Ingredient Spotlight: Collagen

Collagen in a spoon above a protein shake

With its “fountain of youth”-type benefits and improved mobility support, collagen as a healthy ingredient in nutritional powders is becoming more common and more popular. And given how lucrative the health and wellness market has become for large-scale food and beverage manufacturers, it should come as no surprise that collagen has a current growth rate of 9% that is only expected to rise as consumers seek convenient ways to consume this functional joint health solution.

Collagen is an essential protein that is known and loved for its structural properties for hair, skin, nail, bones, muscles, and tendons. If you ask most consumers if collagen is good for you, they know the answer is yes but many don’t know why its health advantages are so great. To help CPG entrepreneurs understand the countless benefits of this popular ingredient, we are breaking down what collagen is, where it comes from, and how it’s impacting the protein powder / protein shake industry.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant, naturally occurring structural protein found in humans and animals, and is responsible for making up the framework of our cells and tissues. As is true of all proteins, collagen is composed of amino acids - specifically, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline - which grant it its unique structure and shape. Within the body, it can be found in connective tissues, skins, tendons, bones, and cartilage to provide support in cellular processes such as tissue repair, immune response, cellular communication, and cellular migration. It is essential in most processes that involve fibers and tissues and is praised for its aid in reducing physical aging signs, like wrinkles, fine lines, and stretch marks. Ultimately, without collagen, our bodies would not be able to fully support healthy joint growth and functionality and would age more rapidly.

While collagen is naturally occurring and is produced inside our bodies throughout our lifetime, it does have one major caveat. The natural production of collagen slows as we age and we produce roughly 1% less every year. Certain factors like sun exposure, smoking, alcohol, and lack of sleep or exercise can also contribute to its diminishment. To help compensate for lost collagen, consumers turn to supplements for the preservation of mobility, natural cosmetics, and physical well-being.

There are roughly 28 different types of collagen, all with different structures, that benefit different parts of the body in various ways. Before settling for a specific collage type (I, II, III are the most common) and source for your protein powder manufacturing needs, it is important to understand where the main sources of this influential ingredient come from and how they perform as health additives.

The Main Sources of Collagen as an Ingredient

The true source of collagen supplements may come as a surprise to many, particularly for consumers that have an aversion to specific types of meat or are vegetarian or plant-based. However, there are solutions that cater to non-meat and plant-based eaters. Read on to learn about the main sources of collagen, including which type is found and its health benefits: 

Animal (Bovine & Poultry)

The most common and, generally speaking, one of the most recommended sources of collagen in the market comes from cows and chickens. 

Bovine collagen is naturally found in cow skin, muscles, and bones and falls under either type I or type III collagen, depending on what part of the animal it was specifically sourced from. Type I collagen is used for supporting bone structure, contributing to healing wounds, and keeping skin elastic and strong. Type III is best known for helping encourage healthy skin, as well as maintaining strong nails and thicker hair. 

Chicken collagen is sourced from bones, cartilage, and tissues that contain type II collagen. Type II is primarily found in cartilage, and as such, is vital for prolonged joint health. It is also beneficial for digestion, immunity, and skin health. 


Marine Collagen is sourced from fish skin and scale. Type I and type II collagen are the most abundant from this type of collagen. Compared to other sources, marine collagen is smaller in size making it easier for the body to absorb. Its condensed size also means that it's highly soluble and is commonly dissolved into powder recipes that are added to liquids - like protein powders, smoothie bombs and hot chocolate mixes. 

This source of collagen is also very rich in amino acids, which boosts skin health and elasticity. For brands and consumers that focus on sustainability, the process of extracting marine college has been proven to have little negative impact on the environment. 


While not as prominent as collagen from animal and marine sources, vegetarian consumers can get their fair share of collagen supplements from chicken egg whites and eggshells. These contain both type I and type V, a collagen type that is almost exclusive to eggs and found most commonly in hair. Additionally, eggs provide keratin, elastin, and lysozyme, all elements that complement the health benefits of collagen.

Eggshell membrane intake has been proven to have high effectiveness on joint health, cartilage regeneration, skin, hair, and nail health and appearance. Given the abundance of amino acids in egg whites as well, this healthy source boasts additional benefits directly linked to skin tightening and maintenance.


There is technically no direct source of consumable “vegan” collagen but there are vegan, plant-based foods that can stimulate collagen production within the body. Specific foods rich in zinc that can be utilized as ingredients to boost collagen production include spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, oranges, and mushrooms. Essential vitamins and minerals that should be incorporated into vegan diets that want to improve their collagen levels are vitamin C, silica, vitamin A, phytoceramides, and ellagic acids. 

Protein Bars Stacked

Collagen as a Protein Shake Ingredient

Collagen’s current role as a top-selling health supplement and ingredient can be attributed to the fact that consumers largely trust its ability to prolong the youthful qualities of their skin and help support good mobility, a market area that is on the rise. The mobility and joint health market is estimated to hit $15.6 billion by 2026, while the functional food and beverages market for mobility will reach $15 billion. This illustrates just how vast the potential market for collagen products is. Consumers 60 and over in particular are looking for practical ways to boost their collagen levels through convenient, flavorful ways. 

Beyond its appeal to consumers of advanced ages, it captures a diverse demographic seeking its functionality and beautifying benefits. Collagen protein powders specifically meet the needs of the busy working class, athletes, and health-conscious consumers alike. Especially helpful for food innovators and visionaries, collagen has a neutral taste that does not strongly impact the flavor of original recipes. It can be easily added to most powders without affecting the resulting taste and immediately provides an added benefit as collagen can be absorbed regardless of presentation.

Key Takeaways

As collagen-focused products continue to fly off grocery shelves, protein-focused brands should find ways to incorporate this key protein in their products to promote healthier lifestyles and boost sales.

When it comes to innovative ways to develop and market new protein products, YouBar has been supporting nutrition industry start-ups and brands of all shapes and sizes to develop leading-edge products that offer key health benefits and excellent flavor experiences. Contact us today for more information on our food innovation kitchen as well as our full-service co-packing, development, and distribution process.