Collagen sales aren’t slowing: 2023 Ingredient trends for food, drinks, dietary supplements, and natural products

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Nutritional Outlook, Volume 26, Issue 1

When will collagen sales slow down? Not this year, sources say.

Collagen was not one of the supplement ingredients with smaller sales gains in 2022. It remains a monster success especially in the mainstream channel. Collagen sales grew 56% in 2021 to $241 million in the mainstream U.S. supplements market, per SPINS (Chicago). And in 2022, they grew a further 28% to $309 million.

Scott Dicker, senior market insights analyst at SPINS, says it’s “a remarkable story of growth.” He continues: “I have predicted that collagen would start to level off in the past few years.” Now, he says, “I am going to back away from predicting the decline until I see something in that data. I think collagen is going to keep going up for a while.”

Collagen’s success is due to the fact that its key markets—skincare and haircare—remain relatively unshakable. “Hair, skin, and nails is a category that seems to be almost recession-proof,” Dicker says. “You’re going to be willing to spend on some hair, skin, and nail products.”

He points out that “it just takes one or two brands to do well and then the whole ingredient becomes a trend.” Indeed, although the number of brands selling collagen has increased exponentially, many of the market’s leaders are the brands that helped launch the category.

One of those brands is Vital Proteins. Tracey Warner Halama, CEO of Vital Proteins, says, “Despite various economic headwinds and increased competition, Vital Proteins has maintained leadership in the collagen category.” The company is still seeing double-digit growth. “Since joining Vital Proteins, the collagen category has expanded rapidly as interest in collagen has grown and become more mainstream,” Halama adds. “In 2015, there were five brands selling collagen supplementation; as of today, there are over 200.”

Consumers want to buy collagen products, but how well do they understand them?

“Even though many might say the market is saturated, there is a deep need to educate consumers to distinguish the quality and results-proven products from one another,” says Ideneth Vega, senior vice president of sales and marketing for supplements company Zurvita. In November 2022, Zurvita launched its first beauty product, a collagen supplement called Zundora. “To understand the need for collagen—not just for vanity or beauty but for overall health—the lack of education and factual information in the marketplace is a gap that will need to be addressed. Few companies truly care about educating consumers on the facts, the reality of their formulas, and where their product stands.”

Clinically proven ingredients are a differentiator. Zundora is formulated with Gelita’s (Eberbach, Germany) branded Verisol collagen ingredient, which Vega calls “proven and time-tested.” The product includes another branded ingredient, too—Lycored’s (Branchburg, NJ) Lumenato carotenoid blend—plus resveratrol, green tea, and other extracts.

Collagen can expand its audience if stakeholders reinforce the message that its benefits are more than skin deep. The fact that collagen supports joint and bone health and related areas like sports nutrition means collagen has untapped potential in markets where it isn’t already a major player.

“I think collagen is in this really good place as an ingredient where it can be promoted in so many different areas, for so many different health focuses—all of which are trending, all of which seem to be longstanding,” says Dicker.

Vital Proteins also believes that “we have to take the mystery out of collagen,” Halama says. “It’s critical we educate consumers that collagen is for everyone—not just women focused on wellness—and that the entire body can benefit from it.”

“We need to reinforce the science behind collagen,” she continues. “One-third of the protein in the human body is collagen, and by the time you’re 30, collagen production can decline 1% per year.” For this reason, she says, “Collagen peptides supplementation is for everybody at every life stage.”

Shoppers today are as likely to run across a collagen supplement in the beauty aisle as they are in the general health-and-wellness aisle. “Cross-merchandising” helps capture consumers who don’t shop the beauty aisle but who may find collagen in the supplements and wellness aisle, Dicker says. The same goes for customers who stick to the cosmetics shelf and don’t visit the wellness aisle.

There’s still work to be done to make collagen a bigger name in overall health. Brands are working on it. For instance, in 2023, Vital Proteins launched a new consumer awareness campaign called “For Everybody with a Body” in order “to shift the focus to collagen’s benefits for other parts of the body, including joint and bone health,” Halama says.

