Cutting-edge vegan ingredient claims to mimic human collagen
Expected to launch in the first quarter of 2022, VeCollal - short for Vegan Collagen Alternative- can be used in a wide range of formats, including powder, capsules, liquids, functional food and face creams, and has been formulated to have a mild taste ideal for pairing with fruity flavours.
Tony Van Campen, founder of VeCollal and former Head of Sales at Aminolabs, explains: “Collagen and veganism were two of the biggest trends last year. Sustainability is a key driver for consumers, as per the latest Deloitte reports - 30% of British consumers in 2020 reduced the amount of animal products they eat in order to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
“And yet there’s no real vegan or sustainable alternative for collagen on the market yet. Animals and humans naturally make their own collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids and constructing collagen that has a very specific ratio of amino acids. Therefore, until now, getting these specific amino acids in the right ratios would mean consuming collagen that can only be found in animal sources.
“A lot of brands have taken some of these amino acids and mixed them with superfoods and called it ‘vegan collagen’ but there’s very little science behind those products.”
In an aim to fill this gap in the market, Van Campen approached Dr. Josué Vázquez, a well-respected biomaterials specialist who specialises in tissue engineering, precision medicine and data science.
“We asked him how can you create collagen from vegan sources and he informed us you can make ‘a biomimetic’ that copies the profile of human collagen as closely as possible.
“In fact, bovine and fish collagen are actually not identical to human collagen at all in terms of their amino acid composition, with some of the necessary amino acids missing completely,” adds Van Campen.
Dr. Vázquez went about defining and mimicking the amino acid profile of human type 1 collagen in a patent-pending formulation, and added this formulation to three nutrients known to stimulate the body’s natural collagen production – ginseng, vitamin C and asiaticoside. Aminolabs’s R&D department built on this formulation to develop the final product VeCollal.
Robert Walker, Head of Business Development and Growth at Aminolabs, says this new ingredient will appeal to a wide range of consumers in markets such as healthy ageing, sports nutrition and beauty-from-within.
He adds: “What has happened in the vegan collagen market is similar to what has happened in the vegan meat market in that innovators were trying to replace the taste and texture of meat with different ingredients but now science has taken the market beyond this and people are growing meat in a lab in order to make it more similar to the actual structure of meat.
“We too are aiming to replicate human collagen as close as possible rather than create something similar.”
Van Campen adds: “There are players working on lab grown collagen by introducing collagen genes to plants and then isolating these by fermentation but that brings a whole set of questions around regulation and ethics in terms of who will want collagen from genetically engineered plants.
"We are convinced VeCollal is as close to human type I collagen as possible without genetic engineering.”