Collagen and the healthy joint market

Is collagen the way forward for the joint health market?


As health and fitness trends soar, more consumers are recognizing the importance of looking after their joints. As new consumer groups with distinct wants and needs emerge, choosing the right ingredient is vital for success in this growing market. In this article, Rousselot Health & Nutrition, outlines the value of collagen as a joint health supplement.

What is driving growth in the joint health market?

The joint health market is growing quickly, with no indications that it will slow down anytime soon. Globally, the joint and bone health ingredients market is projected to hit US$ 3.3 billion before 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4%.[1] Within the broader supplement market, it is quickly becoming a significant segment: the number of supplements launched with a joint or bone health claim rose by 7% globally between 2014 and 2018.[2]

Two worldwide trends are pushing joint health to the forefront of the health and fitness market, contributing to its rapid growth:

  1. A population shift

The numbers are clear: the population is aging. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 20% of the world’s population will be over 60 years old by 2050. That’s around two billion people – a doubling since 2015. In the older age bracket, WHO predicts there will be 434 million people aged 80 or older globally, a substantial increase from 125 million in 2015.[3]

This demographic shift brings new challenges and opportunities. As people age, the strain on their joints and bones increases: with cartilage thinning and the amount of lubricating fluid decreasing, joints become stiff and less flexible. The resulting stiffness makes exercise more difficult, while the risk of injury also increases.

An aging population also means a higher number of people struggling with joint issues.

Currently, an estimated 1.7 billion people are affected by arthritis globally.[4]  With the impact of aging being felt by more across the world, joint health supplements will play a key role in supporting consumers in their efforts to stay active as they age.

  1. The rise of sports nutrition and the active consumer

With each passing year, the concepts of health, fitness, and well-being are becoming more prominent. As the general public’s awareness of staying active is growing, the sports supplement market is moving away from the niche base of elite sportspeople. Now, casual consumers are working on their fitness routines, whether to maintain their health, develop new skills, or compensate for their increasingly sedentary lifestyles. The market shows this rise, with Euromonitor predicting a 10.6% CAGR for the sports nutrition market between 2018 and 2023.[5]  For the consumers who are taking charge of their fitness, keeping their joints strong and healthy is of the utmost importance.


Which consumer groups are using joint health supplements and what do they want? 

In the joint health and sports nutrition market, professional sportspeople have been the key consumers for many years, using supplements as a means to support their athletic regimes. However, recent global trends are creating new consumer bases looking to prevent injury and maximize their active years in different ways.

Healthy agers

Aging is no longer perceived the way it used to be. Today’s older consumers are breaking down the traditional perception of aging as ‘a process of slowing down’. Instead, these healthy agers are looking to stay active as they age, whether by picking up new hobbies and skills or maintaining their current routines.

These healthy agers want to sustain the health of their joints, making sure they can stay active as they age while preventing any new issues arising that could negatively impact their routines. They are looking for supplements that can help them stay mobile, flexible, and active for as long as possible: almost a quarter of US supplement users over 55 cite joint health as their top reason for using supplements.[6] These consumers are looking for new solutions available in mainstream channels, alongside new application formats such as beverages.

Casual sportspeople

A new, more casual group of sports nutrition supplement users is emerging. Following the example of elite athletes and hard-core bodybuilders, more and more active consumers today are using supplements to support their bodies as they exercise. These casual sportspeople have a wide range of demands, from maximizing performance levels and recovery times to preventing injury and repairing any ongoing issues they may have.

For casual sportspeople, the condition of their joints is a vital part of their lifestyles: it allows them to stay mobile and flexible. The number of consumers using joint health supplementation for this reason is steadily rising, with almost 50% of global supplement users doing so in response to joint and bone health concerns.[7] From younger people looking to prevent musculoskeletal injury to middle-aged consumers eager to remain mobile, consumers of all ages are embracing joint health supplementation to maximize the quality of their lives.

21st-century demands

With joint health supplementation moving beyond the world of elite athletes into the mainstream, consumers want new formulation options in addition to bars, powders, and drinks. Some are looking for indulgent options, like chocolate-infused bars, while others may prefer a ready to drink (RTD) solution.

Similarly, these new consumers are looking for more than a niche product: they want holistic solutions with multiple benefits. Think, for example, of a joint health supplement accompanied by a broader diet and exercise plan.

The third characteristic of today’s consumers is their environmental consciousness. Looking beyond individual products, they care about the safety and sustainability of solutions, natural origins, and the trustworthiness of the companies behind them.

