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What Is Gelatin and How Is It Made?

gelatin production gelita pork belly vinegar pig cow bovine porcine animal ingredients veganmed

Gelatin is one of the most commonly used animal-derived ingredients in medications and supplements. You can also find gelatin in many foods...some obvious choices like gummy bears, marshmallows, and fruit snacks, as well as some surprising products including frosted mini-wheat cereals and some breath mints!

This prolific ingredient is derived from cows and pigs, and it is often used as a capsule exterior or tablet binder.

Curious about how we go from cow to capsule? Check out this video from a top manufacturer of gelatin and collagen peptide outlining the process of how gelatin is made:

Gelatin is found in 9,590 out of 10,586 human products in capsule form, accounting for approximately 90% of products! Demand for gelatin continues to increase, and global gelatin market projections predict growth from 2.6 billion USD to 3.6 billion USD by 2023 (Gelatin Market, Markets and Markets 2020).

What's even more shocking is that there are many vegan alternatives to gelatin! Manufacturers commonly choose Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC) capsules or “Hypromellose.” HPMC is a chemically modified cellulose polymer that is safe for human consumption. Its physical similarities to gelatin make HPMC a very useful alternative, and it has been successfully used as a thickening agent and binder in many products (Labdoor 2014).

How similar are the two products? Look at the photo below - one hand is holding traditional gelatin capsules, and the other is holding HPMC capsules. Can you tell the difference and figure out which is which? Drop your guess in the comments, and we'll let you know if you're right!

gelatin hpmc hypromellose capsule capsules veganmed

Thankfully, you never have to wonder if your capsule is gelatin or HPMC if you shop through VeganMed's online marketplace! If you currently use a product and would like to know if there are any hidden animal ingredients, contact our experts! We love to research for you.

Special thanks to Anvi Brahmbhatt for her research and contribution to this post!


Disclaimer:  The product and/or medical information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product.


Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?

Want to learn more?

Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!

If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!



  1. VeganMed Company Analysis of Medications (Internal Data). August 2020.

  2. “Gelatin Market.” Markets and Markets, Accessed: 10 August 2020.,6.6%25%20during%20the%20forecast%20period.

  3. “What Is Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose?” Labdoor Magazine, Accessed: 11 November 2014.,gluten%20in%20vegan%2Dfriendly%20products..

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