The Benefits and Challenges of Using HPMC Capsules Made with Natural Colorants 

As the demand for products that are as “natural” as possible continues to grow, many nutritional supplement makers are considering switching to Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) two-piece capsules made with natural colorants. Products offer everything consumers are looking for: Vegan registration, Kosher and Halal certification, and a long list of things the capsules are free of, including GMOs, common allergens, starches, preservatives, synthetic dyes and titanium dioxide. 

Before making the switch, it is important to understand both the benefits and challenges that using these capsules entails.  

Benefits of HPMC capsules made with natural colorants 
On the positive side, these capsules offer nutraceutical brands some significant advantages as outlined below.  

  • Meet consumer demand. This, of course, is the most significant benefit. Give your customers exactly what they’re looking for. 
  • Support your “clean label” claims. It’s hard to claim your product is “clean” if you’re using capsules made with synthetic colorants. The colorants used in these capsules are derived from natural substances, and the process of producing these colorants does not involve the use of harmful or polluting chemicals.  
  • Are safe. The pigments derived from natural sources used to color capsules are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic. 
  • Come in a wide range of colors. The most popular options include yellow, purple, green, blue and black. If you’re not sure which color to choose, be sure to ask your capsule manufacturer to prepare “film strips” for your review. These are color samples made from the actual HPMC material used to manufacture the capsules. Film strips enable you to see what your desired color looks like and let you test its masking abilities. 
  • Provide “normal” functionality. HPMC capsules made with natural colorants give you the same performance on your filling machines as their synthetically colored counterparts. 

Challenges of HPMC capsules made with natural colorants 
All of that said, there are some potential concerns you need to be aware of. These capsules: 

  • Have color variability. Because the pigments are made from natural sources, the shades or hues can vary from one batch to the next. Plus, as the below images of capsules colored with annatto illustrate, there can be multiple hues associated with one ingredient. Do not assume that a capsule made by one manufacturer using a specific natural colorant will be the same color as a capsule made with the same natural colorant by another manufacturer.
  • May fade. Some natural colorants will fade when exposed to UV or IR light for periods of time. You can mitigate this issue with your product packaging. 
  • May cost more. This is due to the higher cost of the raw ingredients. 
  • Are not always available. In some cases, product availability depends on the season. You can mitigate this risk by purchasing a one-year supply at a time.  
  • May not meet regulatory requirements. A colorant that one country’s regulatory agency considers to be “natural” may not be considered “natural” in another country. For example, capsules made with chlorophyllin cannot be labeled as “natural” for the U.S. market, even though they can be labeled as “natural” elsewhere. 
    If this is important to you, be sure to ask your capsule manufacturer to provide complete ingredient and ingredient source information for each colorant you are considering. Check these lists against the regulatory requirements of the countries in which the product will be sold. 
  • Are not fully opaque. For this reason, natural colorant capsules should not be used to encapsulate light-sensitive formulations such as those that contain folic acid or vitamin B complex. 

Are natural colorant capsules right for your products? 
Understanding the benefits and challenges will help you answer this question. If the answer is yes and you are now looking for a reputable North American supplier of high-quality HPMC capsules made with natural colorants, CapsCanada is here for you.