When will consumers tire of collagen? Not soon, it appears.
Any way you slice it, collagen sales are stellar. Collagen companies are now striding confidently—and excitedly—into 2022.
Per SPINS multioutlet channel tracking, powered by IRI, collagen ingredient sales in the U.S. mainstream supplements market grew a whopping 56% in the year ending October 31, 2021, reaching $241 million compared to $154 million a year ago. Collagen now ranks #23 on the list of 25 bestselling mainstream functional ingredients.
Meanwhile, per SPINS natural enhanced channel tracking, collagen ingredient sales in the U.S. natural supplements channel grew 7% in the year ending October 31, 2021, reaching $67 million compared to $63 million a year ago. Collagen now ranks #2 on the list of 25 bestselling functional ingredients in the natural channel.
“Conservatively,” says Angie Rimel, marketing communications manager, North America, Gelita (Sioux City, IA), “2021 should see sales of collagen-based supplements at nearly $250 million, more than triple compared to 2016. Collagen peptides have been widely recognized as one of the hottest ingredients in modern times.”
Lindsey Toth, associate director, global marketing, Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients (Morristown, NJ), points to a Forbes article published last year1, noting, “The global collagen market more than doubled in size from $3.5 billion in 2018 to $8.36 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $16.7 billion by 2028.”
Collagen secured an enthusiastic audience amidst the pandemic. Says Rimel: “Although the market growth had cooled for a bit during the early days of the pandemic, the momentum of this market is back on pace to continue dominance in the arena of active ingredients.”
Indeed, “With so many unknowns over the past two years, healthy daily rhythms can provide a sense of stability, familiarity, and comfort—not to mention tangible physiological benefits,” says Liz Clarke, CFS, technical marketing manager, Nitta Gelatin North America (Morrisville, NC). “While immunity superstars like vitamins C and D, zinc, and elderberry saw huge spikes in sales, we saw a milder, but similar pattern of use, with collagen-containing products during the same period of late 2020 to late 2021.”
Each year, interest expands beyond collagen’s origins in skincare and beauty. After all, one of collagen’s strongest characteristics, and what will drive the ingredient going forward, is the fact that the one ingredient has so many overarching benefits. This gives companies considerable latitude to innovate products that address multiple health concerns at once.
“One major reason for growing collagen sales is consumer interest in supplement solutions that offer multiple, complementary benefits,” says Lonza’s Toth.
Combination health-benefit products are taking the market by storm and attracting new users. Nutrition brand Bulletproof, for instance, last year launched five new collagen-based need-state products, including a Sleep Collagen Protein drink mix combining collagen protein with melatonin, chamomile, and magnesium, and a Complete Daily Energy Collagen Protein mix marrying collagen protein, essential amino acids, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, and a blend of ginseng, magnesium, and cordyceps. “We created our targeted collagen line that gives all the benefits of a collagen supplement with added functional ingredients,” says Shenoa Riegel, brand manager, Bulletproof. “Our Sleep Collagen is a great pre-bedtime routine, and Energy Collagen is great for a boost of energy to start the day.”
She adds, “We see functional ingredients coupled with collagen for a specific need state as an integral part of what is helping grow collagen interest now and in the future.”
Jim Burkett, president of the brand Great Lakes Wellness, says, “Gut health has been a hot topic of discussion.” His company recently introduced its Daily Digestion Collagen Peptides, a quick-dissolving drink mix containing collagen peptides and 5 billion CFU of branded probiotic strain Bacillus subtilis DE111, plus prebiotic fiber and vitamin C (to support collagen production).
Lonza’s Toth highlights collagen’s complementary presence in bone health products. “Bone and joint health typically go hand-in-hand for consumers, as they are both key to mobility; bone brings structural integrity to the body, while joints enable movement. However, the ingredients that address each one are very different—undenatured type II collagen for cartilage, and calcium and vitamins D and K for bone health, to take a few examples. For consumer convenience, developing combination products using formulation expertise and innovative capsule technology helps bridge this gap and address multiple health concerns while also driving market growth.”
