Collagen ingredients enter the mainstream

26 Apr 2020

Food, beverage and supplement manufacturers are bringing collagen into more mainstream products, with an increasing number featuring protein, skin and joint health claims. Are collagen-fortified products here to stay?

Collagen accounts for about a third of the protein in the human body, but its production slows with ageing, leading to skin wrinkles, joint pain, weaker muscles and lower bone density. As an ingredient, collagen benefits from a kind of common sense perception that consumption will help replenish the body’s supplies, despite limited evidence to suggest it is broken down by the digestive system differently from other proteins.

Collagen ingredients enter the mainstream

Until relatively recently, collagen was primarily viewed as a cheap source of protein, a waste stream product from the process of making gelatine, usually from bovine, porcine or fish bones. However, suppliers including Rousselot and Gelita have been investing in research and development to build the science around specific collagen peptides – smaller chains of amino acids – and their various roles in the body.

According to Innova Market Insights, the number of new products featuring collagen has risen an average of 27% a year since 2015 and have taken off particularly quickly over the past couple of years. Supplements still represent the biggest portion of the market, accounting for 35% of new products in 2019, but dairy and sports nutrition are also major categories. However, launches in the cereals sector have grown most quickly since 2015, up 52% over the period. When it comes to product positioning, 32% carry a protein claim, 25% feature a skin health claim, and 17% are positioned as beneficial for joint health.

Collagen ingredients are bucking the plant-based trend, and suppliers suggest one reason for this is how easy they are to work with. Collagen is relatively cheap, and can be formulated into a wide range of products, including chocolate, soup, supplements, powders and drinks.

In addition, the wide range of potential benefits – including claims for joint health, bones, skin, beauty, sports recovery and more – mean they have appeal that speaks to many different cultures. South America has seen most demand for collagen in the sports nutrition sector, for example, while Europeans are more interested in collagen for joint health. And Japan has dominated the global market for collagen for years, particularly for beauty applications, but improved mobility is emerging as another area of growing interest there.

What is clear is that collagen is an ingredient seeing a sharp rise in interest, including in North America, where Euromonitor named it one of Natural Products Expo West’s hottest ingredients of 2018. Collagen’s continued rise since then suggests that it has longer lasting mainstream potential.