Why Do Supplements Have So Many Different Delivery Formats?

May 19, 2022 5 min read


            Food supplements can be found in a variety of different delivery formats such as capsules, tablets, gummies and softgels.

When food supplements are being developed, one of the key aspects considered is what delivery format should be used because some food supplements may be better suited to certain delivery formats than others. 

 After all, a probiotic with live microorganisms must be packaged differently to minerals or vitamins to ensure survival of the beneficial bacteria

The delivery format used is not random or based on the manufacturer's whim. Rather, as part of a product’s development, selecting a suitable delivery format means various aspects are considered such as:

  • Absorption and bioavailability
  • Stability of ingredients 
  • Uniformity of ingredients 
  • Resistance to the gut environment 
  • User experience 

Let's have a look at the various delivery formats in more detail:

CAPSULES

These are a two-piece hard or soft casing that is filled with powdered ingredients or in some cases a liquid oil.

They are generally plant-based but can also contain gelatine. 
  • Capsules are easy to swallow.
  • Capsules can mask unpleasant taste as the ingredients are within the capsule cavity.
  • They tend to have lower doses of ingredients compared to a tablet.
SOLGAR Capsules Form
TABLETS 

Tablets are essentially hard pills and are made by compressing the active ingredients (and sometimes inactive ingredients).
  • Tablets are useful when a supplement contains a large amount of ingredients (for example, multivitamins and minerals) or when the dose needs to be high ( like in the case of calcium, magnesium).
  • Some tablets can be cut in half or crushed to make swallowing easier.
  • Tablets do not mask unpleasant tastes.
SOLGAR Tablet Form Vitamins
SUBLINGUAL TABLETS/NUGGETS

These tablets are designed to dissolve under the tongue.
  • Sublingual tablets are helpful when a nutrient needs to be delivered directly into the bloodstream. For example Vitamin B12 is better absorbed under the tongue than if it is swallowed. 
  • Taste can be a concern but Solgar® has great-tasting tablets such as Vitamin B12 nuggets.
SOLGAR Sublingual/chewable form Vitamins
CHEWABLE TABLETS 

These tablets are designed to be chewed and broken down in the mouth prior to swallowing.
  • Chewable tablets are fun to eat.
  • Ideal for those who struggle to swallow tablets and children too.
  • Chewable tablets tend to include sugars, colours & flavours. Opt for those that use natural flavours & natural sugars or sweeteners.
SOLGAR Chewable Form Vitamins
GUMMIES 

These are soft & chewy pills and resemble sweets. Typically gummies are made with gelatine but plant based options (pectin and tapioca) are available. 
  • Gummies are fun to eat.
  • A great way to get children to take a supplement. For example Solgar® U- Cubes™  Gummies are perfect for the littlest members of your family. 
  • An option for those who struggle to swallow capsules and tablets. 
  • Gummies tend to include sugars, colours and flavours. Opt for those that use natural flavours and natural sugars or sweeteners. 
  •  It is important to follow the directions for use. Gummies aren’t sweets even though they look and taste yummy.

SOLGAR Gummies Form
SOFTGELS

Softgels are made from gelatine (beef or pork) and enclose liquid ingredients.
  • Generally, have lower doses of ingredients than tablets.
  •  Softgels are good for enclosing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Gelatine softgels are helpful for protecting ingredients that can be easily oxidized like fish oils.
Solgar Softgel Form Vitamins
LICAPS™

This is a two-piece capsule that is designed to hold liquids or semi liquids. Licaps can be plant-based or gelatine based.
Solgar Brain Works Capsules
POWDERS

This format includes powdered ingredients that need to be reconstituted in water in order to be taken.
  • Powders can be useful when the dose is higher than could fit in a tablet 
  • Powders tend to be readily absorbed 
  • Useful for those who don’t like swallowing pills or when the daily dose is too large for a pill. 
  • Powders may to include artificial colours and flavours. Opt for those that use natural flavours . 
  •  For example, Solgar® Ester-C Plus Vitamin C 1000 mg Effervescent Drink is a powder available in natural orange flavour as is Solgar® Grass-Fed Whey To Go Protein.
Solgar® Grass-Fed Whey To Go Protein.
LIQUIDS

Food supplements that are suspended in a liquid or are naturally in a liquid state.
  • Liquid supplements are helpful for those who struggle to swallow tablets and capsules
  • Liquids tend to be absorbed quickly 
  • Typically, these do not need to be mixed with water or another liquid 
  • Liquids mean the dose can be easily adjusted 
  • Liquids may have an unpleasant taste. 
Solgar Liquid Supplements

In conclusion,each delivery format has its own benefits and drawbacks. Choose a supplement that you know will be easy for you to swallow, includes the nutrients you need and matches your lifestyle needs. 

 Side Bar: A 2020 CRN Consumer Survey found that: 

  •  31% of users opt for tablets/ caplets 
  • 19% prefer capsules 
  • 15% like gummies 
  • 10% prefer softgels

FAQs about Delivery Formats

1. Why are some tablets so big?

Tablets come in various sizes and this depends largely on various aspects including

-The number of ingredients the tablet contains

-The type of ingredients in the tablet; some ingredients are weightier than others

-The form of the nutrients used, e.g. chelated minerals have more volume than mineral oxides  and tablets will typically be bigger

-Multivitamin and mineral formulations can sometimes contain over 50 ingredients and this then means the tablets will be larger.

Many of Solgar’s mineral formulations include chelated forms of minerals. Chelated minerals are generally better absorbed1 but because they are bulkier than other mineral forms, tablets can be quite big.

2. Can I break or crush my tablets so that I can swallow them?

Although this can be fine with some supplements, always check with the manufacturer to confirm you can do this. Some tablets may have coating that protect the ingredients from stomach acid, for example, and breaking or crushing the tablets might not be ideal. 

Never chew tablets that aren’t meant to be chewed because hard tablets may damage teeth and some tablets may have ingredients that aren’t good for teeth like betaine hydrochloride found in digestive enzymes.

3. Why aren't fish oils available in a vegetable capsule?

This is because fish oils are exactly that… oils. Oils tend to be unstable in vegetable capsules and gelatine-based softgels help to protect fish oils from oxidation.   

Solgar® understands for many consumers beef or pork-based gelatine cannot be consumed for religious, cultural or ethical reasons and for this reason Solgar® has created Fish Gel Omega-3 740 mg, a high dose, and one-a-day fish oil supplement with fish gelatine capsules.

Disclaimer: 
Food supplements should not be used instead of a varied balanced diet & healthy lifestyle.

For references, click here


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