The fact that collagen is so friendly to work with—including in food and drinks—enables lots of innovation. “Collagen peptides allow for a wide range of formulations—for example, powder, gel, gummies, concentrated shots, near-waters and bars, and inclusion in everyday foods such as yogurt,” says Gelita’s Rimel.
“Collagen peptides,” she explains, “are versatile and easy to use. They have a neutral taste and can be incorporated into a diverse range of products. Additionally, they have high heat and acid stability, low viscosity, and no precipitation or clumping. They also offer fast absorption and good bioavailability, and are free from fat and cholesterol.”
Riegel says Bulletproof “continues to see a preference for healthy drink options among consumers,” and that single-use packets and bars provide travel-friendly options for customers on the go.
Plant-based cream and creamers are also hot categories for collagen, adds Haleigh Resetar, corporate communications specialist, SPINS.
All these product types give consumers many ways to adopt a collagen product into their daily diet. “People are creatures of habit and need products that fit into their already established routines,” says Burkett at Great Lakes Wellness. “Collagen powder is a popular choice as it can be added into morning cups of coffee, smoothies at the gym, or even oatmeal. Stick formats make on-the-go collagen consumption easy and convenient, as do gummies. New flavors are catching the eye of consumers as well, bringing a fruity or sweet twist to their daily water intake. We’ll see the continued development of products that target specific needs and are easy and convenient for consumers—from quick-dissolving tablets to other flavor combinations.”
“Consumers are searching for products that will help them age the way they like to age,” he adds. “Collagen can also target multiple areas of wellness at the same time, rather than using multiple products to get the whole package, or they can opt for collagen that targets exactly what they want.”
Two of consumers’ primary goals for collagen supplementation are beauty and joint support. These are firmly established as collagen’s strongest categories.
“Beauty applications remain the top application for collagen. In the U.S., skin and beauty is the main purchasing driver for almost half of collagen users,” says Jaume Reguant, healthcare director, Bioiberica (Barcelona, Spain), citing 2021 consumer survey data from Ingredient Transparency Center (ITC).
Collagen’s growth in the U.S. hair, skin, and nails supplement market was impressive last year. Per SPINS tracking, within the mainstream multioutlet hair, skin, and nails supplement sector in the U.S., collagen was the second-highest-selling ingredient, growing an incredible 61% in sales the year ending October 31, 2021, reaching $122 million compared to just $76 million the year prior. Over in the natural-channel hair, skin, and nails supplement market in the U.S., collagen was the number-one-selling ingredient, reaching $22 million.
Credit goes to the growth of ingestible beauty. “The nutricosmetics market—whether we call it ‘edible’ or ‘beauty-from-within’—has experienced substantial growth over the last five years in sales volume,” says Sid Hulse, vice president of product development, PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ). “What was once a strong business in Asia—particularly Japan and Korea—has now become a global phenomenon.”
Joint health is collagen’s second-highest seller. “In fact,” Bioiberica’s Reguant says, “collagen is currently driving growth of the joint health category, which has historically been dominated by ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin.”
Interest in collagen for joint health may have also shot up as the pandemic adversely impacted routines and mobility. “The pandemic affected consumers in a huge number of ways, including how they move and how their joints feel,” Lonza’s Toth points out. “Lockdowns and gym closures disrupted exercise routines, while at-risk individuals have avoided leaving the house. Many people who were once very active have lost some joint flexibility and mobility, while pandemic-related weight gain has become common in the U.S. and Europe—another major cause of joint health issues.” Joint health will continue being a leading concern. “Joint health remains a key driver of the collagen market—it has long been a major consumer priority,” she says.
Tangential health concerns are also getting swept up in the enthusiasm for collagen. For instance, joint health relates to sports performance and active nutrition, and here, collagen is growing its name, especially as more consumers seek to increase their level of exercise during the pandemic, Toth says.
Performance nutrition is one of collagen’s top-growing categories, Resetar at SPINS confirms. “In the performance nutrition category, the top subcategories include postworkout, preworkout, and hydration and electrolyte,” Resetar adds. “We can expect to see shoppers interested in exercise and nutrition to be pushing this ingredient forward in innovation. The expanded role of collagen for joint support and performance opened new categories for the ingredient.” Gelita’s Rimel highlights her own company’s body-toning collagen peptides as playing in this space.
