Softgels have been a mainstay in supplement delivery, but innovation has brought new life into the traditional delivery system. Early starch-based vegetarian softgels lacked the stability to compete against more durable, gelatin-based gels. However, recent modifications to plant-based gels have made vegetarian capsules a viable option with attractive manufacturing benefits and label claims.
The development of Kappa-2 in the mid 2000s, a rigid gel structure derived from the red seaweed carrageenan, has made vegetarian softgels stronger and more durable than their starch-based predecessors. It has also made the new vegetarian gels remarkably heat-resistant, eliminating the concern for clumping and leaking that can occur when product is shipped or stored in hot, humid conditions.
However, the ability to withstand high temperatures also means plant-based gels require more finesse during the manufacturing process. Traditional softgel machines need to be modified in order to run the viscous, heat-resistant vegetarian gel. The result is slower production times and higher costs, though experts report prices are dropping as more manufacturers join the vegetarian softgel game.
Despite the heftier price tag, a growing segment of the market is willing to pay for animal-free softgels. Industry insiders say many consumers are starting to find animal byproducts like gelatin unappealing, and the number of Americans identifying as vegetarian or vegan continues to grow. Demand for vegetarian softgels also continues to rise across the international market, particularly in Asia.
Between the development of more reliable technology, falling production costs, and an increasing interest in animal-free products, vegetarian softgels are poised for growth in the coming years.
Read this full article in INSIDER's Vegetarian Softgel Digital Pulse.