With such a broad range of consumer desires, the active ingredients used in joint health supplements today need to be efficient, safe and natural, versatile, and suitable for many application options. With these properties in mind, many leading nutraceutical manufacturers opt for collagen as an ideal ingredient.

What is collagen?

Collagen and its role in the body

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and the most important structural element of our connective tissues, making up around 30% of the total protein content. It plays a key role in providing strength, flexibility, and elasticity to our skin, cartilage, ligaments, and bones, acting as the glue that connects everything in the body.

Collagen is built with a strong triple helix structure, with three amino acid chains that form stable fibers.

Another important role of collagen in the body relates to cartilage. Cartilage is pivotal for joint health: tough but flexible, it acts as a cushion and shock absorber to bones and joints. Collagen plays a key role in maintaining it, with collagen fibers making up 70-95% of cartilage.

Overall, then, collagen is responsible for the structure and strength of the joints. These means it is essential to movement, agility, flexibility, and mobility. As we age, the body’s ability to replenish collagen decreases. This explains why collagen supplementation is valued so highly.

Collagen peptides

By turning natural collagen into collagen peptides, we can create ingredients with health and sports nutrition benefits. In this process, known as enzymatic hydrolysis, short chains of amino acids, also called collagen peptides, are extracted from native collagen. This collagen can be derived from animal source. By using a specific enzyme to break down the bonds, collagen peptides are released from the tough and insoluble matrix of collagen fibers. Collagen peptides are soluble in cold water and are easily digested and absorbed by the human body, entering into the bloodstream and influencing the activity of the targeted cells.


Collagen peptides and joint health

Collagen and collagen peptides are widely used as health supplements. Two examples of joint health solutions are hydrolyzed collagen type I and type II.

Hydrolyzed Collagen Type II matrix

Type II collagen is a type of protein found in the tissue of cartilage, being one of the main collagenous substances there. Part of the tightly packed matrix of fibrils and fibers, type II collagen gives cartilage its tensile strength and elasticity. It plays a vital role in the function of the joint, helping to connect bones to each other and allowing the tissue to bear mechanical stress.

Supplementation with type II collagen peptides can support healthy joints. Peptan IIm, for example, is a product specifically designed for joint health. Peptan IIm comes from cartilage and represents a natural matrix of hydrolyzed collagen type II and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). It offers three key joint health benefits:

  • Promotes healthy cartilage and joint function;
  • Supports healthy cartilage and connective tissue;
  • Helps protect cartilage and ease occasional joint stress.[8]

These benefits have been demonstrated in reliable research. One in vivo study showed that Peptan IIm stimulates chondrocytes to produce the lubricating matrix at a low dosage, as well as being absorbed quickly and easily.[9]  Effectiveness at a low dosage is vital, as it offers consumers maximum convenience. Altogether, the benefits of Peptan IIm make it a strong ingredient for joint health supplements. Peptan IIm is valued by manufacturers for being safe, and highly soluble, as well as for offering exceptional application versatility: it can be integrated into a wide range of solutions, from drinks and powders to bars and gummies.

Type 1 collagen peptides

Collagen peptides are used in supplements for joint and bone health, sports nutrition, beauty, and healthy aging, as they offer a broad range of health benefits. Peptan, the world’s leading collagen peptide brand, has investigated the health benefits of its ingredients with independent research institutes. The resulting studies have shown Peptan’s unique ability to:

  • Support joint health;[9,10]
  • Support bone health; [11,12,13,14,15]
  • Reduce muscle soreness and recovery time post-exercise;[16]
  • Promote beauty from within.[17,18]

These science-backed benefits make Peptan an ideal solution for consumers looking for holistic and versatile joint health supplements, from weekend warriors eager to intensify their training schedule to healthy agers.

Collagen’s bioavailability

The level of bioavailability of functional ingredients, such as collagen peptides, is a crucial contributing factor — amongst others — to their efficacy. In order to be effective and provide benefits to consumers, ingredients must be bioavailable to an extent that allows them to be efficiently digested, absorbed and delivered to the site of action. In terms of collagen peptides, the site of action refers to the targeted tissue, such as bone, joint or skin. The high bioavailability of pure collagen peptides is a prerequisite to deliver a reasonable fraction of small bioactive peptides to the targeted tissue and to guarantee the biological efficacy of the ingredient. This also means that collagen peptides are suitable for a wide range of application forms.

A new in vivo study has highlighted the bioavailability of Peptan collagen peptides.[19]  The appearance of free and peptide-bound hydroxyproline was measured in the blood of subjects 24 hours after their ingestion of Peptan. Peptan was quickly absorbed by the body. Analysis of serum drawn from the subjects showed that Peptan intake led to an increased intake in hydroxyproline-carrying dipeptides, known in scientific literature[20]  as markers for collagen bioactivity – described as ‘carrying bioactivity’. These findings show collagen peptides’ efficacy when ingested.

