Biodroga specializes in customized essential fatty acid ingredients and encapsulation and has worked with GelCell to formulate what they claim is the first commercially viable softgel to contain animal-free gelatin. "There's a growing segment of consumers out there that are really wanting to get away from animal soft gels," said Biodroga general manager, Peter Houghton, told NutraIngredients-USA.com. The public's perception of animal-based gelatin following BSE scares in various countries has prompted formulators to look for vegetarian versions of the material - even though gelatin capsule producers maintain their products are absolutely safe. In addition, non-animal derived capsules appeal to consumers of higher end healthy products and consumers who purchase based on religious restrictions. The companies have used patent pending carrageenan-derived SeaGel from FMC Biopolymer to create what they say is a softgel that performs in the same manner, if not better, than animal-derived gelatin capsules. To date, most vegetarian gel caps on the market have been hard and have not been as reliable as animal-based gelatin capules. However, CCaps are very stable, according to Biodroga, and can stand an even broader spectrum of temperatures than porsine or bovine gelatin. "The disintegration times are exactly the same as for animal gelatin capsules," GelCell president Michael Ratko told NutraIngredients-USA. In addition, the company highlights that CCaps are less sticky than other soft gels and have no disagreeable odor. "Our focus is on getting the word out and to let people know that this is proven technology that is ready to go to market," said Houghton. According to Houghton, there is a slight mark-up in the price of these soft gels compared with animal-based gelatin versions. "The cost of raw carageenan materials is much higher than animal gelatin," said Ratko. While carageenan raw materials cost more than animal gelatins, less of the ingredient is required in making the soft gels.