Could collagen become the next big functional ingredient in UK food and drink?

With lengthening life expectancies and lower birth rates, a decent proportion of the UK population is currently over the age of 65, with consumers in this age bracket now moving away from the idea of ‘anti-ageing’, focusing instead on ageing healthily.

When it comes to health, there has been a clear rise in interest (and innovation) in functional foods, with the likes of adaptogens and nootropics starting to come to the fore over the past few years in multiple retail categories across food and drink.

Considering the evolving mindset when it comes to ageing, the functional ingredients space is now being further explored by brands developing products targeted for older consumers.

Collagen is an ingredient capturing my attention here, with the versatile protein a standout functional inclusion when considering the ageing consumer (and beyond).

What is collagen?

Collagen is a structural protein that acts as building blocks in our bodies and contributes to the elasticity of our skin, the ease of our movement and helps our nails and hair remain strong.

As essential as it is to our bodily make up, we lose natural collagen as we get older – therefore, there’s no wonder that the allure of collagen increases as we age.

There are over 40 different types of collagen in our body, with four main types commonly referred to as: Type I, II and III.

Type I is the most abundant form of collagen in the body (~90%) and is linked to providing the structure for our skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues.

Type II is more prominently found in the elastic cartilage in our joints and is made up of loosely packed fibres.

Type III supports the structure of muscles, organs and arteries/blood vessels and is closely linked to Type I, especially when it comes to marketing food products/nutraceuticals/supplements as these two types are focussed on skin, whereas type II is used in joint health products.

Collagen tends to be used in products from two main sources: bovine and marine. Research has shown that marine collagen typically boosts collagen types I and II in the body, whereas bovine collagen boosts I and III.

Bovine is therefore more likely to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, promote elasticity and increase skin moisture, while marine may improve cartilage/joint health and have some impact on skin health.

Although each source has its more focussed benefits (joint vs. skin), what often drives the decision on which source to use in consumer products is cost, with marine collagen costing almost double that of bovine collagen as a raw material.

What the latest AI-based UK consumer data says about collagen in the UK

  • In the past year, collagen has appeared in 12,211 social media posts on Instagram, from 6,168 people
  • Social media conversations including collagen are rising +5.97% MoM
  • The terms ‘Healthy’, ‘Hair & Skin Care’ and ‘Fitness’ are the three dominant health claims with collagen
  • When it comes to preparation methods that include collagen, the term ‘Infused’ is up +32.46% YoY
  • Breakfast is the dominant eating occasion when it comes to collagen, with 19.35% of the mealtime market share
  • Lactose-free’ is the fastest rising consumer diet in terms of mentions with collagen (+35.9% YoY)
  • While ‘Grass-fed’ is mentioned just 0.06% of the time in all food and drink conversations, mentions of grass-fed in the context of collagen stands at 2.47% (with this equating to a difference of 3,981.7%)

Source: Tastewise, 13/04/21

Why is collagen trending?

In the earlier years of our lives, we benefit from high quality natural collagen which maintains our healthy, youthful appearance and contributes to the smooth functioning of our joints and organs.

As we age, we lose our ability to produce this natural protein. And the quality of the collagen we do produce decreases over time.

Therefore, it’s no wonder there is a growing trend for innovative, collagen-based products which claim to provide physical benefits, both internally and externally.

According to Grand View Research, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the global collagen market is estimated at 5.9% between 2020-2027.

While it seems that the global application of collagen across various industries is primed for continued expansion, the above research study also revealed that the biggest growth is predicted to be within the food and beverage sector when compared to other applications.

This is primarily due to increased demand for dietary supplements and functional foods/beverages, driven mainly from within the Europe and North America regions, which are trailblazers for the adoption of these nutraceutical-style products.

The main categories of the food and beverage industry which are seeing an uptake of collagen product innovations are dairy, snacks, liquid-based and confectionery.

Let’s explore how nine brands in these categories are raising the bar on collagen-based innovation.


1) Danone Light & Fit (USA)

In spring 2020, Danone (branded as Dannon) launched Light & Fit Collagen + Antioxidants into North America, a product which they said is the “first packaged yoghurt with collagen.”

The range now has four flavours (mango/kiwi, cherry/blackcurrant, tangerine/grapefruit and raspberry/lime), with each 150g pot containing 15g of protein, 2g of collagen (type I and III hydrolysed beef collagen), 20% of your daily value of vitamins A and E, and 90kcal (with an RSP of $1.49).

