SOLVING A FISHY PROBLEM: HOW RIOJA NATURE PHARMA CREATES THE PERFECT ENTERIC SOFTGELS FOR OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, cod liver and krill oil are increasingly popular nutritional supplements, typically delivered in convenient, easy-to-swallow softgel gelatin capsules. Yet consumers can be deterred from using them by their unpleasant side effects – reflux (fishy burps) and aftertastes – which arise when the fill is released into the stomach.
Manufacturers can mitigate these side effects by applying an acid-insoluble, “enteric” coating to their softgels that delays release of the fill until it reaches the intestine. However, this adds time and cost to the production process, and often has to be carried out by a third party. When leading Spanish dietary supplement manufacturer Rioja Nature Pharma was searching for a more sustainable and cost-effective solution to offer its customers, GELITA’s Spanish distribution partner, DKSH Spain, saw the potential for GELITA® EC’s unique, enteric-release technology…
A game-changing solution
The traditional solution to this fishy problem has involved a two-step softgel production process. In step one, a conventional softgel is filled with omega-3 oil. In step two, an enteric coating is applied to the softgel, enabling it to pass through the stomach’s highly acidic environment. However, this adds time and cost to the manufacturing process, especially as it often has to be carried out by specialist third parties. Furthermore, problems can arise with this method, such as surface defects that can result in partial release of the fill in the stomach.
GELITA went to the root of the problem to create a revolutionary, enteric-release gelatin – GELITA® EC – which makes the additional coating step obsolete. As Martin Junginger, GELITA’s Global Category Manager, explains, “GELITA® EC provides a superior alternative to the existing coating solution. Softgels made with it dissolve only in the intestine and do not release in the stomach.”
Case study: Rioja Nature Pharma
Rioja Nature Pharma is a nutraceutical company with international prospection dedicated exclusively to bespoke food supplements’ manufacturing (Capsules, tablets, softgels, powders, vials, syrups, stocks and doypack). It has been using GELITA® EC since 2019 to prevent reflux with ingredients known for this problem – not just fish oils but also essential oils and garlic oils.
“We recommend GELITA® EC for clients who specifically request enteric capsules, and for others who ask what they should use with their fish oils,” explains Virginia Villaverde Peréz, Softgel Manager at Rioja Nature Pharma. “For full transparency, we give our customers all the information on the raw materials, and GELITA’s technical brochures are also very helpful to substantiate what we tell them.”
“GELITA® EC offers many production benefits, such as considerable savings in costs and time, as we can make everything on a single line. It’s also far more sustainable than the conventional two-step solution, and ties in with our philosophy of avoiding third-party and doing everything ourselves where feasible. Its excellent enteric properties also give our customers a point of differentiation against competitors. And with the GELITA name highly regarded in the market, many of our customers choose to use GELITA® EC branding on their packaging.”
As GELITA® EC behaves somewhat differently from standard gelatin, GELITA and DKSH Spain offered extensive training and monitoring to accelerate Rioja Nature Pharma’s learning curve in the early days. This included support for all stages of production, from preparing the gel mass to cooking, vacuum and aging. “One important point is that the drying process is also longer, as GELITA® EC requires a slower tumble-drying speed,” adds Virginia. “Therefore, we generally advise smaller capsules, which require shorter drying times and less fill, so they are more cost-effective for the customer.
“Our customers’ feedback is that GELITA® EC capsules are better. Enteric-coated softgels are harder and less clear, while those made with EC are soft and brilliantly clear, with excellent enteric properties. Our customers are very happy with the product.”
Wins for producers, brand owners and consumers
GELITA® EC offers numerous advantages. For softgel producers, it allows for lower production costs than the traditional two-step coating method. Furthermore, brand owners can market the unique delayed or enteric release – something different compared to those using the antiquated two-step process or those doing nothing to prevent reflux.
Perhaps the consumers are the biggest winners. They are freed from the nuisance of fishy burbs, and as GELITA® EC allows for a brilliantly clear softgel (unlike the opaque or frosty softgels produced with the enteric coating), they can see exactly what’s in the capsule. Furthermore, they can rest easy knowing that what they are consuming does not include the synthetic polymers (e.g., methyl acrylates) often used in the secondary coating step.
GELITA® EC is part of a comprehensive portfolio of specific gelatins, alongside GELITA® RXL R² for immediate release in the stomach, and GELITA® RXL for reduced cross-linking and stable shelf life. This enables us to provide developers with an effective toolbox to get the active ingredients to the desired parts of the body.