bitter Blocker Maker: SpecializedRXA water soluble protein powder concentrate that can block flavor defects in oral preparations, a validated 3rd party study shows that it effectively modulates the bitter taste receptors on the tongue. Also works to eliminate salty, metallic, astringent, and general off-notes in a variety of liquid, powder, or tablet based oral formulations.
    • Reduced masking sweeteners, Vitamin Supplements and Bitter APIs
    • NON-GMO
    • Heat stable to over 160°C

Application in Gummy Formulation

Incorporating bitter blockers into gummy formulations is a science and art, requiring a deep understanding of the ingredients' taste profile and the target consumer's taste preferences. Here are some practical considerations for manufacturers:

  1. Taste Testing: Due to the genetic variability in taste perception, extensive taste testing with diverse panels is crucial to determine the most effective bitter blockers and their optimal concentrations.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: Any bitter blocker used must comply with regulatory standards for safety and consumption. Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status is a critical factor to consider.
  3. Synergistic Combinations: Often, a combination of bitter blockers, sweeteners, and flavorings provides the best results. Finding the right balance is key to a successful formulation.
  4. Consumer Preferences: Understanding the target market is crucial. For instance, children's gummies might require different taste masking strategies compared to those aimed at adults.

The Science Behind Bitter Blocking

Understanding the science behind bitter blocking is crucial for effective formulation. Bitter blockers typically target the TAS2Rs family of bitter taste receptors, which are responsible for detecting a wide range of bitter compounds. By understanding the interaction between blockers and these receptors, scientists and formulators can develop more effective and targeted solutions for reducing bitterness.

Bitter Blockers: Agonist Binding Sites of Bitter Taste Receptor TAS2R5

Bitter blockers are compounds that, when added to a product, can effectively mask or reduce the perceived bitterness. They don't remove the bitter compounds but instead interact with the taste receptors or the signaling pathways to alter the taste perception. There are several mechanisms by which bitter blockers can operate:

  1. Receptor Antagonism: Bitter blockers may act as antagonists to the TAS2Rs, preventing bitter compounds from binding and activating these receptors. They fit into the receptor's binding site without activating it, effectively blocking the bitter compound's access. This mechanism ensures that the intracellular signaling cascade isn't initiated, thus preventing the perception of bitterness. Learn More

  2. Signal Cascade Interference: Some bitter blockers work by interfering with the signaling pathways post-receptor activation, mitigating the perception of bitterness. They may hinder the G protein's ability to release its subunits or prevent the subsequent activation of PLC, thereby stopping the increase in intracellular calcium that leads to bitterness perception. Learn More

  3. Multimodal Taste Alteration: Certain bitter blockers work by enhancing the sweetness or adding other flavors that make the bitterness less perceptible. These compounds might not interact directly with TAS2Rs but could activate or enhance the receptors for sweetness or other flavors, making the overall taste experience more pleasant. Learn More

Adenosine: A Key Player in Sweet Perception Enhancement

Studies have shed light on the role of adenosine in taste perception, particularly in enhancing the sweet taste. Adenosine is a compound that naturally occurs in the body and acts as an autocrine modulator, particularly for sweet taste. When ATP (a neurotransmitter released during taste reception) is degraded within the taste buds, adenosine is formed and excites the primary sensory afferent fibers. It has a specific enhancing effect on sweet-evoked responses in taste receptor cells and does not affect bitter or umami responses.

This selective action is primarily due to the expression of adenosine A2B receptors on sweet-sensitive cells. In the context of gummy formulation, understanding and leveraging the action of adenosine and its receptors can open new avenues for effectively masking the bitterness of healthful but inherently bitter compounds.

What are the Pros and Cons of Blocking Bitter Taste?

While bitterness can be an undesirable trait in certain foodstuffs, it plays a vital role in our dietary repertoire. The introduction of bitter blockers has stimulated debates, spotlighting both their merits and potential downsides.

Bitter Blockers and Consumer Health: A Sweet Solution?

Bitter blockers have the potential to significantly impact consumer health by reducing the need for excessive sugar and artificial sweeteners in foods and making medicinal products more palatable. However, their long-term effects and interactions with other food components are areas of ongoing research. Understanding these aspects is essential for ensuring that bitter blockers contribute positively to consumer health.

Understanding the Impact of Bitter Blockers on Taste Perception

Blocking bitter taste receptors alters the way humans perceive and enjoy foods, potentially reshaping the overall culinary landscape. Investigations are extending towards the understanding of how bitter blockers impact individual and collective taste perceptions.

What to Consider when Opting for Taste Masking Strategy

When considering a taste masking strategy, the key factors to consider are the type of bitter blocking agent, the method of implementation, the exact application, and the target audience. Understanding these aspects will better aid in achieving the desired flavor profile.

Impact on Nutritional Value of Preventing the Bitter Taste

The use of bitter blockers to alter natural flavors may have implications on nutrition, but further studies are needed. Researchers are keenly observing the nutritional impact of these blockers on the human health and dietary habits.

Taste Masking Strategies: Beyond Bitter Blockers

While bitter blockers are a significant component of taste masking strategies, they're not the only option. Other approaches include flavor masking, the use of sweeteners, and physical methods like microencapsulation. A comprehensive taste masking strategy may employ multiple methods to achieve the desired sensory profile.

The Future of Bitter Blockers and Taste Masking

The field of taste masking, including bitter blockers, is continuously evolving. With advancements in food science and technology, we can expect to see more innovative solutions that offer better efficacy, broader applications, and improved consumer acceptance. Staying informed about these developments is crucial for anyone involved in product formulation and development.

Key Take Aways about Bitter Blockers

  • Importance of Taste in Product Formulation: The taste of vitamins, medicated, and CBD/THC gummies is a significant concern for manufacturers due to the inherent bitterness of some active ingredients.

  • Understanding Taste Perception: Human tongues can distinguish five basic tastes, with bitterness often indicating the presence of potentially toxic substances. However, some beneficial compounds also taste bitter.

  • Role of Bitter Blockers: These are flavor modifiers designed to counteract the undesirable bitter taste by targeting bitter receptors on the tongue, thus improving palatability and consumer satisfaction.

  • Choosing the Right Bitter Blocker: Factors include specific applications, target audience, regulatory considerations, and the desired flavor profile.

  • Commercial Examples: Several examples of commercial bitter blockers, like TruClear, MagnaB-Block, MagnaSweet, and Bitter-Bloc, are mentioned, each with its unique properties and applications.

  • Practical Application in Gummy Formulation: Incorporating bitter blockers into gummy formulations requires a deep understanding of the ingredients' taste profile, extensive taste testing, regulatory compliance, and an understanding of consumer preferences.

  • Future of Bitter Blockers: The field is evolving with continuous research uncovering new compounds and mechanisms, potentially leading to more targeted and effective solutions for bitterness reduction.


For manufacturers of vitamin, medicated, and CBD gummies, the effective use of bitter blockers is not just about improving taste—it's about enhancing the overall consumer experience, adherence, and satisfaction. As science advances, so too will the strategies to mask bitterness, opening new possibilities for healthier and more palatable products. Understanding and harnessing the science behind bitter blockers is, therefore, an investment in the future of gummy formulations.