Capsule and Softgel Advancements for Dietary Supplements

Nov 3, 2016

A nutritional supplement is only as good as its delivery vehicle. While ingredients and formulations might be of high quality and value, if they’re not delivered in a way that protects them from degradation and appeals to the consumer, that supplement is not, ultimately, worth much.

Indeed, “dosage forms for delivery of ingredients can make as big a difference in consumer satisfaction as the ingredients themselves,” confirms Missy Lowery, senior manager, marketing, Capsugel (Greenwood, SC). “Delivery forms can maximize the chance of achieving the most benefits from ingredients, too,” she adds.

Fortunately, supplement brands have a wide selection of delivery systems from which to choose, and the companies supplying those systems continue to innovate and respond to consumer interests and demand.

Among the myriad delivery formats on offer—including tablets, gummies, melts, shots, chews, sprays, and more—capsules and softgels remain useful, reliable, and economic options, providing quality-protection to the formulations they contain and benefits to the consumer. Increasingly, capsule and softgel suppliers are developing varieties appealing to vegetarian, non-GMO, gluten-free, and “clean” lifestyles and that add value in the forms of increased supplement bioavailability and targeted release.


Effective, Protective, Targeted

Capsules and softgels, while perhaps not as trendy as their gummy, liquid-shot, or inhalable counterparts, remain economical, effective, and beneficial choices for supplement brands—and for good reasons. Both hard capsules and softgels can mask the bitter, pungent, or otherwise off-putting flavors and odors of such ingredients as marine oils (particularly krill oil) or herbs (such as valerian root and garlic), and, in most cases, they can do so without the addition of artificial ingredients or flavors.

A second advantage offered by both hard capsules and softgels is protection from oxidation or spoilage of the encapsulated ingredients. Supplier Catalent Pharma Solutions (Somerset, NJ) points to softgels’ lack of headspace or air pocket as the primary mechanism by which oxidation is eliminated or reduced, while supplier Capsugel attributes the protection afforded by hard capsules to that format’s low permeability.

Beyond these benefits, capsules and softgels can be customized and refined to add value through improved digestibility, controlled bioavailability, quick or controlled release of ingredients, and improved palatability.

Catalent Pharma Solutions, for instance, has developed a dispersion technology for softgels based on “food-approved surfactants and flavor-masking and antioxidant ingredients to create a small-droplet supplement dispersion that can be encapsulated in a softgel—a dosage form preferred by consumers,” says June Lin, global marketing director, consumer health softgel, Catalent.

Enteric coatings can prevent softgels from dissolving in the stomach, thereby assisting in releasing ingredients directly into the intestines where “absorption is more effective,” Lin says. For krill oil and omega-3 oils in particular, she adds, “this can further minimize any issues with reflux and make products more palatable for a wider population.”

Softgels can also deliver ingredients in a way marketers may not have considered before. Namely, they can be a “delivery system wherein the softgel tip can be twisted off to deliver contents by spreading on food or adding to drinks,” Lin explains, with potential applications in supplements for pediatric or geriatric populations, for which swallowing pills can be difficult.

At Capsugel, Lowery points to an innovative beads-in-a-liquid-filled-capsule technology for controlled release of supplement ingredients. She describes it using the popular ingredient melatonin: “The inner capsule is filled with melatonin timed-release beadlets. It is suspended in a liquid melatonin−filled outer capsule. The outer capsule releases immediately, providing quick sleep response [in the user], while inside the inner capsule melatonin beads of different sizes and coating thicknesses dissolve at intervals to promote an uninterrupted, restful sleep.”


Vegetarian and Clean

Trends in delivery format are currently following vegetarian, non-GMO, and “clean” lifestyle trends, report Catalent, Capsugel, and Robinson Pharma Inc. (Santa Ana, CA).