The most decisive factor when choosing a delivery form for supplement manufacturing is the bioavailability. Consumers are always concerned about supplements not being broken down and absorbed into the body. For supplements that are unstable or have poor bioavailability, manufacturers prefer opting for a liquid formulation. One of the most common predicaments when it comes to manufacturing liquid supplements is choosing between softgels and hard shell liquid capsules. Both forms offer easy consumption and great efficacy.
This article will outline the advantages as well as disadvantages of both softgels vs capsules. By the end of this article, readers will be in a better position to make the right choice for the delivery format of their liquid supplements.
Softgels are formed, filled and sealed through heavy machinery. As a result, the final product is aesthetically pleasing and also offers creative branding opportunities. The variety of shapes and sizes available for softgels attract the consumers and turn out to be a great marketing approach for the manufacturers. But the most important aspect of softgels is their ability to protect the liquid supplements. This makes storage and transportation of softgel supplements extremely convenient. They are also a good option for masking foul taste and odor of some liquid supplements.
As convenient as softgels may sound to the consumers, they are nothing short of a challenge for manufacturers. Not only do they require large-scale, expensive manufacturing machinery, a proper infrastructure with controlled environment and highly-skilled operators to operate the machinery are also essential. This results in manufacturers outsourcing the softgel manufacturing and delivering supplements that are super expensive. The cost of manufacturing could be the single decisive factor for manufacturers that find it hard to compare softgels vs capsules. The big capital required for softgel manufacturing is not the only drawback. Most of the softgels are made using gelatin which is unacceptable for people with dietary restrictions. As a result, manufacturers may lose a considerable sector of consumers solely because of animal gelatin in their products. Alternatively, softgels can be made from Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (Hypromellose, a modified cellulose) to avoid this user issue. But such gelatin shells are not suitable for liquid supplements that cannot withstand high temperature and humidity. As a result, only a few, simple liquid formulations are suitable for vegan softgels. From a product However, HPMC capsules are typically more stable than their gelatin counter-parts. From a performance perspective, Soft Gels have one of the highest oxygen permeability of all oral dosage forms aside from solutions.
The most notable advantage of two-piece liquid capsules is perhaps the convenience of manufacturing them at any stage of the product development lifecycle. From bench testing to production on a larger scale, liquid capsules can be formulated in-house unlike softgels that often need to be outsourced and produced only at a large scale. In-house production makes quality assurance more reliable and effective as well. Liquid capsules can also be tailored in terms of size and color to identify with the brand. The top and bottom part of two-piece liquid capsules are often sealed with band. This avoids oxidation, contamination and external tampering. Another decisive factor, when it comes to softgel vs capsule debate, is that the liquid capsules can be made from a number of materials including gelatin and hypromellose or HPMC. For liquid supplements that are highly unstable at higher temperatures and humidity. Both hard shell gelatin and HPMC capsules have lower oxygen permeability compared to gelatin soft gels. They can also withstand a greater range of water content without compromising physical integrity.
The most challenging aspect of capsules is when the liquid supplement is low in viscosity. In such cases an extra step of band seal is required to avoid spilling. This, however, is not a problem with liquid formulations that harden after they fill. Another factor to consider is that the capsules can only be about 90% filled to avoid spillage. As with softgels, gelatin-based capsules are not suitable for most of the liquid formulations but then again, capsules can be made from different materials. The availability of different types of capsule materials requires a thorough understanding of which formulation is compatible with which capsule material.
Softgels vs Capsules: The Winner is….Capsules
Although both softgels and capsules have advantages and disadvantages of their own, the advantages of softgels vs capsules are almost similar but the challenges that come with softgels are rather hard to overcome. On the other hand, the challenges associated with liquid capsules can be easily overcome for the most part. This is mainly because liquid capsules can be manufactured using a variety of materials while softgels are made of gelatin only. The final decision when it comes to softgels vs capsule greatly depends on the manufacturers’ initial capital as well. Capsules seem to be the clear winner considering the low-cost, faster time-to-market associated with them and a larger variety of usability.
- Quali-V capsules from Qualicaps, Whitsett, NC.
- Including Technophar Equipment and Service,
Windsor, ON, Canada, a business unit of Qualicaps Group.
- F Series capsule filler from Qualicaps.