What Are Dietary Capsule Shells Made Of?

HomeWhat Are Dietary Capsule Shells Made Of?

What Are Dietary Capsule Shells Made Of?

By Will Cartwright | Frequently Asked Questions | 0 Comments | 15 December, 2016

Vegetarian Gelatin Capsule? Vegetarian? Gelatin? What do these all mean and how do they relate to each other and our everyday dietary capsules.

For individuals who may be familiar or not so familiar with the nutraceutical industry, capsule types may be confusing at first. This article will help stop all of that confusion and clear up the air.

Ever wonder what your everyday dietary capsule shells are made of?  dietary capsule shells.jpg

Well, if you have or haven't it may be a good time to start. When you take your everyday dietary supplement capsules, whether it is for nutritional or medical purposes, they come in all shapes, sizes and materials.

The way they are processed and handled also plays a huge role in what they consist of.

Capsules are the most popular form used for these supplements opposed to tablets.

They are preferred over other types due to their fairly inexpensive, easy to fill, easy to deliver mentality.

Another major advantage is that they can be made tasteless, odorless, and colorless for ease of use.

What are Capsule Shells Made of?

These capsules fall into two distinct categories

  1. Gelatin Capsules
  2. Vegetarian Capsules

With the many benefits of dietary supplements causing the market to grow it is still important to keep in mind that not all capsules are created the same.

With that being said, it is important to know the key differences between the two for personal reasons as well as help you better fulfill your consumers needs.

Your Traditional Gelatin Capsules

As I mentioned earlier gelatin capsules are the most commonly used shells that are used in encasing all kinds of substances.

Most of our everyday supplements, such as vitamins or antibiotics that we purchase from our local drugstores are created using gelatin capsules.

A common misconception is the existence of a vegetarian gelatin capsule. However, gelatin capsules are completely separate from vegetarian capsules because gelatin is animal based.

But What Are They Made Of?


Gelatin is made from animal by-products derived from beef only such as bovine or cows. The part in which it comes from is called the collagen, which is the soft protein that connects the skin, bones, muscles and tendons of the animal.

Furthermore, there are health benefits associated with gelatin.

For starters, it includes protein and two beneficial amino acids called Glycine and Proline.

Glycine has anti-inflammatory qualities and can improve sleep ease whereas,Proline is responsible for tissue repair, collagen formation and maintaining blood pressure levels.

In addition, both amino acids are good for joint health as well as skin, hair and nail growth.

But that's not the only material used in gelatin capsules. The shell also consists of water and a plasticizing agent to provide durability.

This is used in combination with the binding and gelling abilities of gelatin.

Your “Not So Traditional” Vegetarian Capsules

Now more than ever customers are becoming more and more hesitant to consume meat by-products such as gelatin.

This is due to the increased awareness of knowing the consequences of consuming animal products.

Whether it is because of dietary restrictions, or religious views this is a trend that will not be going away anytime soon. But, not to worry there are vegetarian and vegan options out there!

Hypromellose Capsules

This brings us to our first vegetarian capsule option, which is made of Hypromellose, officially known as Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC).

HPMC is a non-toxic, semi-synthetic product that is a cellulose derivative made from plants and is used to produce capsules without using any materials of animal origins.

Only two ingredients make up this capsule.

That includes HPMC and purified water. This option contains no preservatives, animal by-products and is GMO-free, gelatin-free, gluten-free, starch-free and BSE free.

It is also Kosher and Halal certified, which guarantees you are eating “clean” food with no traces of non-kosher animals.

Hypromellose capsules provide no threat of negative health risks and are the route to go if you want to ensure you are putting the best ingredients into your body.

Pullulan Capsules

Our second vegetarian capsule option, which is recently developed, is made of a material called Pullulan. Pullulan is a water-soluble polysaccharide produced by the fermentation of starch/sugar by the fungus Aerobasidum pullulans.

The raw material is very stable, much like gelatin, and easy to swallow.

It is another vegetarian option to gelatin and is 100% natural, starch-free, gluten-free, preservative-free and GMO-free.

Unlike HPMC, Pullulan is 100% natural because it is not produced by any chemical modification.

Since it is of vegetal origin, it meets many strict demands of consumers from all over the world. In addition, Pullulan offers an affordable alternative to animal-based products with no compromise.

Final Thoughts

By this point, I hope I cleared up the confusion and the misconception of the existence of a vegetarian gelatin capsule and capsule production as a whole.

You should now be aware that there are only two distinct categories for the shell casing of dietary supplements and those include gelatin capsules and vegetarian capsules.

Needless to say, both the gelatin capsules and vegetarian capsules are used for the same purposes, such as encapsulating all sorts of substances such as medicine and vitamin supplements.

They come in the same shapes, sizes, colors but are distinctly different in how they are produced.

As previously mentioned, the capsules that are produced with animal by-products are gelatin capsules, and those produced without any materials of animal origins are vegetarian capsules, which is either used with hypromellose or pullulan. 

To some, their traditional gelatin capsule is no bother to them, but to others, it could make or break it.

With people becoming more conscious about their health, it is vital for supplement manufacturing companies to provide the best, user-friendly, healthiest options with the many diferent gelatin capsule sizes for their consumers to live a happier lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Cartwright

Written by Will Cartwright

Will is a master of digital marketing in the vitamins & supplements space. He has years experience selling supplements on Google, self-hosted websites, Amazon, Facebook and much more. CLICK HERE to learn more about how Will can help your nutraceutical brand dominate digital marketing.

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