Religious and cultural values in Asia combined with food safety concerns in the EU and US has spurred Chinese ingredients firm Fenchem Biotek to develop vegetarian softgel supplements.
Fenchem has launched vegetarian softgels that use seaweed and starch derivatives in place of the traditional gelatin outer shell; an animal by-product often derived from bovine, porcine and piscine.
Shawn Hua, marketing representative at Fenchem, said that the global demand for vegetarian alternatives for softgel supplements is surging.
“There is an increasing demand in the US, EU and Asian markets,” Hua told FoodNavigator-Asia.
Predominant factors driving these demands are vegetarian requirements for cultural, religious or preferential reasons as well as food safety.
“In the European and US markets, more and more people are concerned about food safety,” he said.
There are some food safety concerns linked with animal-derived products, Fenchem said, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’, and transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), known as ‘prion diseases’.
“As for the Asian market, due to a big population base, there is huge market potential due to consumers refusing softgels for religious and cultural reasons,” Hua added.
The firm has developed vegetarian natural vitamin E softgels, lecithin, Q10 and lutein among others that are available in various shapes and sizes.
Benefits of softgels…
Hua said that within Fenchem’s product portfolio, softgels are “the star”.
Softgels ensure an “ideal dosage form of oils and poorly absorbed products in the food supplement industry,” he said. The outer-casing also protects the inner ingredient from deteriorating and it is easy for people to take every day, he added.
“Vegetarian softgels have a bright future,” he said.
Fenchem said that “compared with gelatin softgels, the vegetarian softgels have a better adhesiveness and water resistance, resulting in a longer shelf-life”.
Hua said that an additional advantage should be cost, as the firm is trying to control prices developing the vegetarian alternative.
The products have been launched on the global market, with mass production set for the end of 2012.