What are softgels (also known as Soft Capsules)?


Compared with hard capsules, soft gelatin capsules are thicker and require additional ingredients such as glycerin to obtain their soft texture. Depending on the formula, the thickness of the capsule, its elasticity and its degree of residual moisture can be adjusted. Perfectly suited for liquid or semi-solid fillings, soft capsules are widely used to deliver pharmaceutical substances and a wide range of nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fish oils. Many consumers prefer soft gelatin capsules as they are easy to use and swallow .

What are softgels used for?

Softgels are ideal for liquid or semisolid fills, making them highly suitable for the delivery of oil-based formulations.


Why are softgels preferred over other formats?

Like their hard capsule counterparts, softgels offer value to consumers and producers alike. These advantages are due largely due to their main component, gelatin. Gelatin means "stiff" and is a colorless dry powder that has been used for centuries in a host of food and pharmaceutical uses.  For consumers, gelatin dissolves in the human body at normal body temperature, making it the ideal ingredient in softgels. While protecting the precious actives inside the capsule against oxygen, light, moisture and dust, the gelatin of the softgels affords consumers easy swallowing. Consumers also appreciate that the capsule size and color can help them to more easily identify the respective pharmaceutical drug or nutrient inside.

How long does it take for softgels to dissolve?

dissolution Capsules


Softgels dissolve between 20 and 30 minutes in the stomach. When the shell meets water, the shell will take up water and starts to swell and will dissolve finally completely.

Depending on the application the dissolving time can be adjusted. By variegate the formulation of the shell and the used components the dissolution properties can be adapted to the need of the application. From rapid release in the stomach for e.g. analgesics to enteric release for fills with unpleasant aftertaste – GELITA delivers the respective gelatin solution. Specific capsule gelatins additionally reduce cross-linking behavior in the capsule and prolong the shelf-life stability considerably. 

What kind of gelatin is used in softgels?

The primary gelatin types used in capsules are typically from bovine or porcine raw materials. Depending on the fill, formulation and on the target market group, manufacturers have flexibility in the raw material type, with some opting for a combination of porcine and bovine options. Bovine bone gelatin, for example, contributes to capsule firmness. Porcine options, on the other hand, offers plasticity and clarity characteristics. 


How are softgels produced?

Softgels are completely closed units that typically feature a longitudinal seam and are produced using a rotary die process. Softgels (the shells themselves) are produced, filled with the ingredient and then sealed in a single process. In this process, the gelatin mass (gelatin, water and the plasticizer) are contained in stainless steel tanks and is then spread over stainless steel drums. Here, two ribbons are formed.

The continuous and flexible ribbons of gelatin are then passed over two rotating dies. As the capsule is being formed between the rotary dies, it is simultaneously filled with the active ingredient and then dried.


What is the difference between softgels and tablets or pills?

Pills Capsules


Different than tablets – that are essentially compressed powders, gelatin hard capsules are convenient delivery systems that – because of their low friction properties – are easy to swallow.

Gaining popularity in health & nutrition markets and in pharmaceutical applications for both humans and animals, several drugs or nutrients gain improved bioavailability when formulated in softgels. Softgels also offer advantages compared to tablets. Often, drugs or nutrients that are challenging to compact in a tablet or to accurately and consistently dose by weight, softgels offer an ideal solution.



Why is bioavailability important for manufacturing companies of gelatin capsules?


    For producers and marketers of softgels, bioavailability is a determining factor. Consumers of supplements or medications need some assurance that the active ingredients can be broken down and absorbed by the body. Here, the delivery format is important. Softgels offer ideal dissolution properties that can, with different types of gelatin, can be controlled to offer the right release at the right time in the right place. Further, dosing consistency and accuracy are other advantages of softgels. Reputable gelatin suppliers offer Halal and Kosher certifications for different gelatin types to satisfy wide-ranging consumer requirements and preferences.

    Are softgels safe and non-allergenic?

    Yes. Read answer here.


    Yes, however none of the alternatives compare to gelatin. Learn more here.



    The unique Release Profile Portfolio from GELITA enables soft capsule manufacturers to define the timing of the fill release as well as where in the body the capsule should open. Do you want to know more?


    Gelatine Capsules