The manufacturing of softgels requires highly trained, competent operators. Skilled and knowledgeable formulators are required to create accurate formulations and fill compositions. Although the manufacturing process is fairly automated, expert supervision is required over the entire process in controlled humidity and temperature environments to ensure that an end-product of the highest grade is produced.
Benefits of Softgel Encapsulation
Consumers are attracted to softgels because they are easier to swallow than conventional tablets. From a scientific point of view, softgels offer a greater stability of active ingredients and an extended shelf life. Softgels are able to mask unpleasant odors and taste of ingredients and also enhance the bio-availability of active ingredients.
Another benefit in quality is that softgel manufacturing involves high precision, and therefore ensures greater accuracy of dosage. All the active ingredients are hermetically sealed in a soft gelatin shell and more readily undergo dissolution by gastric juices in the digestive system. The seal acts as a barrier for bacteria, yeast, mold and other environmental contamination. Hermetic sealing also prevents softgels from being tampered with.
Raw materials need to be micronized in softgel technology. This offers homogeneity of ingredients ensuring precise fill dosage. This is not entirely possible in tablet formation where pill dosage may vary from pill to pill.
Understanding the Basics of Softgel Encapsulation
The softgel consists of two parts. One is the soft gelatin outer covering of the capsule and the other is the “fill”. The outer covering is made of gelatin and a plasticizer like glycerin and water. The shell may also contain certain additives for flavor, color or preservatives. The gelatin is produced from animal skin and bones, such as bovine. The properties of gelatin allow it to dissolve in hot water, expand at room temperature and solidify to a gel in cooler temperatures. Since gelatin consists mainly of protein and dissolves readily in the intestinal tract, it thus frees active ingredients for quicker dissolution and absorption.
Gelatin has no taste, no odor and no color and hence is able to mask unpleasant odors and tastes of active ingredients. The hermetic seal prevents any oxidation and permeation of odor and taste of active ingredients. Softgels can be transparent or opaque. Opacity is beneficial when raw ingredients are light-sensitive, where exposure to light can alter their stability.
Softgels allow for enteric coating. Enteric means anything related to the small intestine. Enteric coating forms a barrier that breaks down active ingredients only in the small intestine. This is especially useful in the production of fish oil supplements. It allows the capsule to be broken down in the small intestine thus reducing fishy after-burps often associated with digestion of fish oil in the stomach. The air-tight, hermetic seal of softgel capsules also prevents fish oil from becoming rancid due to oxidation.
Softgels are available in pure vegetarian forms, called VegiCaps. These are made from Hydroxy Propyl Methyl Cellulose (HPMC) the sources of which are wood pulp, seaweed and raw cotton. Vegicaps offer higher stability against environmental changes than softgels made from animal sources.
The “fill” in the softgel consists of the formula and must be in solution, suspended liquid or paste. The most common suspending agent is beeswax and polyethylene glycols (non-oil based). A common ingredient in softgels is lecithin used to emulsify raw ingredients containing water and oil.
The Uses of Softgel Technology
Softgel technology is popularly used for the production of supplements. It finds special favor with nutrients that are not easily soluble and thus not easily absorbed by the body such as CoQ10, certain caretenoids and herbal extracts. Softgel formulations allow these ingredients to be micronized so that they are more easily broken down by the body.
Softgel technology is also used in a number of cosmetic products containing retinol, Vitamins C and E, peptides, and herb-based ingredients like green tea and fragrant oils.
In terms of brand identification, logos can be printed directly on softgel. Laser etching eliminates the need for dyes.
Softgel encapsulation will continue to see a rising demand not only by consumers but also with manufacturers of health supplements.
About Nutricap Labs:
Nutricap Labs is a full service vitamin supplement manufacturing service. We primarily manufacture nutritional tablets, capsules, powders, liquids and creams, but we also offer label and packaging design services and order fulfillment services to our customers.