She continues, “We can reach a more mass audience with the message that collagen supplementation is for everyone. Our campaign also features people with different body types, races, and genders to demonstrate that collagen is truly a wellness essential for everybody.”

The needle is slowly moving. “As the leader in the category, we’re constantly monitoring trends. We’re continuing to see collagen become a foundational part of wellness routines rather than simply those centered around beauty,” Halama says. “The more that individuals learn how collagen peptides can support hair, skin, nails, bones, and joints, the more diversified the target demographic becomes. This shift has resulted in collagen supplementation, traditionally used primarily by females, becoming much more gender agnostic.”

Haircare shoppers are also learning more about collagen. Last year, hair-health brand Nutrafol made a splash with its Collagen Infusion mix-in powder launch. “The ‘skinification’ of hair is here,” says Sam Archer, Nutrafol’s vice president of product marketing and innovation. “Now more than ever, people are focused less on hair styling alone and more on optimizing their hair health, with an increased interest in hair wellness products such as collagen peptides.”

“Unlike other collagen products on the market which take a general approach to muscle, joint, hair, skin, and nail health, Nutrafol’s Collagen Infusion was formulated specifically to address hair more comprehensively,” she continues. “The naturally efficacious ingredients leverage advanced biotechnology to boost collagen levels that decrease with age—focusing solely on the essential elements of hair and scalp health: protecting collagen, strengthening hair fibers, and replenishing collagen levels from within.”

Nutrafol is teaching customers about what collagen can and can’t do alone for hair. “Collagen peptides can replenish collagen within our bodies,” Archer explains. “However, collagen peptides cannot improve hair growth on its own, which is a common misconception and a primary focus for how we are educating consumers.” As the body’s natural collagen production starts declining with age, leading to weakened hair, the marine collagen peptides in Collagen Infusion can help replenish collagen lost with age. But the product should be paired with Nutrafol’s hair-growth nutraceutical products. “As collagen peptides alone cannot grow hair, Collagen Infusion was launched to provide additional support to our hair-growth nutraceuticals for those who need it, and we have seen that through our hair-wellness quiz or by choice of booster, our customers are responding well to this formula,” says Archer, calling Collagen Infusion one of Nutrafol’s top-selling targeted boosters.

Delivery systems will also be important in growing collagen’s audience.

“While powder-based collagen products, like our bestselling flagship Collagen Peptides, will continue to dominate the category, we anticipate continuing to see additional formats grow in popularity,” says Vital Proteins’ Halama. “As people continue to travel, they’ll gravitate toward stick packs, bars, and gummies so they won’t have to compromise their wellness routine on the go.”

Consumers also want to include collagen in daily meals. Nutrafol’s Collagen Infusion, for instance, can be added to hot or cold liquids like yogurt, soup, and smoothies.

Meanwhile, at Zurvita, the Zundora supplement is a collagen gel. Vega notes that “you can enjoy it on its own, but when you take it cold it makes for a nice, refreshing treat. You can add it to your Greek yogurt and take it as your breakfast or snack with low calories and beauty benefits. But not only that, we are showing customers how to add it to their chocolate or vanilla protein. And, best of all, our customers are mixing it with our flagship nutritional energy botanical drink, Zeal for Life, and making mocktails or cocktails for their dinner parties and meetings.”

“At the end of the day,” she concludes, “people want to incorporate products into their daily routines, make habits out of using them, and create memorable experiences that can help them stick to it to see the results we all sell.”

Can collagen reach new heights in 2023? Time will tell. As Vega says, “Price and quality are all over the place, and to not just stand out but to have a sustainable, growing brand and not a pop-and-drop collagen product, it will need to stand the test of longevity, retention of the promise it provides, and educational marketing on the body’s process of collagen degradation and production. The more targeted, authentic, and honest brands are with consumers, the better the success of their product.”

Dicker agrees. “There are a lot of really good brands in the collagen business right now, so I would just look for the next innovation and see how the brands promote sustainability and animal-welfare claims. I think that’s going to drive the next level of innovation. But overall, I predict the ingredient has a strong outlook for 2023.”