Consumers are increasingly seeking plant-based solutions in everything from food and beverage to food supplements. This opens the opportunity for innovative product developers to explore new technologies and formats that deliver on those needs. In this Q&A with Vitafoods Insights, Yuxin Tu, management assistant with SIRIO Europe, addresses some of the important considerations when exploring these opportunities.
Vitafoods Insights: Why are consumers now seeking more plant-based solutions, even in the nutraceutical category?
Yuxin Tu: Worldwide, up to 1 billion people eat purely vegetarian. Over 20% of Europeans are flexitarians and their numbers are rising steadily. If consumers have the choice, also non-vegetarians are increasingly turning to vegetarian alternatives. Especially when there is a possibility to substitute products from animal origin by plant-based products. At the same time, with growing self-awareness about health, consumers are increasingly asking for nutraceuticals that do not contain animal-derived ingredients.
Vitafoods Insights: Could you speak to consumers’ desire for environmentally sustainable solutions in this area?
Yuxin Tu: Consumers are taking active steps to behave in a more sustainable manner, realizing that individual actions can help limit and reverse damage done to the planet. For such consumers, SIRIO Pharma developed the PlantegrityTM softgel range.
The capsule of most softgels contains fish, bovine or pork gelatine. PlantegrityTM capsules are 100% vegetarian. The first generation PlantegrityTM softgels contain carrageen, extracted from seaweeds. Now SIRIO offers the second generation softgel capsules made of gellan gum. Gellan gum is a very effective gelling agent gained by natural fermentation. Resources for production of gellan gum are abundant and sustainable, which does not negatively impact the ecosystem.
Vitafoods Insights: What are some of the benefits of a gellan gum softgel format?
Yuxin Tu: Gellan gum produces a clear gel that isn’t sensitive to heat. It avoids deformation of the capsule, the risk of cross-linking of ingredients and discoloration. Functional ingredients in the PlantegrityTMsoftgel are effectively protected from oxidation and degradation.
Vitafoods Insights: How long did SIRIO work on this technology, and what were some of the major obstacles to address?
Yuxin Tu: For more than 15 years, SIRIO has been a pioneer in the development of vegetarian softgels, and was one of the first CDMOs to launch capsules made out of carrageen derived from algae. SIRIO continued to work on plant-based alternatives, which led to the new, proprietary gellan gum technology. These innovative PlantegrityTM softgels have been extensively tested, they maintain a high stability and are ready for market.
Vitafoods Insights: Are gellan gum softgels compliant for sale in all geographies?
Yuxin Tu: Yes, gellan gum PlantegrityTM softgel are compliant with the local regulatory requirements of Europe, United States and China.
Vitafoods Insights: Why should brand marketers consider shifting products into the gellan gum softgel format?
Yuxin Tu: PlantegrityTM gellan gum softgels can meet the demand of a wide range of consumers, not only vegetarians. They have a particularly high thermal stability; ingredients are well protected from oxidation and external ambiance. Softgels enjoy a high compliance rate, and they are easy to swallow.
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