Best Formulations is a pharmaceutical and nutraceutical contract manufacturer of softgels that is licensed to formulate using FMC BioPolymer's patent-pending SeaGel carrageenan and starch blend. Canadian companies Biodroga and GelCell also launched their own animal-free FMC BioPolymer carrageenan and starch softgels, CCaps, earlier this week. Up until now, it has been said vegetarian softgels do not perform at the same quality level as animal-derived gelatin softgels. As such, the development of a product that is equal or superior to the gelatin original could heat up competition in within the capsule market. "The non-animal products currently available are extremely brittle, and there are great limitations in terms of fill volume (size) and content," said Best Formulations senior vice president Robin Koon. "We've known for years that it would take a raw material supplier to develop a non-animal gelatin formula that would exhibit the same characteristics of animal-based gelatin, and we believe FMC has done it." The makers of both Vgel and CCaps claim their products are very stable and can withstand an even broader range of temperatures than gelatin versions.There is generally a slight price mark-up for vegetarian capsules. FMC BioPolymer's carrageenan blend it is more expensive than gelatin, though the company claims less of the raw material is required in production. However, it would appear that health conscious consumers of higher-end products are willing to pay a bit more for the added-value of what is seen to be increased safety with vegetarian capsules. Animal-based gelatin attracted negative attention following BSE scares in various countries. While gelatin capsule producers have maintained their products are absolutely safe, the issue has prompted formulators to look for vegetarian versions of the material. Religious restrictions on animal gelatin, particularly porsine products, have also incited formulators to develop new materials.