Lifestyle-focused startup looks to plump up UK's collagen market

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Lifestyle-focused startup looks to plump up UK's collagen market

Related tags Startup company Innovation Sports nutrition SANSE Collagen

The founder of a science-backed collagen startup explains how she took her knowledge of the international sports nutrition sphere and created a brand to fill a huge gap in the UK market.

Jennifer Mo, managing director and co-founder at Pura Collagen, has worked in the sports nutrition market since the early 90’s, where she began her career working for a sports nutrition retailer in California.

She went on to work for a national gym chain to help with its expansion across South East Asia, before family life brought her to London in 2007.

After a few years of representing interests for private clients in a consulting capacity,  Mo began working for Quest Nutrition in 2016.

“During my career up until that point, the sports nutrition market was very much dominated by what I like to call the ‘veins and chains’ brands – the iron pumping focused black packaged products.

“All the trends formed over in the US and came to the UK two or three years later and US brands dominated the market.

“But as the years passed and functional health came to the fore, we started to see more of the ‘everyday active’ consumer coming to the market.

“This transition saw the rise of the Quest nutrition bar – the taste and texture focused protein bar to enter the UK market from the US. Branded with bright colours and images of tasty treats, it was a huge leap from the cardboard protein bars that had preceded.”

Quest’s dominance in the protein bar market took a sharp nose-dive in 2018 when issues with reformulation led to a bar that went hard in transition. In the six to nine months that it disappeared from the European market, several local players entered the field, with Grenade leading the charge.

“There was clearly a growing call for local representation on the sports nutrition market with consumers no longer focusing on US brands for inspiration.”

Mo left Quest shortly before the lockdown, at which time she decided to use her new-found thinking time and three decades of experience in sports nutrition to create a product she could see a huge demand for in the UK.

“I had been regularly travelling over to the US for work and when I was there I would always get my fill of sports nutrition supplements I couldn’t get at home. When lockdown hit and I couldn’t get my products anymore, I realised the huge gap in the UK market - I felt there was a need for a collagen brand which provided solutions for different lifestyle needs.”

After working on the concept throughout lockdown, Mo launched Pura Collagen in March this year with two powdered products offering beauty-from-within and joint health focused solutions – glow+ and flex+ - using Fortigel and Tendoforte bioactive collagen peptides.

The products are unflavoured and can be added to hot and cold drinks and meals. The recommended dose is two scoops per day. Mo says this should make it easy for shoppers to integrate the supplement into their daily routine.

She also says she chose powder as the format for the launch products as she aims to provide products which are as unprocessed as possible.

“Collagen’s first raw state is a powder. Any format that isn’t powder is a process away from the original state of the ingredient and potentially leads to the need for additional ingredients such as flavourings, stabilisers, and even sugar in the case of some gummies.

“Our products include additional ingredients such as vitamin C and D, hyaluronic acid, manganese, selenium and biotin as these help to enhance absorption and bioavailability but we don’t include other unnecessary or unhealthy additives.

“Future innovations may move into other formats and even other flavours but we will always keep the ‘natural’ promise front of mind.”

The SKUs were launched in temporary packaging which Mo says had more of a sports-only feel than she wanted. The real commercial push comes from next month (October) when the brand will have its new recyclable paper tube packaging with the more accessible, clean, light and bright look and feel.

With just one month to go until NutraIngredients' annual Sports and Active Nutrition Summit, interested delegates have just one day left to grab an early bird discount.

The stage is set for big industry names to fill the (virtual) room, and top-level speakers on the stage. But don’t take our word for it! Take a sneaky peak at the agenda​ for the summit and then register​!

In addition to the live shows, those registered for this year’s SANSE​ will be able to download on-demand content.

The opportunities for networking will be plenty, with a one-to-one booking system which will allow you to schedule meetings with other attendees before, during and after the three-day event.

The entrepreneur says the new look not only position the products as being appropriate to a wider demographic of shoppers but it also showcases the scientific basis of the ingredients – a key USP for the brand.

“The front of each product will include a ‘billboard’ – a square in which we clearly provide our clinically proven health claims.

“Something I noticed when purchasing other collagen brands is that there would be a lot of information on the health benefits on the brand website but the product would arrive in packaging that had no information and no health claims which I can only assume is due to fear around regulations on packaging claims.

“We don’t have these fears as we are confident all our ingredients are backed by science.”

After so many years of experience in retail and understanding the barriers involved in getting products onto retailer shelves, Mo says the retailer appetite for her collagen products was quite unexpected.

“Pre-pandemic, building a new relationship with a big retailer and gaining space on shelf would be a 12-18-month process. I’ve been amazed by how quickly retailers have responded positively to the brand and we are already looking to be on shelves in Holland and Barrett, Selfridges, Lloyd’s pharmacy and independents from October.

“I like to think this is all thanks to our high-quality products that also looks amazing on shelf. Of course, it may also be due to the huge hunger for the health category in general.”

While she understands there is a big appetite for all health-related innovations right now, Mo also points out that collagen is much like protein in terms of the sustainability of the consumer need.

“Once someone starts taking collagen, there’s no time when they will no longer feel they need it – retailers aren’t going to see seasonal dips like they might see with other areas of this category. This is important when you’re taking valuable shelf space”

In terms of future developments, Mo says she understands consumers’ needs will evolve as we move out of lockdown and people are spending less time at home so she will look to continue to cover all need states with her range of formats.

Mo will be joining NutraIngredients’ Sports and Active Nutrition Summit taking place in October and speaking about the huge opportunity for collagen in this market.

“When I made these two products, I thought there would be a 70/30 split in sales, with the beauty-from-within need state taking the lion’s share of sales but it has been 50/50, showing the number of people who are concerned about remaining mobile.

“The reasons for wanting to take collagen for mobility can be so wide ranging – whether it be because you’re an athlete training for a big event and you want to avoid injury or you’re a grandparent wanting to stay mobile so you can play with your grandchildren.”

Perhaps equally surprising, Mo says that 85% of consumers purchase both the products, showing the wide-ranging health concerns of her shoppers.

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