Beating pill fatigue: Ex-Unilever exec on new Aussie collagen start-up’s global ambitions
The company currently sells collagen powder that comes in nine variants, including a pure, unflavoured version, and strawberry, vanilla, mango, banana, matcha, coffee, chocolate, and chai versions.
Each tin comes in a 400g composite can, while there is also a single serve 20g sachet version. Each serve contains 16g of collagen.
The range is already stocked in Australia’s vitamin, supplement, and health food retailer Mr Vitamins’ brick-and-mortar and online stores, said co-owner Chris Humphries who was previously the senior global business development manager at Unilever based in Singapore.
The other three co-owners include two food technologists and an owner of a manufacturing facility.
Spending more than a year in R&D, the formula contains hydrolysed type I and III bovine collagen, as well as inulin as prebiotic.
Type I collagen is associated with skin, hair, nail health and is also a major component of the tendons, organs, and bones, while type III is generally found in reticular fibres, such as the bone marrow and is found alongside type I collagen.
Erythritol and monk fruit extract are also added to act as natural sweeteners since the product claims to contain no added sugar.
“Taste is absolutely a key driver in the format that we have gone with [powder format], it doesn’t matter if it is in a tablet or capsule form.
“But what we want to do is to move away from pill fatigue and just make an easy, fun, delightful product to consume as part of one’s diet and lifestyle,” Humphries said.
Humphries said there were also plans to export the range to South Korea, South East Asia, Europe, and North America.
The priority will be to distribute the products via e-commerce, followed by pharmacies, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
“Right now, we are actively involved in a discussion with a major e-commerce provider for the South East Asia and broader Asia market, and we are also in discussion with a major e-commerce provider in Europe and in North America.
“There has been a growing shift to e-commerce and that has certainly accelerated over the last 12 months. A lot of consumers are doing their research online around the type of supplements that they are using.
“It [e-commerce] is really an easy way to target the consumers by guiding them throughout the journey from search to transaction.”
At the same time, offline presence is equally important to the company’s product distribution strategy.
“We see offline and online channels as being completely viable, because not everyone wants to purchase online but the main advantage that we see for brick-and-mortar is, when one walks into a store, one can pick it up right away.
“The next two or three markets [where products are sold offline] that could be following reasonably soon will be the US, South Korea, and Hong Kong, and then probably South East Asia as well.”
The company observed that there is a rising consumption of collagen as consumers attempt to take charge of their wellbeing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Humphries believes that the demand for collagen will be more stable in the long term, as compared to supplements related to cold and cough, which some companies are already reporting a slight dip in sales due to pantry-stocking and decline in flu and cold cases.
“Anecdotally, I understand that the cough and cold category in the last Southern and Northern winters was not very good from a sales perspective, largely because people were not mixing, so the spread of the common cold for example, was significantly lower.”
In contrast, collagen is less likely affected by seasonal demands and could be used for different health needs and targeted at different consumer groups, he said.
For instance, while younger women would consume collagen to replenish their protein needs, maintain skin appearance, older women could use it for improving skin elasticity, skin firmness, and protein for muscle mass – which is also relevant to the needs of older men.
“If you are talking about skin and skin elasticity, I think consumers have good knowledge on collagen’s use for this purpose.
“When you start talking about collagen and gut health, I think this is less understood, but what helps in the story of gut health is the addition of prebiotics, and I think the consumers are aware of prebiotics being the food for probiotics.”
A study published last year showed that a high-dose collagen peptide diet could modulate the gut microbiota and lead to increased abundance of Lactobacillus, unidentified Prevotellaceae, Allobaculum, and Parasutterella.
“And as for lean muscle mass, that's probably an area of opportunity for us to educate and differentiate our product from existing products in the marketplace.”
He added that collagen has transcended specific needs states into a lifestyle category while maintaining its health benefit positioning.
There are plans to develop marine collagen potentially derived from fish.
He added that the preference for marine collagen was especially strong in South Korea, based on his understanding of the market.
At the same time, the company is registering the products for halal certification with the Australian Halal Authority and Advisers.