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Choosing Between Tablets and Capsules
If you are trying to determine if your business should manufacture dietary supplements in tablet or capsule form, there is no definitive answer that favors one over the other for all situations. In some instances, capsules may be better. Tablets may be better for other sets of needs. This guide shows you the important factors that you need to consider to make the right choice for your company’s needs.
One of the biggest concerns that supplement companies have when choosing a delivery form is absorption. These are the two main aspects of absorption to consider.
First, it is helpful to know how slowly or quickly you want the supplement to be effective. These are some important points:
- What area of the body does the supplement target?
- Does the supplement need to be absorbed quickly?
- Does the supplement need to be absorbed slowly or later?
If your supplement is meant to provide the fastest absorption, you may decide on a liquid capsule or a softgel for improved bioavailability in absorption-enhancing media.  Although a softgel is not the same as a two-part capsule, it is similar. It has a liquid enclosed in a soft shell.
If your supplement is designed to target a different area of the body that may take longer to reach, you may prefer a time-released capsule or tablet. Both delivery forms can be designed for quick or delayed release.
Another issue that you may be thinking about is if capsules or tablets have an effect on the absorption optimization of the active ingredients. It is important to understand the factors that affect absorption.  These are a few examples:
- Other foods or substances that are ingested with the supplement.
- The absorption abilities of the person ingesting the supplement.
- The formulation of the supplement.
- Mucosal mass of the person ingesting the supplement.
- Attributes of the active ingredient.
In this list, the last point is especially important. Some substances are better absorbed when they are in a certain form. For example, consider CoQ10. It has limited or slow absorption because it naturally repels liquid and has a heavier molecular weight. For this reason, it tends to be absorbed better when it is solubilized. 
The properties are important to consider in several aspects. For example, if other factors do not limit you to one choice for your supplement, one may be advantageous because of its design properties. You may prefer the appearance of a capsule. Alternately, you may prefer to design the shape and color of a tablet to reflect your brand.
These are some aspects to consider about the properties of tablets:
- Using a special compression process, they are made from powders.
- They can be designed in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
- Although they are soft enough to dissolve during digestion, they are durable enough to stay intact in their packaging.
The microstructure of tablets can be designed with careful formulation planning, and proper composition testing can ensure the right amount of active ingredients and excipients.  If you are not familiar with excipients, they are mediums for active ingredients. Both capsules and tablets may contain plant-based materials for optimal consistency and delivery.
These are some of the important aspects to consider about capsules:
- Capsules are usually filled with liquid, beadlets or powdered substances.
- Most capsules tend to break down quickly.
- Capsule shells can be clear or opaque, and there are multiple color choices.
In relation to capsule properties, a common concern is if the encapsulated contents will be distributed at the intended time. During testing, manufacturers analyze the integrity of the capsule wall membrane and its point of rupture to see if it meets the requirements.  There are other important factors to think about with capsule properties. For example, the weight of the ingredients, the size of the finished capsule and the diameter are a few issues to consider.
Many people notice wording about lubricants on supplements. Lubricating coatings are used on tablets and capsules to keep them from sticking to the packaging or to one another.
Unfortunately, we cannot reference a single price for capsules or tablets. This is because there are many different variations and aspects that affect price. If you are trying to make a decision based on your budget, these are some factors to consider.
Tablet Cost Factors
In many cases, tablets tend to be less expensive to manufacture. However, this is not always true. These are some issues that affect tablet pricing:
- Ingredient types and preparatory steps.
- Size, shape and color preferences.
- Special coatings on the tablets.
Coatings may be necessary for extended or delayed release of the active ingredients. Some companies request an unusual size, shape or color to go with their brand or to appeal to a certain market.
Capsule Cost Factors
Capsules can also vary in their attributes. These are some factors to consider:
- The consistency of the supplement that is encapsulated.
- The size, color and visual attributes of the capsules.
- The preparation for the capsules.
The price may vary for liquids, beadlets or powders that are put in the capsules. Simple capsules with clear shells may not cost as much as multi-colored capsules with opaque shells and printed symbols. There are at least five sizes of two-piece capsules to consider.
