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UPDATE 1-Catalent to buy gummy vitamins maker Bettera for $1 bln

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(Adds background)

Aug 30 (Reuters) - Catalent Inc, the contract drug maker known for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, said on Monday it would buy gummy vitamins maker Bettera Holdings LLC for $1 billion in cash to expand in the nutritional supplements market.

Texas-based Bettera makes vitamins, supplements and minerals delivered in the form of gummies, lozenges and chewables. It is backed by private investment firm Highlander Partners LP.

Chewable forms of vitamins, such as gummies, are gaining popularity, especially among people who find swallowing pills difficult, and the market is expected to reach $9.3 billion by 2026, according to a report by Allied Market Research.

Catalent, which has been involved in the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, including those from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, makes softgel capsules which are easy to consume and come in a variety of flavors and sweeteners.

Centerview Partners LLC was the financial adviser to Catalent on the deal, which is expected to close before the end of 2021.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal. (Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)