Geltor debuts vegan collagen for food and beverages

Dive Brief:

  • Cultured protein developer Geltor Inc. has debuted PrimaColl, which it said is the first vegan collagen for food and beverages, according to a press release emailed to Food Dive. Created through microbial fermentation to be chemically identical to poultry collagen, PrimaColl is also suitable for kosher, halal and paleo diets, the company said.  
  • Compared with animal-derived collagen, PrimaColl has a higher potency and less volume, according to Geltor. It also does not contain components found in animal collagens that can affect solubility and complicate formulation. 
  • The company, headquartered in San Leandro, California, is manufacturing PrimaColl with Switzerland-based Lonza Specialty Ingredients. Geltor expects PrimaColl to meet the needs of a growing base of consumers who may have avoided products containing forms of collagen, such as gelatin, because of its animal origin.

Dive Insight:

Using a process similar to brewing beer, Geltor applies microbial fermentation to plant-based ingredients, which creates animal-free proteins that are the equivalent of those derived from animals. Geltor already has animal-free collagens for use in health and beauty products. Its PrimaColl product expands its technology into the food and beverage space, where demand for vegan alternatives has been ramping up.   

Today, most collagen used in foods including marshmallows and gummy bears is in the form of gelatin, the majority of which is sourced from pigs. Not only is this problematic for consumers seeking animal-free options for dietary and religious reasons, but it also has proven challenging amid the pandemic’s supply chain issues and ongoing livestock disease outbreaks in major pig producing countries. 

There are vegan substitutes for gelatin and other collagens, but they have their own trade-offs. Carageenan, a processed form of seaweed used as an emulsifier to create a smooth mouthfeel, may cause gastrointestinal problems. Agar agar, another seaweed derivative, has a higher melting point and firms up in much smaller concentrations, which can complicate substitutions. 

PrimaColl can serve as an exact replacement for animal-based collagen, bringing along all of its functional properties and avoiding some of its formulation issues. Geltor has biodesigned its product to match Type 21 collagen, a form of the protein that is found in the human body. Although existing in small amounts, Type 21 collagen has a “multiplier effect” that encourages the development of other collagen types, the company said. 

“Like most collagens, natural production of Type 21 decreases into adulthood,” Geltor co-founder and CTO Nick Ouzounov said in a statement. 

Whether PrimaColl could provide these benefits if it is ingested is another matter. Collagen has become a trendy ingredient in food, though its benefits have not been truly quantified. In an interview with FoodNavigator, Geltor co-founder Alex Lorestani noted many health experts recommend supplementing with collagen for its potential benefits to skin, hair and nail health. He told the trade website PrimaColl is currently in a third-party clinical trial, presumably to examine its potential in food and beverage. Geltor has reportedly spoken with manufacturers interested in adding the ingredient to products such as baked goods, beverages and gummies.   

Geltor is launching PrimaColl less than a year after announcing a $91.3 million series B financing round, giving it total funding of $116.3 million within the past five years. The company is using its funds as intended: expanding its animal-free ingredients platform worldwide.