Adding colour to the clean label capsule experience

From safety, efficacy and clinically backed ingredients to traceability and a distinctive brand identity, manufacturers must take multiple factors into consideration when creating food supplements

Today’s shopper is more demanding than ever before, and specific preferences vary depending on the target demographic or geography. Yet, one trend shows no sign of abating across all consumer groups: the clean label movement.

Natural, free-from, vegetarian and vegan products are moving from the niche to the mainstream, with the majority of consumers now stating that a clean label is an important purchasing driver.

Innovations in both ingredients and delivery systems continue to help brand owners to develop trend-led supplement products. Plant-based dosage forms, such as Lonza’s Capsugel Vcaps Plus vegetarian capsules, can be used to facilitate a variety of on-pack label claims, including no additives, non-GMO and no preservatives.

In an increasingly competitive market, however, there is constant pressure to ensure that products stand out on shelves. With colour commonly used to achieve differentiation, technological advances now mean that capsule shells can be coloured without the use of an E-number.

All in the numbers

From clean to clear, the clean label movement continues to evolve as it gathers pace. A survey of 3000 US consumers, commissioned by Lonza and conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), has tracked this growth — with, for example, 80% of dietary supplement consumers indicating that knowing the source of ingredients is important when making a purchasing decision, up from 71% in 2013.

Similarly, 77% of shoppers now look for supplement products that are “from natural sources,” compared with 66% in 2013.

In its infancy, clean label was typically associated with the elimination of additives and other unfamiliar ingredients from labels. These considerations are still relevant, with “gluten-free” and “no additives” being the two most common claims to appear on new vitamin and dietary supplement products launched in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from January 2012 to July 2017.

Now, however, attention is shifting to focus on more consumer relevant attributes, such as natural or organic. Earlier this year, another Lonza/NMI study found that UK shoppers respond well to products that are marketed using either of these positionings and that natural supplements are even more popular than those from organic sources. Similarly, consumers of all ages seek products that use sustainable or ecofriendly ingredients.

The clean label movement has had a universal impact on both the industry and shopper behaviours, but the data show that some groups are particularly sensitive to certain claims. There are, for example, close links with the vegetarian trend: in the UK, eight out of ten shoppers who look for supplements with no additives also prefer animal-free products.

From a demographic perspective, millennials are more likely to state that clean label traits are important than mature consumers; 43% prefer supplements that are derived from natural sources, compared with a third of older supplement users.

The trend is also more dominant in sports nutrition than other nutrition categories. Four in ten of those purchasing sports nutrition supplements seek sustainable ingredients, whereas more than half want vegetarian products.

New opportunities

When developing a consumer-centric clean label solution, there are a number of success factors to consider. With free-from, natural and organic being all-important drivers for many consumers, it is clearly important for a brand owner to know how its ingredients are sourced and establish a network of excellence in the supply chain.

However, dosage form selection also plays a crucial role in supporting on-pack claims. Convenient and easy-to-swallow, 41% of UK supplement users prefer products that are in capsule format.

For manufacturers, capsules enable the delivery of a wide range of ingredients, including liquids, solids and semisolids. As the market leader in cutting-edge dosage form and capsule technologies, Lonza’s Capsugel range of vegetarian capsules can solve a variety of technical formulation challenges while meeting the latest consumer demands.

Its high-performance Vcaps Plus capsules, for example, are already popular among brands looking to achieve a variety of clean label positionings and are made using plant-based hypromellose (HPMC) and water only, without any preservatives.

Yet, in an online world, image is everything. As millennials seek “Instagrammable” products more and more, brands increasingly want to add colour to the capsule shell to achieve a unique visual appeal. Previously, this has required an E-number and made a clean label impossible.

Now, Lonza is launching a range of vibrant, clean label colourants for manufacturers to choose from when selecting its Vcaps Plus capsules.

The first of the next generation clean label solutions to be marketed worldwide is the Vcaps Plus Purple Carrot capsule, following the successful introduction of the Vcaps Plus Blue Spirulina capsule in Europe earlier this year. In addition to creating brand differentiation, the dark purple carrot colour also provides masking capabilities.

The fruits of nature

The latest extensions to the Capsugel portfolio are testament to the potential of colouring foodstuffs. Made from fruits, vegetables and edible plants, the raw food is first chopped or pulverised before being cooked, concentrated, filtered and finally blended to achieve the bright colours required for the application.

Using this gentle physical process to extract the colour means that no synthetic additives or organic solvents are required, so the colouring foodstuffs perfectly support a clean label strategy. From a regulatory perspective, colouring foods are not food additives … and are therefore out of scope of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 on food additives and so have not been assigned an E-number.

In addition, as common fruits, vegetables and edible plants are used, these colouring foodstuffs are also out of scope of Novel Food Regulation (EU) 2015/2283.

With many consumers stating that an easy to understand ingredient label is important to make an informed purchasing decision, the use of colouring foodstuffs to colour the capsule shell gives supplement producers the opportunity to tell a positive story about how a product is made.

Taking the example of Vcaps Plus Blue Spirulina, spirulina is a green edible alga that occurs naturally in freshwater and marine habitats. Spirulina has been used as food for more than 1000 years and is currently eaten around the world, proving popular as a rich source of protein.

The presence of phycocyanin pigments results in spirulina having blue colouring properties, in turn giving the capsule a beautiful, non-homogenous blue appearance.

True clean label solution

The clean label trend is here to stay. Demand for natural solutions to maintain health remains strong, with seven out of ten supplement users in the US seeking products with no artificial colours.

As a pioneer in vegetarian capsules, Lonza closely monitors consumer trends and continues to evolve its Capsugel clean label dosage form capabilities according to the latest preferences.

After several years in the pipeline, the launch of the industry’s first line of clean label capsule colourants will enable brand owners to create bright, eye-catching supplements that also appeal to consumers seeking improved supply chain transparency and a natural positioning.

Permitted on-pack wording varies by region and Lonza has a team of experts that are on hand to help customers meet regulatory requirements and understand local nuances in consumer labelling preferences.

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