By now, the presence on shelves and in shopping carts of plant-based dairy, plant-based meat, plant-based proteins—even plant-based home, hair, and skincare products—should seem about as mainstream as the mainstream products these alternatives attempt to replicate.
But plant-based supplement delivery systems—are those a thing?
You bet they are, and they have been for some time. In fact, plant-based dosing options are becoming even more of an item as today’s health-and-wellness climate steers consumers toward cleaner, greener options.
As Michael Baumann, global strategic marketing manager, dietary supplements, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences (New Century, KS), says, “Plant-based delivery formats aren’t new to the dietary supplement industry, but they’ve gained tremendous market traction as shoppers increasingly focus on the ingredients in their products and where they’re sourced from.”
That, in turn, has product developers focusing on the plant-based solutions that help them deliver supplements as effectively as ever, but in a form that’s more acceptable to all.
What’s Old Is New Again
The practice of looking to plant-based delivery materials is a time-honored tradition in the nutrition and pharmaceutical industries.
As far back as the mid-1800s, explains Benjamin Roscoe, application development and innovation manager for pharma solutions at DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, “carrageen moss”—or Irish moss—appeared as a “new gelatin” in one-piece capsules (not to mention as a thickening agent in traditional Irish puddings).
Similarly, modern-day carrageenan—produced industrially but still extracted from red seaweed—has a long history of use in nutritional products and continues to help thicken supplement matrices, control active-ingredient release, and stabilize delivery formats ranging from gummies to softgels, among other functions.
But the latest generation of plant-based options is a far cry from the Irish mosses of yore.
“Today’s solutions have superior thermal stability, provide a different but still positive consumer experience, permit broad formulation options and processing windows, and aren’t prone to crosslinking,” Baumann points out. “These technologies may have started as higher-priced, niche offerings, but thanks to ongoing innovations, they’ve emerged as more broadly used and economically attractive alternatives to gelatin.”
The Gold Standard…
Animal-sourced gelatin—ubiquitous in multiple dosing forms—does tend to be the ingredient that plant-based delivery solutions aim to replace.
And why is gelatin so prevalent? Because, claims Liz Clarke, CFS, technical marketing manager, Nitta Gelatin (Morrisville, NC), “Gelatin is still the gold standard for gummies and capsules in North America, and for good reason.”
To start with, physical properties like thermoreversibility and pH-independent gelling make it “incredibly easy to work and rework with,” Clarke says, noting that these…