Tablets vs. Capsules: Which One is Right for Your Supplement Brand?

September 18, 2023

In the area of supplement products, it's a common topic to choose whether capsules or tablets are the right choice. Even though supplements have been developed for many years when faced with this simple choice, both consumers, manufacturers, and the brands themselves have different opinions. For those new to this industry, making a choice can be even more confusing.
To find the answer to this question, we still need to have some basic packaging knowledge of supplement products. To be clear, no one packaging form will fit all supplements. We need to make the right choice for consumer preference and actual production. After reading the entire article, you will understand:

  • Consumers prefer taking capsules over tablets.
  • "Ease of swallowing" is an important attribute for consumers.
  • Tablets can accommodate larger total doses per pill compared to capsules.

Today, Reiheychem will start from its many years of experience in manufacturing. Start from 0, provide you with a careful dissection of the respective characteristics of capsules and tablets, and at the same time offer you some packaging solutions for choosing tablets or capsules.

1.  What are tablets?

1.1 Manufacturing Tablets

Tablets are made by pressing one or more powders, usually round or oval. Besides the active ingredients, most tablets also contain certain additives to help bind all the components together. Some tablet supplements may even include additional additives to enhance other characteristics like color, odor, or taste.

If you have researched the market, you would find that many supplement manufacturers create a score line in the middle of the tablet for easy splitting and dose control. Based on our collaborative experience, many supplement brand owners also request the addition of a smooth sugar coating during the tablet manufacturing process. This not only improves taste but also ease of swallowing to consumers, boosting sales.

1.2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Tablets

1.  Advantages of Tablets:

● Customizable Appearance: Tablet appearance is more moldable, with various shapes and sizes to choose from. They can be round, oval, or even disc-shaped. For supplement brand owners, this provides flexibility in product design.

● High-Dose Options: Tablets typically have the capacity to have more active ingredients because they can be made in larger sizes. This makes them an ideal choice for providing high-dose nutrients, especially for these people who require significant amounts of specific nutrients, such as vitamins or minerals.

● Shelf Stability: In the supplement industry, shelf stability means that a product can preserve its claimed nutritional content and quality throughout its stated shelf life. The stability and shelf life of tablets is one of the longer-lasting of the different forms of supplements and is perfect for selling on display on your store shelves.

2.  Disadvantages of Tablets:

● Poor Taste Experience: Some supplement brand owners think about this problem and request manufacturers to provide a coating (sugar coating) during the manufacturing process. While this can reduce bitterness, tablets may still leave an undesirable aftertaste.

● Difficulty in Swallowing: Tablets are larger and harder, which can make it challenging for older individuals or those with swallowing difficulties. As they may need to split the tablet, and then take them in batches.

2.  What are capsules?

Similar to tablets, capsules are another common form of dietary supplement. There are primarily two common forms of capsules in the supplement industry: hard-shell capsules and soft-shell capsules. Although capsules, like tablets, they are oral and their contents are released into the bloodstream through the digestive tract, their manufacturing processes and characteristics are quite different.

2.1 Manufacturing Capsules

1.  Hard-shell capsules: Hard-shell capsules are typically made by enclosing powdered contents within two semi-transparent shells. These shells are usually composed of gelatin (often sourced from animals like cattle or pigs). They are then sealed together by machines to form a complete hard-shell capsule.

2.  Soft-shell capsules: Unlike hard-shell capsules, soft capsules contain liquid ingredients. Their shells are typically made from gelatin or plant cellulose, which becomes soft and soluble during processing.

2.2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Capsules

1.  Advantages of Capsules:

● Easy to Swallow: Capsule supplements are usually smaller in size, making them easier to swallow. This is a big advantage for people who have trouble swallowing.

● Tasteless and Odorless: Capsules typically have no noticeable taste or odor, making them more easily accepted, especially by those sensitive to taste. This helps consumers avoid unpleasant tastes and keep to buying and taking supplements over the long term.

● Mixing Different Ingredients: Capsules allow different ingredients to be mixed without interacting. For supplement brand owners, preparing complex supplement products is easier, and meeting the various health needs of consumers is also easier. For consumers, taking one supplement means getting many key ingredients without taking a number of single-ingredient products.

