Gelatin vs. Vegetarian Capsules: What’s the Difference?

Supplement capsules: gelatin and vegetarian capsules

Encapsulation is a crucial process in manufacturing nutraceuticals. We store the active ingredient in a capsule to ensure safe delivery into the digestive tract. The vitamin casing also prevents the degradation of the elements inside. The outcome is a high potency of the supplement for absorption.

The material that makes the supplement casings is cellulose. We acquire cellulose from plants or animals. Gelatin capsules come from hydrolyzing collagen from cows, fish, or pigs, while vegetarian cellulose comes from plants.

An excellent formula incorrectly encapsulated can lower potency and cost you business. Careful consideration is important in choosing a suitable capsule for your product and target market. Both kinds of capsule casings perform their functions well. However, they need to be compatible with your product. They also need to appeal to your target market.

If you are unsure of the casings to use, we have comprehensively compared gelatin and vegetarian capsules to help you make a decision.

Capsule Stability

The vegetarian capsule’s hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) is more stable than gelatin. It maintains its structural integrity because of the low moisture. The plant cellulose polymer can also withstand humidity because it has a 3% to 7% moisture content.

The rigidity of vegetarian capsules makes them suitable for water-loving contents, moisture-sensitive granulates, as well as liquid, gel, and oil formulas. It can also hold powdered ingredients. The plant-derived casing also remains stable in dry conditions.

In contrast, gelatin absorbs moisture from its surroundings. Its moisture content ranges between 13% to 17%. It readily disintegrates in humid conditions. Thus, there needs to be additional banding to enable the capsule to hold liquids and oils effectively for a long time.

The best capsule to use depends on your formulas. For instance, powdered formulations work well with gelatin capsules. On the other hand, liquid and oil formulations work well with vegetarian capsules.

Dissolving Rate

Although both capsules readily dissolve in the body at 98.6°F, vegetarian casings are more soluble or dissolve in water more easily. The plant-derived cellulose polymers are not entangled.

On the other hand, gelatin polymers have cross-links on their chains that reduce their dissolving rate. When polymer chains tangle up, dissolving molecules take longer to saturate the strands and break the connections. The higher the degree of linkages, the longer it takes for the polymer to dissolve.


The level of ease the body can absorb a capsule is vital. It increases the product’s absorbability. The higher the absorbability, the better the body’s chance to acquire the nutrient.

Vegetarian capsules have a higher absorption rate. They release their content at a much faster rate. While gelatine is equally effective, it comes in second in absorption.


Gelatin capsules are much cheaper to process. They do not require much processing from the raw materials to get the final product. The procedure is relatively quick and easy.

In contrast, plant cellulose is much more expensive. The cost of production transfers to the final product. HPMC comes from pine or spruce wood pulp. Manufacturers use sophisticated machinery to extract and process this plant-based product. The process is intricate and requires experts. Consequently, vegetarian capsules are much more pricey.

It is cost differences that make gelatin much more common in the market. Despite the advantages of HPMC casings, the cost-benefit does not validate its usage. You must factor in your affordability and that of your clients before choosing the vegetarian capsule.

Consumer Preference

Vegetarian capsules have a wider market reach compared to gelatin capsules. Gelatin uses animal by-products. Clients who have religious restrictions may find taking gelatin sacrilegious. Using gelatin capsules also reduces your market from customers with gelatin allergies.

The casing also takes away vegetarians and vegans from your market. Nevertheless, the animal-eating market still makes up the majority of the population. You may not lose that much ground with this capsule.

With vegetarian capsules, you get everybody on board. Plant-based cellulose does not have gluten, another source of concern for clients with this type of intolerance. It also comes from plants, meaning vegans and vegetarians can consume the product. The casing also accommodates people with religious preferences. It also poses no health risks for consumers.


Vegetarian capsules can tolerate most chemical formulations. Consequently, it can handle different states of the formulation. On the other hand, gelatin capsules work best with powdered formulations. They may disintegrate with oil and liquid ingredients.

You can incorporate a gelling agent into a vegetarian capsule to boost its digestive properties. It keeps the active ingredients from being destroyed by acidic stomach contents before they reach the small intestine for absorption.

Additional Features:

  • Gelatin capsules degrade in light, while vegetarian capsules remain stable.
  • Vegetarian capsules can be translucent. The transparency shows consumers the active ingredients—this increases their trust over the contents of the supplement.
  • Gelatin capsules come in limited sizing. An entire dosage may not fit in one capsule.

Contact Us for Contract Manufacturing

Both gelatin and vegetarian capsules are effective at delivering active ingredients for absorption. Your customers can also use them interchangeably. Whichever you choose to carry your product depends on your brand.

At Equinox Nutraceuticals, we specialize in manufacturing supplements on your behalf. We use both types of capsules for encapsulating products. Our capsules are high quality and preserve the integrity of your active ingredients. We have years of experience in manufacturing, packaging, and delivering supplements. Additionally, we invest heavily in research and development.

We check our capsules thoroughly, ensuring they meet quality standards. Therefore, when you partner with us, excellence is pertinent. Contact us today for a free quote at (877) 310-1800.