There is no question about it, products with a “vegan” or “vegetarian” label are very much in vogue. They give consumers the impression that they are more natural than other products and somehow better for their health and the environment. That they are nevertheless not always necessarily the better choice when compared to gelatine is shown by the example of the production of HPMC hard capsules.
For vegetarians or vegans, HPMC hard capsules, which are made from cellulose fibres and considered natural, are a welcome alternative. However, if you take a closer look at the production process, you will find that HPMC capsules also have a number of disadvantages that can confuse conscientious consumers. Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC), also known as hypromellose, is made from cellulose, a natural polymer and a natural fiber that is considered safe for human consumption.
HPMC is listed as a food ingredient – E464 – which means that recommended daily maximum levels must be stipulated. The HPMC manufacturing process involves the synthetic modification of cellulose. A variety of highly reactive, harmful or toxic substances are used in the manufacturing process, which must be removed and disposed of after production, among them propylene oxide, which is considered carcinogenic, and chloromethane gas. The final product is vegan, but whether it can still be considered natural is debatable.
Gelatine, on the other hand, is a safe and reliable product – and has been for more than 100 years. Since gelatine is a foodstuff and not a food additive, its use is neither limited nor restricted. It does not even have an E-number. Moreover, gelatine is allergen-free, GMO-free and sustainable: it is obtained from native collagen by gentle extraction with hot water, entirely without the use of chemicals. Only raw materials that have been approved for human consumption are processed. These by-products of the meat industry achieve added value through further processing into gelatine, making meat production overall more sustainable. And although gelatine is obtained from animal products, strict religious requirements can be met, and Halal or Kosher variants can be produced.
But capsules made of gelatine offer even more advantages: their film formation, their thermoreversible gel formation and their adhesive properties make gelatine particularly versatile. It is crystal clear and can therefore be dyed in countless colors. Soft capsules in particular have a further advantage: GELITA’s gelatine makes it possible for the soft capsules to dissolve from very quickly to very slowly, i.e. exactly where the active ingredient is intended to be released.
And as far as efficiency in production is concerned: gelatine capsules are ahead of the field here as well. They are simpler to produce, easier to process and consume less water during production. Fewer raw materials are required, which has a positive effect on production costs. This aspect is also decisive for smooth production: the availability of gelatine for capsules is very high, whereas with other production processes such as HPMC, for example, availability is uncertain. All in all: gelatine is still the gold standard.
Dr. Holger Becker
Tel. +49 (0) 6271 84-2566