Joint health sees strongest growth in US collagen category

22 Sep 2022

Collagen supplements for hair, skin and nails have historically dominated due to ‘beauty from within’ promotion, but an interest in joint health is growing as US consumers are increasingly educated on the overall health benefits of collagen, reports Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).

Collagen is everywhere and yet consumers are mystified by it, according to a new market report by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ). A mainstream supplement rising in popularity in the last decade, collagen is found in numerous formats, and is expected to reach sales in the US of $220 million by 2025.

Joint health sees strongest growth in US collagen category
© AdobeStock/Анастасия Коровина

“[We] started tracking collagen for general health in 2019—but we've never produced a collagen report and surveyed consumers on how they use collagen, how long they’ve been using it and where they get their collagen. Until now,” write NBJ analysts.

Almost three quarters of survey respondents (75.2%) made up of responses from 815 collagen users and 1,001 non-collagen users said they wish they knew more about collagen/collagen peptide supplements.

In the first report of its kind, NBJ’s in-depth analysis of the collagen market looks at sales, market sizing, key company profiles and growth between 2017 and 2022.

Collagen’s upward trajectory

Found at in many retail outlets, from neighbourhood supermarkets, pharmacies, huge retail chains as well as ecommerce sites, collagen’s ‘ubiquitous presence’ has supported the supplement's upward trajectory, which started last decade with US sales of $95 million in 2017 steadily rising to $131 million in 2018, according to NBJ market data.

Supplement and nutrition market analysts at NBJ estimate growth rebounded slightly to 14.6% in 2021 and is expected to stay steady at 13.6% in 2022.

A huge growth trend: Joint health collagen

Joint health collagen, the second largest category after hair, skin, and nails, has experienced significant growth increasing from 1.8% in 2020 to 26% in 2021. Yet, NBJ data shows hair, skin and nails collagen dominates, making up almost 74% of sales in 2021. Joint health collagen, in the same year, accounted for 10.81% of US sales, followed by general health at 7.21% and sports, energy and weight management at 5.86%.

As the strongest growing category in collagen, forecasts predict joint health will grow by 13.3% in 2023 compared to 7.6% for hair, skin, and nails. Collagen is the ‘go-to supplement’, for beauty concerns but its appeal is widening, ‘becoming more attractive for anyone concerned about joint health and general health, and as a source for protein’.

“Starting in 2019, condition numbers shift from seeing strongest growth from hair, skin and nails to joint health, a reversal of a shift earlier in the decade when the obscure joint supplement was adopted by the beauty-from-within crowd,” explain the authors of the report.

Beauty from within: Hair, skin, and nails

Collagen supplements have long been associated with the phrase ‘beauty from within.’ Younger looking skin and fewer skin wrinkles appeal to young and older US consumers alike.

The legacy of Covid-19 means there is a renewed emphasis on maintaining good health and wellbeing practices for many US consumers. Almost three quarters (71.6%) of NBJ survey respondents began using collagen products within the past two years, since the pandemic lockdowns began.

Powder format is most preferred

Collagen is available in various formats, but powders sold in tubs are particularly popular, says NBJ.

“The ubiquitous powder format is the number-one product used by respondents with roughly 60% of consumers using powder, regardless of when they started using the supplement,” according to NBJ analysts.

© AdobeStock/Maria© AdobeStock/Maria

Collagen confusion: Plant-based collagen needs refining for vegan consumers

There are five different types of collagens used in supplements and all are animal-based, derived primarily from cows, chicken, or fish. Each collagen is also categorized as Type I, Type II, Type III, Type V and Type X. Collagen boosters or plant-based collagen currently on the market simply generate collagen already in the body instead of replacing it.

Collagen supplements can therefore prove confusing for vegan consumers since plant-based alternatives known as “collagen boosters” or “collagen-building peptides” don’t contain any collagen. Instead, many have a bevy of vitamins and other ingredients to enhance hair, skin, and nail health.

Plant-based food supplement brand, Sunwarrior is ‘loud and proud’ in its marketing to vegans, highlighting how its plant-based protein peptides powder helps to build collagen as opposed to replace.

Developing a plant-based collagen that vegans or those following plant-based diets can rely on will be essential for innovation in the supplement space as there is a “huge market of consumers waiting for that alternative to traditional collagen sources.”

“As with alternative meats, scientists are busy working on what may become plant-based collagen for the mass market, developing synthetic collagen that may be used first as a medical product to treat wounds,” reads the report.

Brands should educate consumers on collagen benefits

With the amount of collagen products currently available, consumers are not particularly concerned with specific types which may be a “reflection of lack of education”, write the NBJ analysts.

Similarly, almost half (44.9%) thought the collagen supplement market is not well explained and/or is too confusing which NBJ analysts view as “a wake-up call.”

Brands and retailers can simplify the scientific language around collagen with ‘plain talk’ and ‘transparent truths’ which will educate consumers about what collagen is and where it comes from.

To help consumers make informed choices third-party certification for animal-based collagen sources (bovine, chicken or marine) and explanation of Type I, II and III with clear labelling could also be useful.

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