Vegetarian capsules have transformed the manufacturing and consumer landscape for pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
These capsules, made from plant-sourced materials, have not only increased the acceptability of many pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements to more consumers but have also brought flexibility to manufacturers in making better capsule products with the most compatible capsule types.
Generally, veggie caps are preferred by consumers that have dietary restrictions against the consumption of animal byproducts; and because of their low-moisture properties, they are ideal for formulating hygroscopic and other moisture-sensitive fills.
There are varieties of vegetarian capsules on the market today, which speaks to the diversity of their nature or the functions they perform. In this article, we give more information about the available veggie capsule types, including their composition and unique advantages. This will provide you, as a manufacturer or a conscious consumer, with the necessary details you may need to make the best choice of capsules at any time.
Here are the 5 main types of vegetarian capsules you can find around:
1. HPMC Capsules
Made from hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) or hypromellose, the HPMC vegetarian capsule is the most popular type in the category. HPMC is derived from cellulose extracted from pine and spruce trees. It is considered by the FDA as a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) material and has been used extensively in pharmaceutical formulations.
HPMC capsules are highly stable and versatile. They are suitable for a wide range of formulations including solids, liquids, semisolids, oils, and moisture-sensitive materials. They are tasteless, odorless, and of smooth texture which enhances their palatability. In the stomach, they break down and dissolve rapidly and release their content for immediate absorption in 30 minutes. Capsuline empty HPMC capsules offer these unique advantages and come in varieties of 8 size categories, ranging from the largest size 000 to the smallest size 4. These capsules can be customized with color and logo brands. HPMC capsules also feature a clear and translucent variety which may serve similar branding and identification functions as the colored ones. Among the most common translucent HPMC capsules are the green chlorophyll capsules, saffron yellow capsules, blue spirulina capsules, and other popular natural pigments that are also emerging
2. Pullulan Capsules
Pullulan is an edible, water-soluble, biodegradable polymer also classed as a GRAS raw material by the FDA. This polymer is derived naturally from the fermentation of liquid cornstarch by fungi. Pullulan possesses intrinsic antimicrobial activities which enhances its protective ability when used in capsule production.
Pullulan capsules are stable and impervious to oxygen penetration, making them extra-protective for air-sensitive fills. They are ideal for dry ingredients, including powders, granules, beads, tablets, and herbs. However, because of their high moisture content, pullulan capsules are not suitable for absorbent powders or liquid ingredients.
Capsuline pullulan capsules are free of all allergens and preservatives; are Kosher and Halal certified; and produced in GMP-certified facilities. They are available in the most popular sizes, 0 and 00.
3. Chlorophyll Capsules
Chlorophyll is a naturally occurring pigment in plants that is responsible for their green color. Its primary function is to enable green plants to make their nutrients from sunlight. Researchers have found evidence of the health benefits of chlorophyll when consumed in vegetables or as a dietary supplement. These include anti-aging, skin healing, deodorant, and cancer protection properties. Potent natural sources of chlorophyll include wheatgrass and spinach. However, a convenient way to supplement with chlorophyll is to use chlorophyll-fortified capsules as a pill carrier for other nutrients or herbs.
Chlorophyll capsules also fall under the category of 'capsules with natural colorants'. Capsules in this category meet the 'clean label' status and satisfy the preferences of many consumers for all-natural products. Carmine, saffron, and spirulina are other examples of the natural colorants used in this capsule type. As a supplement manufacturer, opting for chlorophyll caps could boost the acceptability and sales of your products, since you offer a healthful product that is beneficial right from the capsule material.
4. Titanium dioxide (TiO2)-free Capsules
Titanium dioxide is a white inorganic pigment used as an additive in many edible and non-consumable products. In capsules, it is used as an opacifying agent to block light penetration away from capsule fills. However, some regulatory bodies especially across the European Union banned the use of TiO2 as a food additive in August 2022. This is because some studies suggest, although inconclusively, that it may be harmful. As a result, manufacturers are transitioning to TiO2-free capsules to meet the new regulatory requirements.
TiO2-free vegetarian capsules are comparably more translucent than the opacified types. While some manufacturers prefer substituting TiO2 with calcium carbonate as an opacifier, many have adopted those TiO2-free capsules that are totally free of chemical opacifiers to promote their clean label status. The backbone of these capsules remains HPMC; as such, they adequately offer all the advantages of HPMC capsules with the added advantage of higher acceptability.
5. Enteric Capsules
Enteric capsules are also called acid-resistant capsules. They are developed to cater to active ingredients that are prone to degradation by stomach acids such as enzymes and probiotics, or those that may cause stomach irritation if released early in the stomach. With enteric capsules, the fills can be transported unbroken through the stomach and selectively released for absorption only in the small intestines.
Enteric vegetarian capsules are made from HPMC and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose phthalate (HPMCP), a PH-sensitive cellulosic polymer that is insoluble in gastric acid but dissolves only in the alkaline environment of the small intestine. This technology offers higher performance and minimal production cost than older gelatin enteric capsules made via the enteric-coating process using fatty materials. Capsuline acid-resistant vegetarian capsules are HPMCP-based, produced in standard cGMP facilities, and have passed quality tests. They are used in formulating a wide range of acid-labile drugs and nutraceuticals, protecting the stomach linings from irritant drugs, and affecting targeted drug delivery to the intestine. Note however that enteric capsules are only available in clear or white color.
Vegetarian capsules offer more value than meeting the dietary preferences of some consumers. They may be used to achieve advanced drug delivery functions and enhance the stability of fills as well as the shelf life of the finished products. They may also aid in better palatability, acceptability, and tolerability of the products by the consumers.
At Capsuline, our diverse ranges of vegetarian capsules are produced with high-quality materials and procedures to meet and exceed global standards. Our capsules have been certified by numerous regulatory bodies including The Non-GMO Project, Vegan Society, Halal, and Kosher. Capsuline veggie caps are free of BSE contaminants, chemical preservatives, and the most common food allergens.