Cognition is another emerging focus. “Another collagen application with potentially enormous benefits is brain health,” says Abdul Alkayali, vice president of sales and marketing, Certified Nutraceuticals Inc. (Pauma Valley, CA). “The approximately 100 billion neurons in our brains rely on neurotransmitters made of essential amino acids to enable thinking and memory.” Jellyfish collagen, he says, offers not only these amino acids but also macronutrients and calcium-binding proteins.
Stress relief is another area to explore. “Stress manifests itself in different ways, both mentally and physically,” says Nitta Gelatin’s Clarke. “We’re hearing so many accounts of self-care routines featuring collagen peptides addressing both the physical and mental manifestations of stress, allowing consumers to both look and feel their best.”
And then there’s immune health. Gelita’s Rimel says, “The fact that [specific collagen] peptides also contribute to immune function is a fairly new discovery.”
Witnessing consumers’ growing interest in these other health benefits of collagen is gratifying to ingredient suppliers who have been investing in collagen research.
The public’s growing focus on holistic health, particularly during the pandemic, bodes well for the enduring appeal of a multifunctional ingredient like collagen. “The growth of collagen can be attributed to many factors, including changes in health focus from immunity to strengthening the overall wellness of the entire body,” says Resetar at SPINS. “The pandemic opened the eyes of consumers in terms of looking at their health in its entirety. It started with consumers looking at introducing supplements that promoted immunity, and from there shoppers started to take a closer look at how they were treating the rest of their body. Shoppers want to take care of their body from the inside out, and through branding and marketing of collagen products, consumers learned of its benefits both inside and outside the body. This corresponds to the growing trend of increased health and beauty from within.”
And this is why beauty-from-within products like collagen are outperforming the market. Says Hulse at PLT Health Solutions, “If you’ve seen the sales volumes for the traditional cosmetics market since early 2020, not only hasn’t there been any growth, but sales are also dramatically lower. This is not the case in the nutricosmetics beauty market, which tends to focus more on health as a driver than just appearance.”
The result is that nearly all collagen businesses interviewed here report skyrocketing, double-digit sales gains last year. And the good times will continue. “When it’s continuing to do well in the natural channel, that’s why I’m comfortable saying that it’s going to continue to have growth in the conventional channel as well,” says Scott Dicker, senior market insights analyst at SPINS. Will sales plateau? “At some point, yes,” he says. “I don’t predict 2022 is the year, though.”
For one thing, collagen’s audience continues to grow. “Traditionally, the age-related decline of function or appearance was the primary driver of collagen demand. Today, we’re seeing more interest in collagen from consumers of all ages,” says Certified Nutraceuticals’ Alkayali. “Younger and middle-aged consumers are supplementing with collagen products to maintain joint health and function in hopes of preventing the mobility and pain issues plaguing the older generation. Similarly, younger consumers are turning to beauty products with collagen to help maintain and enhance beauty.”
Burkett at Great Lakes Wellness agrees. “All ages and backgrounds are turning to collagen. It comes in a wide range of flavors for easy integration. Social media is huge and an easy avenue for sharing products and results over time between friends, family, and followers. Younger generations are also turning to collagen as they are seeing the results from Gen X and the Boomers.”
Toth says Lonza has been doing studies on its ingredient to demonstrate joint-health benefits not just in older populations but in healthy, younger subjects as well.
And Reguant at Bioiberica says, “Over the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of consumers taking a daily dose of collagen—up 8% in the U.S. between 2019 and 2021,” he says, again citing ITC survey data. “What’s more,” he continues, “almost half of regular collagen users say they have increased their intake over the past year, suggesting there is a growing loyal base of consumers that are seeing the benefits and wanting more.”
The science is also strengthening. “Collagen ingredient technologies are evolving by leaps and bounds,” says Nitta Gelatin’s Clarke, noting that “researchers continue to gain more in-depth understanding of collagen peptides’ mechanisms of actions within the body…” She adds: “Even over the past few years, we’ve seen the general tone of skepticism transition into genuine interest, and support, by the wider scientific community.”
