Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition’s (Morristown, NJ) latest clean-label, food-based capsule colors will have dietary supplement manufacturers seeing red…and yellow. The company is now officially launching its two newest solutions, Spicy Yellow and Red Radish, which are specifically designed for the company’s clean-label Vcaps Plus hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) capsules.
Spicy Yellow and Red Radish join the other color in Lonza’s Vcaps Plus clean-label, food-based capsule color portfolio: Vcaps Plus Purple Carrot color, which Lonza introduced in fall 2018. Together, the three food-sourced colors can be mixed, enabling companies to create a wide range of colors for their Vcaps Plus capsules. Spicy Yellow is sourced from turmeric, while Red Radish comes from—you guessed it—red radish. The colors are now available to the North American market.
Barri Sigvertsen, Global Innovation Marketing, Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition, explains that Lonza is still on the hunt for a highly stable, natural, food-based source for the color blue. In the food industry, blue is considered one of the hardest colors to achieve using non-artificial sources. Currently, Lonza does offer blue colors for its capsules using spirulina, a natural blue source; however, because spirulina is still not accepted as a natural color, on a regulatory basis, in some parts of the world, including in the U.S., Sigvertsen says Lonza continues to search for a promising contender for true blue.
“We do have one in our line of sight,” she says. “We’re not ready to reveal it yet, but it is coming.”
For now, she says, formulators can rely on the company’s Purple Carrot color to achieve blue-ish shades. Purple Carrot does meet regulatory requirements across all of the major regions Lonza serves. “It truly is from purple carrots,” Sigvertsen says. “They put them in a pot, steam them, extract it, and distill it down into a concentrate; then that concentrate is dried and turned into a powder. It’s always a very natural process. No solvents or preservatives are used. We want it to be as clean as possible.”
These blue-ish shades from Purple Carrot, combined with Lonza’s new Spicy Yellow and Red Radish colors, give formulators the primary colors they need to achieve a range of capsule shades. “So, we’ll have the green. We’ll have brown,” Sigvertsen says, adding that brown is actually quite a popular color requested for capsules.
Formulators can also achieve a range of shades of a color, from light to dark. Take purple carrot, she says. “The cool thing about purple carrot is that you can extract a more reddish tone, or you can get a little bluer, depending on the pH balance.”
Performance and Stability
Sigvertsen says Lonza will not consider a capsule color ready to launch unless the company can guarantee its performance and stability.
“We have a pretty strict standard, and unless we can guarantee, like, a five-year stability, we’re not putting something on the market. And while we know that with natural colors, you’re going to get some variations, we want to make sure that it’s the best performance possible in anything we do," she says.
In addition to proven stability, the clean-label colors Lonza offers ensure color is evenly distributed throughout the capsule. “We want it to be an even color so that the capsule isn’t spotty in any way,” she explains.
In order to determine which natural food sources worked best, Lonza did a lot of testing. “A lot of other things that we tried—red cabbage, tomato, all these different sources—they truly just didn’t stand up to the process used for creating capsules,” Sigvertsen says.
And, of course, the colors have to meet clean-label criteria. This is why, for example, the company embarked on its new turmeric yellow color instead of relying on a natural yellow color it already has in house, sourced from riboflavin. Sigvertsen explains that because the riboflavin is derived from corn, some companies might be concerned with traceability issues, including exposure to genetically modified organisms. Turmeric, by contrast, presents a clear path to clean-label criteria, she says.
Branding and Masking
Lonza is helping companies conceptualize how these new clean-label capsule colors can help to tell a brand’s marketing story. The company, for instance, can suggest to companies how to combine various ingredients aimed at weight-management consumers in a capsule color that speaks to those shoppers. The company even suggests using darker and lighter shades of a color for products meant to be used as a regimen—for instance, a product meant to be taken in the morning could be tinted in a lighter purple color, while a nighttime product is housed in a darker purple capsule.
Interestingly, says Sigvertsen, while Lonza initially expected branding to be the primary reason why consumers would seek a colored capsule, many companies also choose colored capsules in order to mask the appearance of the ingredients in a capsule for a more pleasing look.
“People love a clear, transparent capsule,” she says. “That’s the number-one most popular seller we have. But as people are getting more creative with their formulations, sometimes those formulations aren’t very attractive, and so we find that one of the biggest reasons for them wanting colors is to be able to mask the ingredients.” Other reasons for choosing tinted capsules is to protect light-sensitive ingredients from UV light. “Colors can also diffuse that light and protect those ingredients from degrading,” Sigvertsen says.
The Clean-Label Package
Lonza’s clean-label colors, along with its Vcaps Plus capsules, create a comprehensive portfolio for brands looking for clean-label, vegetarian delivery systems.
The Vcaps Plus capsules themselves are clean label. They are made only with FSC-certified HPMC and water. “It has one simple ingredient: it’s HMPC,” says Sigvertsen. “We mix it with water, the water dries off—I mean, you can’t get any cleaner than that.” And, she said, when you add the clean-label color, “it will be HPMC and red radish. That’s it. That’s all that would be identified as ingredients.”
Vcaps Plus capsules are vegetarian, vegan, and non-GMO, with certifications from the Vegetarian Society, the Non-GMO Project, as well as being kosher and halal certified. They provide extremely low-moisture conditions, accommodating moisture-sensitive, in-demand ingredients such as probiotics and enzymes.