2. Disadvantage of Capsules:

● Higher Manufacturing Costs: The manufacturing of capsules typically includes machine tools, materials, and labor costs for both production and filling the capsules. So, this can impact the production costs and final product prices of capsule supplements, making them more expensive to manufacture compared to some other forms.

● Low Dosage: Due to the limited size of capsules, they may be constrained by dosage limitations. For high-dose ingredients, manufacturers can't fit them into a single capsule. This means consumers need to take several capsules per day, which is inconvenient.

3.  Tablets vs. Capsules: What Are the Differences?

Having understood the basic characteristics of tablets and capsules, you'll find that they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. So, which form is best for your supplement brand? Don't worry! Before answering the question, let's discuss the differences between tablets and capsules.

3.1 Manufacturing process aspects

Let's begin by discussing the manufacturing process. Tablets and capsules have quite different processes when it comes to production. You can think of tablets as a mixture that includes active ingredients and some additives. Making tablets is relatively straightforward, much like preparing a dish in the kitchen. You just mix all the ingredients and then use a high-pressure machine to press them into solid, sturdy blocks. This method has an obvious advantage: the manufacturing process is highly controllable, and the production costs are relatively low.

On the other hand, the manufacturing process for capsules is slightly more complex. It's akin to a skill you need to master when cooking. In this process, you need to fill powder or liquid into capsule shells, which may require more equipment and expertise. However, it's this complexity that makes capsules more flexible in terms of ingredient selection. You can easily combine different components, similar to creating a complex recipe, allowing you to mix and match creatively to meet various tastes.

So, the manufacturing process is crucial in determining the suitability of tablets or capsules in specific situations. You should choose the right supplement form based on your product and market needs.

3.2 Experiential aspects of use

For the dietary supplement industry, consumer experience holds importance. According to a study conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) shows, nearly 50% of consumers prioritize ease of swallowing as their top consideration when buying supplements (as shown in the table below). This shows the strong demand among consumers for a comfortable supplement-taking experience.


In the U.S. market, there is a wide variety of supplement forms to choose from. According to research from Nutraceuticals World, a news website in the dietary supplement and nutrition beverage industry, capsules and tablets are considered the preferred supplement forms. However, capsules are more popular.

Because, 23% reported needing to break the tablets before swallowing them, while another 14% crushed and dissolved them in water for swallowing. In comparison, capsules are typically smaller and easier to swallow than tablets, and they don't have the noticeable unpleasant bitterness of tablets.

3.3 Digestibility and absorbability aspects

Many supplement brand owners, in addition to comparing tablets and capsules in terms of the consumer experience, often ponder whether capsules are easier to digest and absorb than tablets. In fact, this question is also exactly what consumers are concerned about.

A more commonly heard saying is that capsules are generally easier to absorb than tablets. However, this is not the case. Capsules and tablets are both should have equal levels of digestion and absorption. This was demonstrated in Dr. Min MH and his colleague's study. where healthy male subjects consumed choline alfoscerate tablets and choline alfoscerate softgel capsules. The results were that both dosage forms had roughly the same level of absorption.

These research findings can provide consumers with confidence, letting them know that whether they choose capsules or tablets, both forms are likely to be effective in the body. For supplement brand owners like you, this also means that absorption may not be the deciding factor in formulating product strategies, and you can focus more on other aspects such as user experience and cost.

4. How to Choose the Right Supplement Form for You?

The above analysis and comparison of tablets and capsules is just to give you a simple understanding. Before deciding whether to use tablets or capsules as the product form for your dietary supplement brand, what you really need to consider are the preferences of your consumers, the nature of your product, and the actual manufacturing situation. Let's discuss these factors one by one to help you determine which form suits your supplement brand best.

4.1 Based on Consumer Preferences

Whether you're a retailer or a brand owner of nutritional supplements, your final goal is to sell your products to consumers. So, no matter what form of supplement you choose, the first consideration should be the consumer's preference. When it comes to the selection between capsules and tablets, there is a clear winner in the eyes of the public.

