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I don’t want to use gelatin; are there vegetarian softgels?

August 12th, 2008

Glelatin-free Vegetarian Softgels

Good News For Cows: Vegetarian Softgels Gaining Popularity

You know how good fish oil is for you, but you hate the idea of consuming a gelatin softgel. Are there any vegetarian alternatives? Some products like fish oil and other nutritional oils are commonly sold and consumed in the form of a softgel. A softgel is a one-piece (usually) gelatin capsule most commonly used for supplements that are either entirely or partially in liquid form, for which they are ideally suited. Their smooth surface makes even large softgels very easy to swallow.

Softgels are durable, reliable and cost-effective from a manufacturer’s point-of-view.

Unfortunately, until very recently all softgels were made from gelatin which is a by-product of meat and fish processing. Many people wish to avoid consuming gelatin for any number of reasons, including religious, vegetarian or cultural concerns.

But coming up with a viable vegetarian softgel alternative, especially in the large sizes used for products like fish oil, has posed a considerable technical challenge to manufacturers. Vegetarian softgels are being used for CoQ-10 and some multivitamins, but not many other supplements because of capacity limitations, brittleness and other problems.

That may change soon. A a large pharmaceutical excipient company, FMC Biotechnology, has recently patented a vegetarian softgel made from seaweed that is both strong and flexible, essentially solving all the problems that had existed with earlier vegetarian softgels. V-Gels, as they are known, could have a major impact on the supplement market as demand for non-gelatin materials is only likely to increase in the future. The major obstacles at this point are low awareness of the product and its higher cost. As more brands adopt and use V-Gels, awareness will increase, ultimately driving up both the demand for and selection of products with V-Gels.

In the meantime, vegetarians or those who wish to avoid gelatin are usually able to find suitable alternatives on a product-by-product basis. Some supplements commonly sold in softgels, like CoQ-10, are also readily available in vegetarian capsule form. For supplements like fish oil, virtually all of them are in gelatin softgels so the best alternative would be a liquid oil or non-encapsulated product.

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