Taking collagen into RTDs: ‘We want to make it mainstream’

For a generation of consumers that share nearly 100 million selfies a day, beauty drinks certainly seem like an attractive proposition.

According to research company Technavio, the market globally is expected to be worth $1.4 billion by 2022. Much of that growth – 11% CAGR, Technavio says – emerges from a shift in consumer aspirations and will be driven forward by convenience-led formats.

Where the industry has previously concentrated on powders and supplements, extending the reach of collagen into new ready-to-drink (RTD) and ready-to-eat (RTE) formats is an important next step in broadening the category’s overall appeal.

“Of course convenience played a significant role in our decision to innovate with an RTD,” says Tracey Halama, senior vice-president of sales for Vital Proteins. “However, the success we were seeing in mass club retailers – the key to widening household penetration – was another major factor that we simply couldn’t ignore.”

The Chicago-based company has developed a line of RTD drinks that deliver 10g of collagen in one of five flavours: original, strawberry-lemon, lemon-ginger, blueberry-mint, and blackberry-hibiscus. The grab-and-go propositions are made with real fruit juice, without artificial sweeteners or added sugar.

Halama believes it “goes without saying” that RTD formats will help the collagen market to penetrate a larger audience.

“Our goal is to continue to make collagen more mainstream – 90% of our customers are taking collagen daily, so the idea is to continue to find formats to drive household penetration and consistency among new and existing customers,” she said.

But regardless of the format on offer, consumers are still getting the same 10g of protein. “Whether you’re getting our collagen in a powder format or an RTD format, the efficacy is still the same,” Halama added. “With our products, variance in benefit doesn’t really hinge on format, but rather the amount you’re consuming.”

Each of the RTD products retails online for $4.50 – a high price point even compared to other functional beverage categories, but one that falls towards the lower end of the collagen drink market’s typical $4-8 range.

“Similar to any beverage, there is a cost to adding a functional ingredient like collagen,” Halama told me. “Our price per bottle sits at $4.50, which by comparison is extremely competitive – and on top of that, you’re getting an effective, therapeutic-grade dose of collagen in each bottle.”

Nevertheless, it is likely that the success of RTD collagen applications depends on two things: first is that brands can control the price point and bring it closer in line with consumer expectations; second, as they continue to broaden their portfolio, they should continue to educate new consumers on the benefits of collagen to skin, hair and nail health.

“Consumers do understand the scope of benefits they’re getting from collagen, but that comes from a lot of attention and dedication to educating consumers through our marketing efforts,” Halama continued.

“There are a fair amount of medical studies supporting the use and benefits of collagen. Unlike a lot of nutritional trends, the marketing of collagen is leading the medical research. We’ve defined this new category and marketplace and really, the research is just trying to catch up. You’re definitely going to see a lot more research on collagen proving out its efficacy in the coming years.”

Beverage Industry

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