How challenging are vegan-friendly supplements to produce?


Are there enough vegan-friendly excipients, fillers, and delivery systems on the market?

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Vegan food is a growing market across the globe. One 2023 market report suggests that the vegan food market will grow by 10% year-over-year through to 2028.1 As more consumers adopt the vegan lifestyle, demand for vegan-friendly supplements is also growing. Consumers are increasingly seeking out botanical and other non-animal ingredients in their supplements, and they’re also beginning to scrutinize delivery systems and formats.

As the demand for vegan supplements grows, expect more brands to get in on the trend. But what challenges do they face when it comes to the ingredients needed to make vegan supplements? Here are some of the factors that influence how easy or difficult it could be to create vegan-friendly supplements.

Not All Ingredients Are Equally Vegan-Friendly

While there’s no shortage of demand for vegan supplements, there is a shortage of certain ingredients. Despite the fact that many bioactives are natural plant derivatives, there are some ingredients that can only be found in animal sources.

“Collagen peptides would fall into this category,” says Liz Clarke, CFS, director of research and communications for Nitta Gelatin (Morrisville, NC). “Although there are commercially available collagen boosters [that are vegan-friendly], a truly biomimetic vegan collagen peptide has yet to make it to the store shelves. This is partially due to the complexity of the molecule.”

Clarke says collagen peptides are naturally rich in hydroxyproline, which isn’t naturally abundant in plants. Thus, matching an amino acid profile when formulating a plant-based collagen alternative may only capture part of the benefits of collagen peptides. While newer techniques like precision fermentation and cell culture show promise in creating synthetic collagen, Clarke notes that these methods do not achieve price parity on a commercial scale.

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Gelatin Alternatives Face Challenges

Not all ingredients readily render themselves to vegan formulations, but there is somewhat more flexibility with respect to delivery formats. While gelatin, the most common form of material for soft and hard capsules, is animal-derived, there exist many vegan alternatives. However, plant-based gelatin alternatives still face challenges.

“The performance, versatility, and cost-effectiveness of gelatin is difficult to match with vegan substitutes,” Clarke explains. “With gummies, there’s a definite difference in eating experience and texture when switching formulation from gelatin to a vegan alternative. Gelatin melts at body temperature, which lends itself to a bouncy, melt-in-your-mouth experience that isn’t reproducible with plant-based ingredients.”

Despite these limitations, formulators still have vegan options. Pectin, starch, and carrageenan are all readily available vegan options for formulating supplements.

New Softgel Solution Revolutionizes Vegan Market

While the vegan supplement market has faced some limitations in the past, new offerings are coming to market that are making it easier for brands to formulate vegan-friendly products. In April 2023, IFF (New York, NY) launched its branded Verdigel softgel, a pectin-based softgel system designed for vegan applications. The Verdigel system is a ready-to-use pectin-based premix that creates softgels when combined with water and a plasticizer.

“Verdigel SC offers significant processing benefits as well as labeling advantages, as it is vegan, halal, kosher, non-GMO, and contains no gluten, allergens, or preservatives,” IFF said in a press release. “The introduction of Verdigel SC enables manufacturers of vegan softgels to offer carrageenan-free products, which are in high demand in several markets.”

The Way Forward

The vegan supplements market is experiencing rapid and sustained growth, buoyed by the growth of the vegan food market. As a result, demand for vegan-friendly delivery systems has grown. Ingredient suppliers and delivery system manufacturers are now racing to find vegan-friendly alternatives to classic delivery systems like capsules, tablets, and softgels. The market, though, faces headwinds. Some ingredients, like collagen, don’t readily lend themselves to a vegan-friendly application. Meanwhile, plant-based gelatin alternatives may not offer the same mouthfeel and experience as gelatin-derived supplements.

In spite of these challenges, the industry is forging ahead with vegan supplements. As consumer demand for vegan supplements continues, expect more innovation in this space.


  1. The Insight Partners. Vegan food market share ($31 billion by 2028) is booming with growing trend of veganism – global study by The Insight Partners. Globe Newswire. January 2023.
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