Yoghurt has long been revered for its healthy credentials, be it ‘good for your gut’ or ‘high protein’ call-outs – this category therefore lends itself nicely to collagen-inclusions.

2) Re:Think Ice Cream (USA)

Founded by George and Kim Haymaker in 2018, Re:Think ice cream was launched with the aim of creating an ice cream for a healthy lifestyle.

It is the first collagen-infused ice cream which is lactose-free, gluten-free, low-sugar, keto and diabetic-friendly and contains all-natural ingredients and bovine derived collagen.

The range features 12 flavours, including; coconut matcha, black cherry vanilla, turmeric ginger and lemon poppy seed.

Re:Think ice cream is available in over 500 stores across Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah and retails at around $5.99 for 414ml.


3) Jersey Road Milk with Collagen (New Zealand)

In summer 2020, Lewis Road Creamery launched a fresh milk with added collagen. Using an innovative process, the brand are able to fortify their Jersey milk with the structural protein before pasteurisation, with the blend not compromising the original taste and texture of their milk.

The New Zealand based company partnered with the country’s leading collagen brand, Jeuneora, to create the milk, which is fortified with 5g of high-quality bovine collagen per 250ml.

The product, which is free from GMO, allergens, antibiotics and preservatives, is available in 750ml with a RSP of NZ $5.00.


1) SkinnyPop +Collagen popcorn (USA)

In December 2017, The Hershey company agreed a deal to acquire Skinny Pop maker Amplify snack, and in the summer of 2019 launched Skinny Pop Sea Salt & Herb Popcorn +Collagen exclusively into Whole Foods US.

The product is free from gluten, nuts and dairy, and has no artificial preservatives and flavours. Each cup is 47kcal and contains about 4g of protein, with their added collagen peptides coming from bovine sources.

RSP: $4.29 per 141g bag.

2) MCTco (USA)

Founded by Joe Christensen in the late 2000s, snack brand MCTco offer keto-friendly ‘superfood’ snack bars containing MCT oil and collagen.

The range, which is non-GMO and gluten-free, features six flavours including: lemon boost, banana beautiful, cookie dough and caramel sea salt.

Although not targeted at the ageing/older consumer specifically, each of their 39g snack bars contains 7-8g of grass-fed bovine collagen protein and costs approximately $2.50.


1) Voss+ Collagen (UK, US, Australia & Canada)

Founded in 1998 by two Norwegian entrepreneurs, Voss has always played in the premium water space but, in recent years, has begun to capitalise on consumer trends for functional benefits by launching their Voss+ innovations which focus on being ‘beyond hydration.’

Following the successful launch of their first Voss+ Aquamin product in 2020, Voss are planning to introduce two new SKU’s to the enhanced range in spring 2021; Voss+ Vitamin D and Voss+ Collagen (which is infused with 10g of collagen).

Voss+ Collagen will be available in 850ml recycled PET bottles and sold at approximately $15 for 6 bottles.

2) Flow Alkaline Spring Water with Collagen (USA)

In February 2020, Flow acquired the collagen water brand BOONs, and soon after launched their new collagen-infused natural spring water which contains 10g of grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen.

Available in six flavours (including grapefruit, blood orange, lemon and cucumber); the brand is endorsed by celebrities such as Shawn Mendes and Halle Berry.

A 12 pack of 500ml eco-friendly bottles retails at $32.39.

3) The Slow Broth Co. (UK)

The Slow Broth Co is a new brand of bone broth-based products to be launched by former New Covent Garden MD Nigel Parrott, soup brand Watmuff & Beckett founder Andrew Watmuff, and former Dragons’ Den star Nick Jenkins.

The brand will launch a reported nine single-serve products in spring this year, including Chicken Bone Broth, Beef Bone Broth, Chicken, Coconut & Wild Rice Soup and Smoky Chorizo & Butternut Squash Risotto (370g-450g, RSP: £2.40-£3).

The range will be rich in amino acids, minerals and protein, containing up to 2.3g collagen per serving.


1) Mastika Gum (Middle East)

Founded in 2015, Mastika is the world’s most expensive gum brand. Their range is sugar-free, has an iconic flavour of mastic and does not contain aspartame.

In 2020, the brand launched Mastika Collagen, which has been designed to promote ‘beautiful and smooth skin’. The product comes in a luxurious metal tin of 12 gums, with each gum containing 5g of beef collagen and is priced at $10.

Hannah Atton
Hannah is a food and drink trend analyst, consultant and NPD expert. She was previously a cross-category product developer and trends researcher for Tesco, an NPD technologist at Bakkavor and freelance trend analyst for The Food People.

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