To learn more, watch the Peptan collagen peptides video https://youtube/ou1hvH_wuwY

What are consumers looking for in their joint health supplements?

Today’s consumers require solutions that can meet their wide-ranging needs and values. Here are four key qualities that matter:


It is fundamental that consumers can trust what is on offer. This is why they tend to prefer branded ingredients from reputable manufacturers with scientific evidence to back-up their claims.

Solutions that are not backed by science and presented by trustworthy players are easily passed by. Manufacturers wishing to highlight specific product benefits in their advertising or labelling must also operate within the legal framework of existing worldwide regulations concerning health claims.

Safety, traceability

More than ever, ingredients must be safe and compliant with key certification schemes and regulations regarding feed, welfare, and overall (food) safety. Products of natural origin, such as collagen, must also be traceable. Consumers want assurance that the ingredients they use are harmless and part of a chain of accountability.

Natural origins, sustainability

Clean label ingredients of natural origin that are sustainable are also important: more and more consumers in this market will only include a supplement in their routines if it meets these requirements.

Application variety

Beyond the ingredient itself, modern consumers are looking for a wide range of application formats. Some want tasty products in a range of flavors while others prefer diet-compliant options. Consumers are now looking for these products in mainstream channels and expecting them to be tailored to their own needs.

How is Rousselot collagen answering today’s consumer demands?

Collagen is recognized by more brands and manufacturers as a perfect ingredient for the growing joint health marketplace. Able to help maintain healthy joints, Rousselot collagens are suitable for the growing number of healthy agers and active sportspeople. Alongside its joint health benefits, Rousselot collagen offers other unique traits: they are a safe, clean label ingredient of natural origin offering application versatility and high bioavailability.

The growing popularity of collagen is a good indicator of its perceived efficacy in joint health: between 2018 and 2019, sales of collagen-based supplements across all markets rose almost 80% to US$ 116.2 million.[21]

All in all, collagen offers just what 21st-century consumers are looking for on the joint health market. For manufacturers, it opens a clear path toward thriving in this exciting growth market.

To find out more about the benefits of collagen peptides, visit



1  Mordor Intelligence
2. Innova Market Insights
3  World Health Organization, Aging and Health
4  World Health Organization
5  Euromonitor, 2018
6  CRN, Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 2018
7  Ipsos, Health and Nutrition Survey, 2019 (USA, Spain, Brazil, France, UK, Japan – N=2300)
8  Soniwala, S. et al. 2018. Oral hydrolyzed type 2 collagen protects against the OA of obesity and mitigates obese gut microbiome dysbiosis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2018.02.377
9  Jiang J.X. et al., 2014, Collagen peptides improve knee osteoarthritis in elderly women: A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech, 25:19-23
10  Dar, Q. et al., 2017. Daily oral consumption of hydrolyzed type 1 collagen is chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory in murine posttraumatic osteoarthritis. PLoS ONE 12(4):e0174705
11  Guillerminet, F. et al., 2010, Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone metabolism and biomechanical parameters in ovariectomized mice: An in vitro and in vivo study. Bone, 46:827-834
12  Guillerminet, F. et al., 2012, Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone status and prevents bone loss in ovariectomized C3H/HeN mice. Osteoporosis International, 23(7):1909-1919
13  Daneault, A. et al., 2014, Hydrolyzed collagen contributes to osteoblast differentiation in vitro and subsequent bone health in vivo. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 22:S131
14  Daneault, A. et al., 2017, Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bonemetabolism. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(9):1922-1937
15  Wauquier F. et al., 2019, Human enriched serum following hydrolysed collagen absorption modulates bone cell activity: from bedside to bench and vice versa, Nutrients, 2019, vol. 11, no. 6, pg. 1249.
16  Clifford, T, et al., 2019. The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage,inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial. Amino Acids 51(4):691-704,
17  Rousselot unpublished study
18  Asserin, J. et al., 2015. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, doi: 10.1111/jocd.12174
19  Kleinnijenhuis, A.J., 2019. Non-targeted and targeted analysis of collagen hydrolysates during the course of digestion and absorption. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2019 Dec 24. doi: 10.1007/s00216-019-02323-x.
20  Ichikawa, S. et al., 2010, Hydroxyproline-containing dipeptides and tripeptides quantified at high concentration in human blood after oral administration of gelatine hydrolysate. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 61 (1):52-60
21  SPINS, Michelle Gillespie, 2019