Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up 80% of the ligaments, cartilage, and tissues of our skin. But at around the age of 30, humans stop producing collagen, which can increase the risk of injury and lead to the appearance of wrinkles.
Not all hope is lost, however. Collagen can be sourced from other animals – notably beef or fish – and taken in a powder format. This is how Romain Quillot and business partner Sébastien Perez were consuming collagen between gym training sessions, he told us at FoodNavigator’s recent Positive Nutrition Summit in London.
“The problem is. It’s not pleasant to consume,” he explained, describing the taste as overpowering and the texture challenging to blend into water. “We were big fans [of] the benefits of collagen, but we hated taking it every day.”
Quillot and Perez co-founded French start-up Humble+ to help improve the way collagen can be consumed on a daily basis. The duo is now selling products ranging from collagen water to collagen bars to ‘active lifestyle’ consumers.
The functional benefits of collagen
Humble+ sources its collagen from fish in France, 5g of which is mixed into its first product to hit shelves: collagen water. “We did eight months of R&D,” recalled Quillot, who told us the objective was to create a functional, tasty, and healthy product.
The result is free from sugar, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients. “We had to go back to the basis of what it is to create a product, and work with the aroma [and] texture…It would have been much easier to take a sugar drink and put the collagen inside. And it would have taken me probably two weeks, instead of eight months.”
As to the functional benefits of collagen, clinical studies have shown that consuming 5g a day for a period of eight weeks can significantly improve skin elasticity and the appearance of wrinkles, the co-founder explained. Ten grams per day for a period of eight weeks can help reduce joint pain. And daily consumption can also improve muscle recovery.
Humble+ is unable to make health claims off the back of these studies due to ‘strict’ regulations, we were told, but it can promote collagen as a pure protein, say that it helps consumers maintain healthy bones, and that it helps consumers maintain muscle mass.
So how much collagen should a regular consumer be taking each day? It depends on your objectives, said Quillot. “If you want to improve your joint pain, you should consume 10g a day – which is two cans [of collagen water]. But [after] one can a day, you will already see benefits for your global wellness.”
Collagen: the next big thing?
Humble+ sees big potential for the collagen market in functional food and drink. Over the past five to six years, it has become ‘more trendy’, he explained. “I really think it will be the next hot topic over the next few years, after CBD.”
This case is helped by Humble+’s broad target market: the start-up is not going after bodybuilders or gym junkies, but rather people who enjoy staying active and go to the gym a couple of times a week. “It’s more for the wellness than for performance,” he explained.
In France, the size of this consumer market is not as big as in other parts of Europe, the UK, and some regions of the Middle East, Quillot suspects. Having signed with Monoprix in France, the start-up is now exploring other geographies to expand its reach, while simultaneously working to broaden its portfolio.
Having developed collagen water, collagen bars, and collagen powder, Humble+ is working on an animal-free collagen alternative made by combining the 18 amino acids found in collagen, but deriving them from vegan sources.
Watch the video for our full interview with co-founder of Humble+ Romain Quillot at FoodNavigator’s Positive Nutrition Summit 2023.