The landscape of dietary supplement dosage forms and the technologies behind them have undergone significant changes in recent years, notes Emily Navarro, Global Marketing Manager at Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients
Several innovations and consumer trends have transformed the space, including the growing demand for botanical supplements and the thriving probiotic market. However, the right dosage form is still an important criterion for consumers; 70% of US purchasers say that dosage forms matter to them when selecting their supplements or medicines.1
With numerous consumer trends and preferences to navigate and a vast array of dosage form solutions to choose from, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to create products that stand out from the crowd.
Meeting the increasingly complex needs of supplement consumers is, of course, essential — not only in terms of their health goals, but also their product expectations, including
The challenge is, though: how can brands create a great consumer experience while also making sure that their product stands out on the shelf? Here are the key factors that brands should consider when innovating their next product, including how advancements in dosage form technologies can help to differentiate these products from the competition.
Distinctly different: the importance of differentiation
The supplements market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.9% from 2022 to 2030, which means that competition is fierce and brands must continue to evolve with consumer demand … or risk being left behind.2
Thinking beyond a product’s ingredients to also include the right dosage form enables true differentiation. And research shows that, despite the range of new and unique dosage forms entering the market, capsules still reign supreme for 44% of consumers globally.3
As a highly versatile dosage form, capsules can help brands to meet consumer trends and deliver on the convenience, swallowability and efficacy that ensures customer satisfaction and enables products to stand out.
Many of the latest capsule innovations on the market also come with vegetarian, vegan or plant-based positionings, making them ideal for brands looking to win over today’s environmentally and ethically conscious consumers.
Standing out isn’t the only challenge that supplement producers must overcome; the more complex the functionality of the end-product is, the more likely it is that there will be a variety of challenges to overcome during formulation or manufacturing. So, how exactly can capsules help?
Navigating technical challenges
A range of formulation challenges can add layers of complication during production. For example, some ingredients — particularly plant-based or botanical ingredients — have unpleasant tastes and odours that must be masked to avoid an off-putting experience for consumers.
At the same time, ensuring effective delivery is equally important when creating a supplement solution that will attract consumer attention and make them repeat purchasers. For example, acid-sensitive ingredients such as probiotics need the right protection so that they can pass through the low-pH stomach environment and reach the small intestine where they are most effective.
More advanced dosage form technologies can be used to ensure that the end product delivers in terms of consumer expectations, while also enabling brands to diversify their portfolio.
Today, producers can leverage the ever-expanding choice of advanced capsule technologies to truly make their mark.
Capsule-in-capsule technology is one such solution, offering endless innovation and differentiation opportunities by enabling combination products to be developed in a single dosage form. Here, brands can utilise liquids or powders in a smaller prefilled capsule inside of a larger filled one, opening up a range of formulation opportunities for brand differentiation.
Designed release capsule technology with acid protection properties is another dosage form solution that can protect sensitive ingredients — such as increasingly popular probiotics — as they pass through the acidic stomach, to maximise efficacy.
Innovative capsule sealing technologies provide solutions for liquid ingredients. Ensuring optimal product efficacy, liquid-filled capsule technology combines patented, specially designed hard capsules with proprietary fusion technology, helping brands to achieve a leak- and clump-resistant dosage form for a better consumer experience.
For further differentiation, lipid multiparticulate (LMP) technology — which encapsulates ingredients in a lipid-based microsphere — can expand application versatility both within and beyond capsules, such as in premium nutraceutical beverages.
In addition, new flavour and aroma capsule coating technologies can be used to create a distinct sensory experience and increases consumer appeal.
For brands looking to diversify their product even further, colour is a simple addition that can create a unique, visually appealing supplement. White-coloured supplements are favoured by 30% of consumers who are likely to purchase supplements with colouring.
This whiteness has historically been created using titanium dioxide (TiO2), which the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) recently classified as an unsafe food additive.4,5 TiO2-free opaque and semi-opaque capsules now offer brands the opportunity to create the bright white colour they need to capture consumer attention without the addition of harmful additives.
Supplement producers can also utilise natural colourings in their capsules to create a standout product that doesn’t compromise on consumer values. Plant-based capsules can be tinted with natural ingredients such as purple carrot and blue spirulina to create a visually appealing, high-performance solution that meets consumer expectations, while also standing out from competitors.
Exploring vegan dosage forms
Plant-based lifestyles continue to gain popularity with consumers worldwide. Indeed, vegan attributes are now a key consideration for shoppers: 40% of supplement users cite the importance of “vegan” as a purchasing factor … and we’ve seen a 25% growth in supplement users who state that “plant-based” is important to them when making a purchase.
This presents a huge opportunity for brands to differentiate with plant-based supplements that don’t compromise on experience. Thanks to advances in capsule polymers, many vegan capsules are now available to help brands and manufacturers ensure ingredient efficacy and maximise consumer appeal.
Pullulan, a polysaccharide polymer that is water-soluble and is made from fermented tapioca, is one such material that can be used to create vegan capsules. Offering a range of benefits including a high oxygen barrier to help prevent degradation, its taste and odour masking capabilities are also beneficial for plant-based supplement formulations.
Another capsule polymer that is well-suited for plant-based supplements is hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or HPMC. This low-moisture, vegetarian material protects moisture-sensitive or hygroscopic ingredients while offering sustained flexibility and mechanical robustness when exposed to dry conditions.
Creating stand out supplements
With the demand for supplements on the rise and competition fierce, it is more crucial than ever for brands to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, advanced capsule technologies offer a diversified, next-generation solution to help brands differentiate their products without compromising on consumer needs.
Lonza offers innovative capsule technologies, science-backed ingredients and industry led global manufacturing expertise to help customers overcome product challenges and stand out in the marketplace.