Roquette champions flexibility with new pea starch softgel

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The global soft gel market (empty capsules, B2B) is worth about €1 billion globally, Arnaud Verhaeghe, marketing director of pharma oral dosage at Roquette, told NutraIngredients.

Ninety percent of that market is gelatin-based, and these dosage forms can be challenging to manufacture successfully, with issues including interactions with specific fill types, molecular crosslinking and sensitivity to heat and moisture during storage that may compromise the stability of gelatin-based capsules.

These issues are compounded when working with more advanced formulations. Here, manufacturers must precisely balance the ratio of gelatin to plasticizers, such as glycerol or sorbitol, to ensure optimal shell elasticity without increasing the risk of capsule leakage or other defects

In addition, there’s the environmental consideration, with 1 kg of meat producing 30 times more CO2 emissions than 1 kg of pea, said Verhaeghe.

While vegan alternatives account for only 10% currently, demand is growing by double digits, he added.

As a solution for the market, Roquette launched Lycagel Flex, which features the same hydroxypropyl pea starch and carrageenan foundation as the company’s original Lycagel VS 720 Premix. However, the new formula allows producers to select the perfect plasticizer or combination of plasticizers for truly unique softgel formulations, said Verhaeghe.

“With the development of our Lycagel VS 720 Premix, the primary goal was to provide softgel producers with a high-quality ready-to-use alternative to gelatin,” added Steve Amoussou-Guenou, technical ceveloper manager Europe at Roquette. “Now, as vegan capsules become more established, we recognize that our customers need greater control to customize their formulations.  Lycagel Flex is the answer, offering the same stability and performance with the added flexibility to differentiate.”

Other benefits

Lycagel Flex offers softgel producers a plant-based solution that not only replaces gelatin, but also offers significant process benefits. These include a reduced degassing time of just five minutes, versus the minimum 60 required for gelatin formulations, and the potential for easy equipment cleaning with only hot water, Roquette shared in a press release.       

According to the company, the new premix delivers excellent performance and stability throughout a product’s shelf life, with tests showing that capsules produced using Lycagel Flex maintained a clear, shiny appearance and optimal hardness with no sticking or seal leakage following six months of storage at 40° C and 75% relative humidity (RH).  With no significant increase in disintegration time or water content after months in storage, the capsules did not display crosslinking, demonstrating the ability to maintain the same mechanical strength and capsule integrity at day 180 as they had directly after the production process.

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