Special Edition: Innovation in Dietary Supplements

Despite hubbub surrounding functional foods, innovation in solid delivery forms still churning

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Despite hubbub surrounding functional foods, innovation in solid delivery forms still churning

Related tags: Pharmaceutical formulation

While many observers say functional food delivery modes are the wave of the future, capsules, softgels and tablets will always be the mainstay of the dietary supplement industry, and innovation is continuing even in this legacy delivery mode.

While many observers say functional food delivery modes are the wave of the future, capsules, softgels and tablets will always be the mainstay of the dietary supplement industry, and innovation is continuing even in this legacy delivery mode.

Capsugel, which owns the lion’s share of this market, was recently acquired by Swiss chemical giant Lonza and is now known as Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition.

Much of the innovations in capsule delivery has come out of this group. Lonza has developed technologies that can mask harsh flavors, tailor delivery to certain areas of the GI tract, fit in with a vegetarian positioning and even deal with pill fatigue itself.

Lipid Multi-Particulates

One of the more promising new technologies the company has developed is something that can go inside a capsule or be delivered via other formats. It’s a new micro encapsulation technology called Lipid Multi-Particulates (LMP).

“LMP technology is the most innovative dosage delivery technology of late because of the variety of timing and rates of dissolution of the microspheres and, more importantly, because it gives the consumers a wider choice of finished dose formats through which the microspheres can be delivered,” ​said Stan Glab, manager of product development formulations for Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition.

LMPs, which are characterized as microspheres, can contain a measured micro dose of active ingredients including botanicals, vitamins and amino acids. The controlled particle size means that LMPs can offer a timed-release capacity, which can help formulators target delivery to certain areas of the gut.

​​The primary rationale for LMPs is taste-masking of ingredients like teacrine or phosphatidic acid. But it can also be used to develop timed release of ingredients such as caffeine or CoQ10.​​ 

“Because LMP microspheres have excellent flow properties, they work in a broad range of finished dose formats, including textured powder blends via sachets and sticks for reconstitution in liquids, powder-filled capsules, liquid-filled capsules, sprinkle capsules, capsules-within-capsules -- even compressed in tablets,” ​​Glab said. 

Glab also said Lonza’s Plantcaps capsules, made from a vegetarian material, also have exceptional taste masking properties.

​​Plantcaps capsules—a vegetarian pullulan capsule naturally fermented from tapioca—has the highest odor barrier properties of all polymers, better than gelatin or HPMC capsules. The pullulan capsule is Non-GMO Project Verified and has a moisture content similar to gelatin,” ​​he said.

Dealing with pill fatigue

Lonza has also delved into the sticky area of pill fatigue.  A number of consumers have taken to using capsules not as something to swallow but as a single dose container for powder or granules that are then sprinkled on foods or poured into drinks or smoothies.

The company took note of this development and has innovated along these lines, too. The result is a product it calls its Coni-Snap Capsules designed specifically to be used in this way.

“Approximately 26% of consumers have a hard time swallowing pills, especially infants, young children, and the elderly.  ​​Sprinkle​​​​capsules ​​– with contents of powders and/or multi-particulates or bead formulations if the powders have a strong flavor or taste – allow for oral administration by simply opening the capsule and sprinkling the contents onto soft food,”​​ said Levi Boudreau, chemistry laboratory supervisor for Lonza.

​​Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition has introduced an improved version of the standard capsule for sprinkled contents with reduced locking force to make it five times easier to re-open than a standard capsule that requires sufficient grip strength and dexterity.​​

“A consumer panel of 37 (parents of young children, nurses, and unimpaired adults 65 and older) tested the performance of the improved sprinkle capsules and traditional standard pre filled capsules.  Results: 81% found the improved sprinkle capsule ‘very easy’ or ‘easy’ to open, compared to 29% favoring the standard capsule opening,”​​ he said.

Tablet delivery innovation

Not all solid form delivery innovation is happening in capsules. Sabinsa Corporation, a global botanical ingredient supplier as well as a contract manufacturer, has developed a technology to include dissimilar ingredients in the same tablet, thus dealing with excessive pill count in a unique way.

Called Bi-Layer Technology, the approach is basically two tablets pressed into one.  According to the company, the technology is best used when:

  • Ingredients are physically or chemically incompatible (e.g., acid/base or enzyme/substrate pairs) or when ingredients should be manufactured using different processing loads (kN).
  • The release of at least one of the ingredients should be programmed (immediate release vs. sustained/extended release).
  • Visual observation of two separate layers is needed to educate the consumer about the different roles of the two groups of ingredients. Also, when visual separation is more appealing.

The company has put together some demonstration formulations to illustrate the potential of the technology. These include a joint health tablet featuring Sabinsa’s proprietary Boswellin and Curcumin C3 Complex ingredients. Another is a heart health formula featuring tis Gugulipid branded ingredients.

The bilayer technology can also be used for a combined probiotic/prebiotic product, the company said. The resulting tablets are only slightly larger than standard tablets, the company said, and can be enteric coated to resist degradation in the stomach.

In that case, the advantage would be to bypass the delicate and time-consuming step of premixing the probiotic and the prebiotic and, therefore, saving time, energy and money.

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