Capsule supplier Capsugel commissioned a study by the Povlin research group aimed at understanding consumer preferences for supplement dosage forms. The research team interviewed 400 herbal users and 300 vitamin users, and here are the key findings:

● 74% of herbal users preferred two-piece capsules (which can be opened).

● Vitamin users favored two-piece capsules over tablets, with a ratio of 2 to 1.

● Ease of swallowing was the primary reason for choosing capsules over tablets (66%).

Subsequently, Capsugel commissioned the research group for two additional surveys: one on consumer preferences for dietary supplements and the other on consumer preferences for medication delivery forms. Interviews with over 750 consumers in 25 major U.S. markets led to the following conclusions:

● Consumers significantly favored liquid-filled gelatin capsules and capsules over tablets.

● "Ease of swallowing" was considered the most important attribute, and the speed of action and gentleness of the stomach also became increasingly important.

In addition to Capsugel's research, a study conducted by Copenhagen University Hospital involving hundreds of patients also found that 66% of people preferred capsules.

In summary, these research studies clearly indicate one fact: consumers prefer capsules over tablets.

4.2 Consideration of Product Ingredient Characteristics and Stability

When we consider choosing the right form of supplement, it is important to not only focus on the market and consumer preferences but also to look deeply into the ingredient properties and stability of the product. When selecting between tablets and capsules, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Chemical Properties

Are the ingredients in your supplement water-soluble or fat-soluble? This will affect their dissolution and absorption rates in tablets or capsules. For example, water-soluble vitamins are generally better suited for capsules, while fat-soluble components may be more suitable for tablets.

2.  Chemical Stability

Some ingredients may be more prone to degradation or loss of activity under specific conditions, such as high temperature or humidity. You need to choose a dosage form that can protect these ingredients from the external environment. Capsules typically provide better protection as they can be sealed, reducing exposure to air and moisture.

3.  Impact with each other

Do different ingredients in your supplement interact with each other? Some components may interact when mixed, affecting their stability and potency. When selecting a dosage form, ensure that there are no adverse interactions between the ingredients.

When choosing tablets or capsules, these factors should be discussed with your nutritional supplement manufacturer to ensure that you are choosing the dosage form that best suits your product.

4.3 Consideration of Actual Manufacturing

Before putting your product into production, you might have a rough blueprint in mind. However, it's essential to think about whether this idea can be put into practical manufacturing.

For instance, let's say you have a product that requires 1000 milligrams of a certain nutritional supplement, and you want to include this 1000 milligram dose in a single capsule. When you share this idea with your supplement manufacturer, they will likely reject your proposal. That's because fitting this amount into a single size 00 capsule is challenging, and this size is already the largest size people can comfortably swallow, as we've learned from our previous research where "ease of swallowing" was the most important attribute.

In this situation, using a tablet form is more practical to achieve your goal of having 1000 milligrams of the nutrient in a single product. That's because 1000 milligrams can easily fit into a single tablet, and there are various punches available to accommodate different tablet shapes and sizes, ensuring they are not too large to swallow comfortably. On the contrary, making it in capsule form would require two capsules to provide the same dosage.

So, which one is better, capsules or tablets?

From my perspective, since consumers often prefer capsules, I recommend choosing capsules when both forms are viable for your product. However, if you need to pack a significant amount of substance into a single pill, then selecting tablets as your supplement form is the right choice.


Q: Why are some tablet products packaged in glass bottles?

A: Glass bottles are ideal for either marketing purposes or to serve as a protective barrier. In some cases, a plastic bottle can implode and ruin a product's appearance. 

Q: Why do we use enteric coating on tablets more often than on capsules?

A: We use the enteric coating on tablets more often because, when we put this special coating on capsules, it can make them look strange due to a cloudy film or residue left on the capsules. You or your customers might not like that.

Q: If capsules are so popular, why aren't all pills in capsule form?

A: Usually, it's because of space limitations. Capsules have limited space inside, so for larger amounts of medicine, it's more practical to use tablets. Calcium is a good example of this.

Q: Why do my capsules have a strong smell?

Some of the ingredients in your formula naturally produce an unpleasant or strong odor. If this is a concern for you, it's a good idea to talk to our supplement manufacturer about your formula in advance.

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