You may be planning a combined supplement, such as powdered turmeric with powdered ginger. Alternately, you may be planning a supplement with only one active ingredient, such as collagen. These are some important factors to think about in relation to supplement delivery form:
- Taste and smell of the active ingredient.
- Consistency of the active ingredient.
- Properties of the active ingredient.
Due to natural appeal, the turmeric and ginger supplement mentioned earlier may not be distasteful in either form. However, some active ingredients have an unpleasant taste or smell. In such a case, a coated tablet or a capsule may mask the taste or smell. An uncoated tablet that tastes or smells bad may lead people to look for a different supplement company.
With ingredient consistency, some substances are impractical to use in tablets. For example, it would be better to make fish oil supplements as capsules or softgels. However, if you want to make a supplement for joint health in older adults, you may choose chewable tablet form.
As mentioned previously about CoQ10’s improved abilities in being solubilized, there may be other active ingredients that are more optimal as liquids in capsules or as powders in tablets or capsules. If you need guidance with these issues, our team offers help with formulation.
Although it is sometimes overlooked by supplement companies, the target market is a critical factor in making a choice. If the previous considerations in this guide have not yet limited you to a choice of either a tablet or a capsule, this topic may be what determines your final choice. These are the most important aspects to consider about your target market:
- Perception of supplement’s value.
- Age range of users.
- Appearance preferences for age range.
- Abilities of target market.
In a study among college students who were told that they were consuming a supplement to boost memory, most participants favored the option that had lower doses of multiple ingredients than a supplement that had a single ingredient.  They felt that they were getting a better value.
If you are planning to manufacture a supplement with a single ingredient for that target market, you would need to find out which delivery form is preferable. For example, you may discover that the group prefers a colorful beadlet capsule over a white tablet.
Once you determine the age range of users and what they prefer for appearances, it is also important to consider their abilities. Several sources claim that capsules are easier to swallow than tablets. However, this may not be true if the capsule is too large. This is important for children, older people and those who have swallowing dysfunction from surgery, injury or disease.
For young children or older people with dementia, there may be an issue of resistance to taking the supplement. A tablet may be crushed and put into ice cream, applesauce or another food to attempt to mask it.  However, the person administering the substance may need to purchase a tablet crusher. If the need to mask the ingredients is likely, a capsule with powder may be better. It can easily be opened, and no crushing is involved.
Now that you know the properties and other factors of each dietary supplement delivery form, reviewing the benefits of each choice may help guide you in your decision.
These are the top benefits of tablet supplements:
- There are more shapes to choose from.
- They typically provide consistent absorption.
- There is more versatility with quick, delayed and extended release options.
- Supplements in tablet form tend to have a longer shelf life.
- If they are large enough, they can be scored for people who want to cut them to split doses.
These are the top benefits of capsule supplements:
- There are more options for combining ingredients.
- They can be sealed to keep oxygen from coming into contact with the contents.
- They are good at protecting sensitive ingredients.
- High-quality capsules do not leave an unpleasant aftertaste.
- They typically have the ability to release contents faster and can contain liquids.
How to Choose Between Tablets and Capsules
If you find yourself struggling to decide between these two options, one way to help you decide is to write down some important questions to answer. With the information in this guide, your answers should help determine which choice is better. These are some questions to get you started:
- What do I want my supplement to do?
- How fast do I want my supplement to act?
- How long do I want my supplement to last on a shelf?
- What is my budget?
- Do I want multiple ingredients in a single supplement?
- What is the intended dose for my supplement?
- How much is the tablet design I prefer versus the capsule design I prefer?
During the process, you may discover that one option is better. For example, imagine that you are planning on a supplement containing a single dose in a single capsule or tablet, and you are on a budget. If you discover that it takes a larger capsule to contain a single dose, you may be more likely to choose an average-sized tablet if you are concerned about swallowing abilities of buyers. The alternative would be to divide it into two capsules. In this example, the tablet would be the better value for your budget.
If you need assistance reviewing your needs to decide, we are here to help. We can also provide other dietary supplement delivery forms if you want to explore additional options.