Primal Kitchen co-founder: ‘Collagen is a critical component people have been omitting from their diet’

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Primal Kitchen co-founder: ‘Collagen is a critical component people have been omitting from their diet’

Related tags Collagen peptides Collagen Functional food Functional ingredients

Condiments, collagen bars, and collagen powder—things that, at one time, would have seemed a bit random to be grouped into a product portfolio of one brand, considering that they are traditionally sold in separate stores, or at least separate aisles. But the lines are blurrier today, and Primal Kitchen’s co-founder thinks there’s a logical link between these disparate categories.

“The idea behind Primal Kitchen was to create foods that people wanted to eat, that they would’ve otherwise considered unhealthy,” co-​founder Mark Sisson told NutraIngredients-USA.

“I recognized a while back that when you clean up your diet, you get rid of sugar and processed grain and industrial seed oils, you’re left with a fairly narrow range of healthy foods you can consume. And what makes a difference in whether or not you stick to an eating strategy is the excitement of the flavors, and the ability to have almost an infinite variety of taste.”

So that’s why he started with condiments. He made an avocado-oil based mayo to douse his fish in “because I didn’t like the taste of fish.” ​He launched avocado-oil salad dressings as consumers started to question​ whether available dressings are undoing the health benefits of their new year’s resolutions to eat more salad.

“I’m looking at all these areas of human nutrition where we fall down…where we may be deficient in certain areas. ​[Like] healthy fats, hence the avocado oils,” ​he said.

Then he segued to other nutrient shortfalls, like lean sources of protein. ​To Sisson, a fitness author, collagen was an elephant in the room. “We’re not consuming enough of other parts of the animal, which is how our ancestors were able to repair their stressed out collagen components,” ​he said.

Foraying into functional foods, nutrition

Product launch trends suggest that brand owners see functional foods and supplements as a viable industry to enter. Examples include cooking oil and pantry staple company Nutiva, which expanded its line of supplement products​ at Expo West, and personal care and cosmetics brands like Avon​ and Burt’s Bees​ entering the category with their own supplements.

In Primal Kitchen’s case, the company’s foray into functional foods started with a collagen nutrition bar not long after the company debuted in early 2015.

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“I didn’t really want to enter the bar category because it’s already way too crowded,” ​the company’s COO and co-founder Morgan Buehler told FoodNavigator-USA in an interview last year. “But when we launched it a year ago online, we sold 50,000 bars in 24 hours. We had no idea ​​[how successful it would be].”

Co-founder Mark Sisson.

In 2017, the company expanded its line of functional foods and supplements to include protein powder, collagen powder, and added SKUs to its collagen bar line.

Getting a boost from the rise of collagen

The collagen powders were created because Sisson said he has “been looking for ways to deliver a great tasting version of collagen that people would be willing to consume on a daily basis.”

“Bone broth is great,” ​he added. “But I don’t want to be eating bone broth every day.” ​Riding on the momentum of the Paleo diet trend, collagen gained prominence among consumers in the US in the past couple of years.

Though its bioactive form has been prevalent in the beauty supplements category, data from SPINS revealed a spike of sales of collagen positioned for performance​, bringing in $8.7 million in a category that totaled $53 million in the US in 2017. That’s a 751% growth year-over-year.

The powders have been met with “fabulous success,” ​Sisson said. “Partly because I think there’s a recognition in the marketplace that collagen is a critical component people have been omitting from their diet.”

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