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Illinois-based Roquette has leveraged its expertise within the plant-based pharmaceutical excipients industry to bring a brand new animal-free softgel solution to market. Lycagel Premix has been formulated using the company’s pea starch technology and mimics gelatin capsules across a matrix of performance factors. Manufacturers are able to adopt the premix without the need for costly re-tooling, making it an easy substitution.
Roquette’s Lycagel Premix offers a pharmaceutical-grade alternative to conventional animal gelatin capsules. This allows for medication to be delivered via a non-GMO, halal, and kosher system. The formulation is also vegan-friendly. Softgel technology is beneficial due to its versatility and ease of swallowing, making it popular with end-users and creating a spike in demand. Roquette has predicted that the global softgel market will reach $316 billion by 2025, taking into account the need for plant-based options that cater to dietary shifts.
A simple solution
As a potential alternative to animal gelatin capsule formulations, Lycagel Premix has been made from as few raw materials as possible. “Accessing the right quantities of raw materials is not always straightforward. Lycagel Premix eliminates the need for manufacturers to manage multiple raw material inventory and simplifies processes, like handling and storage, as well as streamlining manufacturing through the simple addition of water and glycerol to the powder,” said Paul Smaltz, vice president of Roquette.
This simplicity is what allows the premix to be considered a ‘drop-in’ solution for manufacturers of capsules. The removal of ingredient dosing variability and potential production failure helps maintain a tight grip on costs, as well as productivity.
The pea starch-based formula has been shown to faithfully replicate the positive attributes of gelatin capsules. Strength is comparably favourable, seal integrity is excellent and a quick drying time, with no residual stickiness is a sought-after characteristic. The premix has been shown to disintegrate quickly and due to exemplar thermal and chemical stability, the overall performance of the formula is inscrutable.
“Lycagel gives manufacturers the opportunity to take vegetarian softgel formulation further than ever before,” said Smaltz, before continuing: “As well as offering advanced performance, the pea starch system delivers on consumer visual appeal too – producing capsules with a transparent, shiny finish and excellent reproducibility. This launch represents Roquette’s continued commitment to ensuring its customers remain at the forefront of innovation.”
A farewell to gelatin?
Steve Amoussou-Guenou, innovation project leader of pharma at Roquette, revealed to NutritionInsight that gelatin is considered the ‘gold standard’ formulation for softgel capsules, “However, gelatin is animal-derived and has incompatibility issues with fill ingredients that can shorten softgel shelf life,” he said.
A notable trend for ingredient transparency within the beauty and pharmaceutical industries adds weight to the argument for simplified, ethical formulations like Roquette’s. i
The company is not alone in progressing beyond the limitations of animal-based gelatin.
Headquartered in Starnberg, near Munich, Aenova is also developing animal-free softgels, called VegaGels. Compliant with European, U.S. and Chinese regulations, the seaweed extract base behaves similarly to Roquette’s pea starch, demonstrating excellent strength and performance. Jellatech, out of North Carolina, Californian Geltor and San Francisco-based Provenance Bio are all reporting significant progress in the development of vegan gelatin, though these are not focussed on softgel production.
Building on a legacy
Roquette celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018. A family-owned company, it was an early adopter and cheerleader of the potential for plant-based ingredients to make a meaningful contribution to the food, nutrition ad pharmaceutical sectors. An innovator of new plant proteins, the company has a presence in more than 100 countries and has an annual turnover in excess of €3.3 billion.