Tablets and capsules in the food industry

Between food and medication

  • The demand for nutrition supplements is constantly on the increase.
  • Tablets and capsules play a major role in this sector.
  • Professor Dr. Sascha Rohn explains in an interview the significance of food compounds.

Professor Dr. Rohn, what trends are there in the food industry?

The most important trends are shaped by consumer demands: more and more people want sustainable, environmentally-friendly and regional production of their food. Many people consciously choose food which does not pose any health risks or which prevents illness. In the area of Functional Food, research is still examining the effects of many ingredients, even after two decades. The market therefore offers extensive scope for researchers, designers and manufacturers.

What role do tablets and capsules play?
When it comes to food in tablet or capsule form, manufacturers are able to dose ingredients more easily and offer standardized concentrations. This is a huge advantage for them as reproduction is comparably easy. However, such compounds are still regarded with criticism by the food authorities.

Where can a line be drawn between food and medication?

To put it simply, medication aims to cure or alleviate illnesses. Its ingredients are pharmacologically effective. In contrast, nutrition supplements and standard food may not be portrayed with references to illness. Although products touting prevention or reduced risks are permissible, they must be approved by the authorities in Germany. Particular attention is attributed to the packaging and product description offering unambiguous information for consumers.

Top 10 groups of nutrition supplements in 2014, by sales for self-medication at an effective selling price; source: IMS OTC® Report, IMS® GesundheitsMittelStudie (GMS)

What advances the development of new tablets or capsules in the food sector?
Our organism absorbs other substances as well as minerals or vitamins via vegetarian foods in particular. Research is attempting to characterize such secondary plant substances in terms of their chemical structure and effect in order to enhance them in food crops or to use them as plant extracts, whereby tablets and capsules can be suitable dosage forms for the latter.

What does this result in for production technology?

Stability of these secondary plant substances during processing plays a greater role than previously assumed. Production technology must therefore work absolutely reliably in terms of process safety and product quality. An even greater challenge for producers involves procuring continuous qualities of their raw materials despite these complex material changes.

Prof. Dr. Sascha Rohn

Professor of Food Chemistry,

University of Hamburg, Hamburg School of Food Science


Sascha Rohn, born 1973, studied food chemistry at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He did his doctorate at the Institute for Nutritional Science at the University of Potsdam and qualified as a lecturer at the TU Berlin. He has been Professor of Food Chemistry at the Hamburg School of Food Science since 2009. His research group is preoccupied with analyzing secondary plant substances, in particular the stability and reactivity of bioactive ingredients during processing of plant-based food and feed.


picture credits: / woraput-chawalitphon
Fette Compacting
Sascha Rohn