Collagen also lets companies check off the boxes important to today’s shoppers. For instance, says Hulse at PLT Health Solutions, “We find that ‘origin story’ is increasingly something that consumer products companies want to share with consumers. Consumers want to know about sustainability, non-GMO certification, fair trade, traceability, and more when they go to select a beauty-from-within product containing collagen.”
Certain consumers prefer non-bovine and non-animal-based collagen sources, Hulse adds. Burkett says Great Lakes Wellness launched its Daily Marine Collagen Peptides product last year for its pescatarian and flexitarian customers “so they can still reap the benefits of collagen in a format that isn’t from bovine sources.”
“The collagen source can…be a key purchase influencer,” agrees Bioiberica’s Reguant. “There has been a slight increase in the number of collagen users looking for ‘grass-fed’ or ‘fair trade–sourced’ collagen. In the U.S., egg-sourced collagen is the most popular choice for regular collagen users, although the overall split across different sources (vegetarian, marine, chicken, egg, and bovine collagen) remains fairly even.”
Educating the industry and consumers about the differences between collagen ingredients will be key to protecting the category’s longevity. After all, collagen is not a singular ingredient but rather a broad category. As Certified Nutraceuticals’ Alkayali points out, “There are 28 different types of collagen.”
Unfortunately, people might be unaware of the differences—the efficacy, dosage, and benefits—between collagen types. It also doesn’t help that manufacturers looking to capitalize on the collagen trend—but who are unwilling to pay the price for a clinically proven, high-quality, often branded, ingredient—can take advantage of a general lack of knowledge.
Suhail Ishaq, president, BioCell Technology LLC (Irvine, CA), says, “There’s two different dynamics happening in the industry. Some that are purely cost-driven—contract manufacturers who are just riding on the coattails of the success in the category and saying, ‘Hey, collagen is hot. Just come out with a product.’ And when they see how much [branded ingredients like] Verisol or BioCell Collagen cost, they’re, like, ‘Oh, well, you know what? We can find some cheap stuff, and consumers don’t know. We’ll just call it collagen on the label and just start marketing it.’ You have those players who are just price-driven and who have no sense of real caring for quality and integrity. And then you have the other players who are, like, ‘No, hey, we really want to make sure we can deliver products that are effective, that we can really stand behind.’”
“That’s, I think, where the industry needs more stewardship,” he continues, “because there’s extreme over-generalization that’s happening in the category.” Fortunately, he believes this will cease over time as more people learn about collagen types.
Nitta Gelatin’s Clarke hopes likewise. “Branded, clinically substantiated collagen peptides are primed for major growth as we move past demand for generic collagen ingredients,” she believes.
As consumers get serious about collagen, they also may be willing to pay more for a better-quality product. “Indeed, research shows that ‘quality’ is the major factor driving price premium for branded ingredients, with over a quarter of collagen users willing to pay a premium of over 20%,” says Reguant at Bioiberica.
“We expect that collagen sales will continue on an upward trajectory as more brands and consumers come to understand the various types of collagen available and the different benefits of each,” says Lonza’s Toth.
Collagen sales will continue forging ahead even as these best practices take hold, with collagen companies reaping the rewards as they learn how to position their products to meet the growing demand.
“We can tell who’s winning and losing” in the collagen market, says Douglas Jones, BioCell Technology’s global sales and marketing manager. “We’ve got a couple of customers that are just hitting this thing out of the ballpark” with their product positioning—such as by branding their products more strongly to play up their collagen ingredients, as well as strengthening their marketing around structure-function claims and highlighting clinical studies on proprietary, branded ingredients.
Hulse at PLT Health Solutions states, “Quality science allows messaging that consumers will trust…Healthy solutions backed by trustworthy clinical science and delivered in product forms that delight the consumer are where today’s edible beauty market is going.”
As collagen goes from strength to strength, its stage continues to grow, and its star continues to rise. “When you look at retailers like CVS and Target who have created beauty-from-within departments in their cosmetic aisles,” says Jones, “…you know you’ve transitioned right when you’ve got your own section in Target.”