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Beauty from within: Food fad or food fixture?

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Interest in ‘beauty from within’ products is on the rise, demonstrated by recent product launches such as adaptogenic granola, collagen water and skin microbiome smoothie powders. But do such products have longevity?

The beauty from within movement is based on the concept that a healthy diet and adequate nutrient intake can improve skin, hair and nail appearance. In line with current consumer interest in taking a holistic approach to health and well-being, it is gaining traction.

Innova Market Insights featured ‘Eat Pretty’ – the rise of beauty ingestibles – in its top 10 trends for 2020. It has tracked a rise in supplement brands making skin health claims and noted an average annual growth of 52% globally for the 2018-2020 period.

These skin health claims, which often focus on creating healthy glowing skin, minimizing wrinkles and supporting collagen formation, according to Innova, are also expanding to food and drink categories, such as soft drinks and baked goods.

British company Raw Press adds whole food ingredients such as rose petals, raspberry and goji berries to its Raw Beauty adaptogenic granola while German brand HerOne claims to help consumers improve their skin, hair and nail health via the gut and skin microbiome with prebiotic and probiotic ingredients. Its flagship product, Inner Beauty, is a powder made with baobab pulp and inulin for prebiotic fibre benefits and three probiotic strains (Lactobacillus Acidophilus LA1, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus LB2, Bifidobacterium Bifidum BB47) as well as pea protein.

HerOne’s products are flavoured naturally with freeze-dried strawberry, raspberry or banana powder and can be added to foods such as smoothies and yoghurt or mixed with water or milk to make a drink, says the start-up that is enjoying double-digit month-on-month growth rates, according to the VC investment company, Five Seasons, that backed it.

Collagen, which makes up to 70 to 80% of the dry weight of the skin, is another on-trend ingredient popular for its skin health benefits. Bulgarian brand Qwell has a range of collagen drinks that offer targeted functional benefits such as  Qwell Sports Recovery but Qwell Beauty, which contains collagen, biotin, zinc and vitamin B12, is its best-seller.

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Made using a proprietary production process (patents are pending in the US and Europe), the drinks provide 5 g of type I hydrolysed bovine collagen sourced from Belgium.

“Previously, the cosmetics industry used collagen in creams to apply from the outside, which is debateable because the molecules of collagen are so big, they don’t pass through the epidermis,” said partner and marketing director at Welldrinks, Martin Seele.

“Just putting collagen in something doesn’t help, you need to work on absorption. That’s why our collagen is hydrolysed and has a molecular weight that is very small, which leads to high absorption. It seems to be that some of these additional ingredients [such as biotin, zinc and vitamin B12] also have a catalyst benefit, so the absorption of collagen is improved if combined with other vitamins,” Seele told Fi Global Insghts.

Seele believes that current demand for nutricosmetics is not going away.

“It is in line with general trends of trying to be nicer to your body: eating healthy food and trying to avoid harmful things in your body.  Beauty from within is part of that. There is nothing wrong with cosmetics to cover up what you believe are negative aspects of your looks but I think beauty from within is even stronger than fashions or trends; it’s a natural thing to do for any human. Preserving your looks is only one aspect of health and being healthy is a beautiful thing in itself. That is not just a trend that will pass on.”

Global appeal, regional differences

The beauty from within products appeal to consumers in regions around the world, according to Innova. It conducted a survey in 2019 and found that one in three Chinese consumers increasingly opt for food and beverages that support physical appearance.  

Welldrinks has noticed that some countries are more “collagen-savvy” than others. Its products have met with the most success in the Middle East and the US (where, for copyright reasons, it is sold under the name Avasara), although sales in Europe have been slower to take off, Seele said. Welldrinks also plans to enter Asian markets, such as Japan and Korea, where collagen products are firmly established, and Brazil, where the market for beauty products is significant.

Market researchers at Mintel, meanwhile, have noted strong potential for beauty from within foods in India, in part due to the importance of functional foods, herbs and spices in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Beauty ingestible brands could look to these traditional teachings to find ingredient inspiration for their product formulations, it suggests

Rimpie Panjwani, senior beauty and personal care analyst, India, at Mintel, writes: “[…] Indian consumers show a strong inclination towards natural products, which can be attributed to the familiarity of Ayurveda and trust in natural ingredients like ginger, turmeric, ashwagandha, and kesar.

“This has led to a strong preference for natural vitamin, mineral and supplement remedies derived from fruits and vegetables, as well as those with free-from claims. Brands can look to explore and innovate with botanicals and herbs within vitamin, mineral and supplements based on traditional knowledge.”

Functional ingredient blends

Going forward, Seele said that Welldrinks, which was selected as a finalist in PepsiCo’s European incubator in 2018, will stay a collagen brand that supplements with other functional ingredients.

The company plans to develop a collagen drink with added hyaluronic acid, a substance produced naturally by the body to keep skin lubricated and promotes skin elasticity and firmness. It is also involved in a pilot project that is developing collagen using bacterial fermentation, thus removing animals from the process. Such an ingredient would open up the functional benefits of animal-based collagen to vegans and vegetarians in a way that current vegan offerings, such as algae-based collagen, cannot, Seele said.

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