The increasing concern of North America and European societies about how some products may be profoundly harmful to the environment has led to a higher demand for organic products, sustainable business activities and stricter regulations from national governments [1]. Owing to their safety and health, organic products have been more and more recognized by the consumers in recent years. Some consumers have reportedly changed their purchase behavior in favor of producers who sell organic products and/or engage in green policies [2]. Most consumers believe that organic products are of higher nutritional quality and safety than conventional products [3-5].

According to BioFach (2010) [6], European sales of organic products in 2008 rose by 10% over the previous year and are estimated at 18 billion. The 2009 report shows that Europe’s biggest organic markets include Germany (€5.8 billion), France (€2.6 billion), Italy (€1.97 billion) and the United Kingdom (€2.5 billion). Organic sales in other European countries are €724 billion in Denmark, €623 million in Sweden, €350 million in Spain, €74 million in Finland and €58 million in Greece. Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain and Greece) are important producers and exporters of organic fruit and vegetables, while the Northern European countries are large consumers. The consumers’ demand for organic products has been rising steadily, with an annual global growth rate of 10 to 30 percent for the past decade [7, 8]. The sales of organic products in some western countries have reached more than 10% of the total amount. North America and Europe are the most important consumer markets of organic products in the world, where the sales of organic products accounts for more than 95% of the total worldwide sales. Nearly 90% of all consumers in the USA, the largest market in the world, would opt in favor of organic products if they were to cost the same as the nonorganic alternatives [9]. In 2017 the global organic food and beverage market share reached $97 billion [8]. This data has increased by 6 times since 1999.

The global supply of organic products is expanding, which can be seen from the proportion of organic farmland vs. conventional farmland. The global share of organic farmland increased from 0.3% in 1999 to 1.4% in 2017. However, the increase in global organic farmland has not kept pace with the growth in demand for organic products. Therefore, the global supply of organic products is limited, which leads to high prices for organic products [8, 10].

These examples show that “green values” can help differentiate products, but also that there is little doubt about the need to identify market segments that are more willing to purchase organic products. Many companies are increasingly aware of this trend and conscious of the increasingly important demand for organic products in the Western and developing world. Worldwide, the market for organic products is growing fast [1], but in many cases domestic supply cannot satisfy the demand for organic products, which create interesting opportunities for firms internationally [11].

Vacant pullulan capsules are made from pullulan and other excipients. Pullulan is a kind of natural water-soluble extracellular mucopolysaccharide, which is produced by fermentation of Aureobasidium Pullulans with sucrose or glucose as the substrate. The average molecular weight is 2×105Da. It is a linear polysaccharide polymerized by α-1, 4 glycosidic linkage malt triose repeating units through α-(1-6) glycosidic bonds [12]. Owing to its properties of good solubility, biocompatibility, film forming, heat sealing, oxygen insulation and chemical stability, the film formed by pullulan is stable and has good mechanical strength, appropriate transparency and solubility, and excellent oxygen isolation performance. Pullulan is widely used in the pharmaceutical and food industries for a capsule forming agent, thickening agent, adhesive, food packaging, etc. [13]. Pullulan has been used as a food excipient for more than 20 years in Japan and has passed GRAS certification of the United States.

Advantages of vacant pullulan capsules are as follows.

  1. Green, natural and safe. Use the material of plant origin without the risk of animal source diseases. Able to meet the needs of people with special dietary culture and religious belief.
  2. Low oxygen permeability. Easy to store. In terms of oxygen permeability, vacant pullulan capsules are 1/300 of vacant HPMC capsules, and 1/8 of empty gelatin capsules, which enables to protect the contents from oxidation and extend the storage period.
  3. Safe and reliable. Without animal protein or fat. Not easy to breed microorganisms. No need to add any chemical sterilizations.
  4. Good stability. Free of chemical reactions with the contents, or gelatin cross-linking reaction [14].

Lefancaps® R&D team have done a test on the oxygen transmittance of 60% RH at 25℃ for three kinds of capsule films made from gelatin, HPMC and pullulan. The results indicate that the film made from pullulan provides excellent low oxygen permeability and then protects the contents better.

Lefancaps® R&D team have developed P-caps®-Organic, which have been formulated by only using the ingredients in compliance with USDA organic regulations §205.605, the requirements of non-agricultural (non-organic) substances that are permitted in the production and processing of products labeled “organic” or “organically made”. At present P-caps®-Organic have passed the audit and certification by USDA organic regulations, 7 CFR Part 205 – National Organic Program. The development of this new capsule has released consumers’ concerns on food safety. Moreover, it will have great development potential with the trend towards low-carbon and green economy.

With the penetration of Pure Nature concept, organic pullulan hard capsules are not only popular in the European and American pharmaceutical and functional food markets, but also become the new choice of capsule dosage forms in Asia and other developing countries. This new capsule can be positioned in all natural or biological products, in line with consumer groups’ demands towards natural nowadays, and can provide more possibilities for product differentiation and brand value enhancement for pharmaceutical and functional food enterprises.

References
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[2] Kassaye, W.W., 2001. Green dilemma. Mark. Intell. Plann. 19 (6), 444–455.
[3] J. Aertsens, K. Mondelaers, W. Verbeke, J. Buysse, and G. Van Huylenbroeck, “The influence of subjective and objective knowledge on attitude, motivations and consumption of organic food,” Br. Food J., vol. 113, no. 11, pp. 1353–1378, 2011.
[4] J. Paul and J. Rana, “Consumer behavior and purchase intention for organic food,” J. Consum. Mark., vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 412–422, 2012.
[5] J. E. Pelletier, M. N. Laska, D. Neumark-Sztainer, and M. Story, “Positive attitudes toward organic, local, and sustainable foods are associated with higher dietary quality among young adults,” J. Acad. Nutr. Diet., vol. 113, no. 1, pp. 127–132, 2013.
[6] BioFach, 2010. Press releases available at http://www.biofach.de, last accessed on 15-
12-2010.
[7] J. P. Voon, K. Sing, and A. Agrawal, “Determinants of willingness to purchase organic food : An exploratory study using Structural Equation Modeling,” Int. Food Agribus. Manag. Rev., vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 103–120, 2011.
[8] H. Willer and J. Lernoud, The world of organic agriculture. Statistics and emerging trends 2019. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL and IFOAM Organics International, 2019.
[9] B.B.M.G. Report, 2008. Helping socially conscious companies. Mark. News 2 (1), 14–18.
[10] K. Nuttavuthisit and J. Thøgersen, “Developing-Economy preferences for imported organic food products,” J. Int. Consum. Mark., vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 225–249, 2019.
[11] Tyburski, J., Zakovska-Biermans, S., 2003. Report on harmonization of regulations and standards for organic agriculture in the Central and Eastern Europe accession countries and the European Union. European Organic Farming Policy. Available at
www.irs.aber.ac.uk/EUCEEOFP/eu-ceeofp/pdf_files/EU-CEE-OFP_D1.pdf.
[12] Wang Haodong, Ye Jing, Zhang Xueqin, et al. Research progress on main components and application of vegetable hard capsules [J]. Modern Chemical Industry, 2019, 39 (8): 59-63.
[13] Zong Zhangyang, Chen Qijie, Wang Jianhui, Wei Yaqin, He Fei. Research progress of bio-based capsule shells [J]. Modern Chemical Industry, 2021, 41(4): 22-25.
[14] Xu Zhengkui. Development status and prospect analysis of vegetable capsule products [J]. China Pharmaceutical Information, 2012, 28(7): 14-16.