Why Gelatin is the Most Popular Excipient for Soft Capsules

Softgel capsules are increasingly preferred in the pharmaceutical field for their properties. They especially meet consumer demand on medicine consumption as they are easy to swallow. In the manufacturing process of these capsules gelatin plays an important role. It helps to improve the capsules in different ways and thereby facilitates their use by the consumer. But what exactly makes the industry rely on gelatin for creating soft capsules? Continue reading to find out more about the properties of gelatin.

The Purpose of Softgel Capsules

A softgel capsule is an edible package that is filled and formed simultaneously. It is usually filled with active ingredients in the form of oils and pastes. These capsules allow manufacturers to accurately dose liquid substances such as oil-based vitamins. The capsules can be made from different materials such as gelatin. Manufacturers use soft capsules and gelatin in particular because they: 

  1. Protect ingredients that are sensitive to light and oxygen-induced degradation.
  2. Facilitate oral administration - consumers perceive them as easier to swallow.
  3. Mask unpleasant smells and tastes.

Let's ask Marijo

If someone knows about the development of softgel capsules, it is Marijo Clark, president and founder of MC Softgel Experts. She has been an experienced formulator of softgel products for over 31 years. In the following user story, she shares what the properties of gelatin are and why she prefers gelatin when developing new softgel products.

How to Select a Shell Excipient for Soft Capsules

When developing a new soft capsule product, a clear vision of the process is useful. For a high-quality, low-risk, and robust product, a shell excipient must be chosen that is compatible with the properties of the fill material characteristics. It is possible to decide between different options for the shell excipient for new products, such as gelatin or alternatives like carrageenan and/or modified starch. However, most alternative capsule excipients are additives or chemically modified.

What needs to be considered when selecting a shell excipient for soft capsules?

Formulators need to consider many product variables when selecting a shell excipient. More specifically, their release profile and intended use, fill characteristics, distribution channels, the product’s target shelf life and more. Watch the video to find out about the considerations to take, explained by Marijo.

The Production of Soft Capsules

Marijo is not alone in preferring gelatin over alternate excipients for developing soft capsules. Gelatin has a market share of more than 90 percent, making it the most popular excipient for softgel capsules.

What are the advantages of gelatin regarding the design and production of soft capsules?

The protein combines several advantages to be the excipient of choice for producing high-quality softgel capsules. The three main reasons why gelatin is primarily used for softgel capsule manufacture are its quality, versatility and processability. In the video you can learn more about the advantages of gelatin in soft capsule production.

This infographic gives an overview of the unique properties of gelatin:

A Sustainable Choice for the Production of Capsules

Gelatin is a natural foodstuff that offers sustainable added value across the entire production chain. The protein is manufactured from by-products of the meat and fish industry, and therefore contributes to the reduction of food waste. 

What Makes Gelatin a Sustainable Choice for the Production of Capsules?

In the production of capsules, gelatin helps to increase efficiency because gelatin films have the property of being stronger and flexible. Due to gelatin's viscoelastic nature, thermal reversibility, and anisotropy, no special die-cutting roller is required. This reduces the risks of leakers and high in-process losses. Gelatin is therefore considered the easiest soft capsule excipient to process. Watch the video to learn why gelatin is a sustainable choice.

Gelatin remains the optimal choice for the production of high-quality softgel capsules and as the market in this area continues to grow it is important to monitor changes to keep up with consumer demands.