“There is so much interest right now,” said Angie Rimel, US marketing coordinator at Gelita, the world’s leading supplier of collagen, which has developed a series of branded collagen peptide products backed by human trials that target areas such as the skin or joints.
“Consumers are looking to get it in a lot of different ways,” Rimel told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s really expanded from the traditional dietary supplement to foods and beverages; collagen peptides are now one of the fastest growing ingredients in the functional foods space, and we’re seeing interest in more specific products around beauty or bone health, for example.”
She added: “In 2019, the top three new product launch categories for collagen were supplements, sports nutrition, and beverages. Powders, including powder bases for protein shakes, are the majority, but in 2019 [new launches of] protein bars [featuring collagen peptides] also tripled and we're seeing everything from energy shots to fortified gummies. We’re also seeing a lot of innovation in ready-to-drink beverages where they work well as they are very versatile, heat-stable, water soluble and they have a neutral sensory profile.”
Relatively small molecules with a molecular weight of less than 10,000 g/mol, Gelita's collagen peptides comprise 2-100 amino acids and are characterized by excellent cold-water solubility and, even in highly concentrated solutions, they do not form a gel, and are stable across a wide pH range, noted Rimel.
“As far as the health benefits consumers are looking for, definitely beauty-from-within (skin, hair, nails) is very strong, but that’s followed closely by sports and active nutrition, which encompasses everything from bone, tendon and ligament support to body-toning, and that’s attracting interest from athletes but also general consumers.”
‘The trend is away from pure collagen supplement products to combination products’
Gelita is also seeing a trend towards combination products, where formulators are combining bioactive collagen peptides with other functional ingredients such as probiotics or adding in other proteins to boost grams of protein per serving, she said, noting that only small amounts of some of the collagen peptides are needed to confer health benefits.
“You only need a small amount of some of these bioactive collagen peptides – 2.5g of Verisol [Gelita’s branded collagen peptides for skin health], or 5g of Tendoforte [Gelita’s branded collagen peptides for ligaments and tendons], to get the benefits, and we’ve got the studies that show that. The key is compliance, taking it regularly in small amounts.”
‘Not all collagen peptides are the same’
Although some commentators argue that ingesting collagen in the hope of getting glossier hair or stronger nails is based on a flawed assumption that you can instruct your body to build more collagen just by eating it, or direct that collagen towards specific parts of the body, Gelita’s tailored peptide sequences have been shown via human clinical studies to confer specific benefits from improved skin elasticity to regenerated cartilage in joints, said Rimel.
“Not all collagen peptides are the same. The devil is in the detail,” added Rimel, who said Gelita’s peptides directly stimulate the metabolism of target connective tissue cells involved in collagen biosynthesis in various parts of the body.
The peptides in Gelita’s VERISOL ingredient, for example, are designed to stimulate fibroblast cells in the dermal layer of the skin to increase production of dermal collagen, with peer-reviewed human clinical studies (see box) showing increased skin elasticity, higher skin procollagen concentration, decreased cellulite scores, faster nail growth speed, and reducing chipping.
The ingestion of Gelita’s FORTIGEL ingredient, in turn, stimulates cartilage tissue metabolism.
“We start with collagen-rich material, extract the collagen* [strings of proteins that serve as building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments], and then with the help of enzymes, cut it to different lengths so you end up with a specific peptide profile as a fingerprint that targets specific cells, so chondrocytes in joint cartilage or fibroblasts in skin or osteoblasts in bones,” said Rimel. “So Verisol’s specific peptide profile interacts with skin cells, for example, and we have multiple scientific studies showing positive results.”
She added: “So, if you’re making a food or beverage with collagen peptides, you need to check that your supplier has a consistent product and reliable supply, but also that the collagen peptide ingredient you’re using is supported by clinical studies that match your product positioning.”
*Collagen peptides are produced through the enzymatic hydrolysis of collagen derived from bovine hide, bone, pigskin or fish.
Gelita cites multiple human clinical studies to support its branded collagen peptide collection, including:
FORTIBONE: For improving bone mass density and supporting bone stability and flexibility by stimulating the anabolic process to produce new collagen (König et al. 2018 -part funded by Gelita; Knefeli and Mueller Autz, 2019).
BODYBALANCE: For body toning and increased muscle strength in young and middle-aged people, and for counter-acting age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) when aging (Zdzieblik, D. et al, 2015 - part funded by Gelita).
TENDOFORTE: For strengthening tendons and ligaments (Praet et al 2019 - funded by Gelita).