Monica WatrousANAHEIM, CALIF. — Popcorn, protein bars and wellness shots featuring collagen were on display at Natural Products Expo West, held March 5-6 in Anaheim. Linked to skin and joint health, collagen is among the ingredients fueling growth in the functional food and beverage category.

Sales of functional foods and beverages increased 7.5% to $68 billion last year, said Carlotta Mast, senior vice-president of content and insights at New Hope Network, which produces the Natural Products Expos.

“2018 was an amazing year for this category,” Ms. Mast said during a presentation at the event. “A lot of this is being driven by this ‘food as medicine’ trend as consumers opt for foods and beverages that provide real health benefits and functionality.”

Already popular in supplements and sports nutrition products, collagen is appearing in packaged snacks and beverages for grab-and-go consumption. At Natural Products Expo West, Vital Proteins, Elk Grove Village, Ill., unveiled a line of Collagen Water, made with fruit juice and containing 10 grams of collagen per serving to “support healthy hair, skin, bones and joints,” according to the company. Flavors include blackberry hibiscus, lemon ginger, blueberry mint, strawberry lemon and original.This Bar Saves Lives collagen bites

From Purely Elizabeth, Boulder, Colo., new Collagen Protein Oat Cups combine grass-fed collagen, nuts and seeds with organic oats, coconut sugar, coconut oil, quinoa and amaranth. Each cup delivers 11 grams of protein. Flavors include blueberry walnut and vanilla pecan.

This Bar Saves Lives, Los Angeles, announced its first foray into the functional food space with the launch of Collagen Bites, made with grass-fed collagen and ingredients such as turmeric, matcha, spirulina and rose water.

Fourth & Heart, Los Angeles, highlighted Woke, a new line of nutrition bars featuring grass-fed collagen, ghee, eggs, maple syrup and stevia. With 12 grams of protein and a hint of caffeine, varieties include cookie dough, café latte, dark chocolate and peanut butter.

Healthy snack maker Vegan Rob’s, Sea Cliff, N.Y., showcased collagen popcorn.

Medlie (formerly Zupa Noma), Sonoma, Calif., features collagen in several new products, including a Glow Veggie Shot, which blends cucumber, lemon and celery with four grams of grass-fed collagen protein. Medlie also is debuting Veggie Mashes, a line of organic vegetable blends featuring a mashed cauliflower base, packaged in grab-and-go cups. Two of the varieties — Avocado Greens and Tomato Tahini — contain collagen peptides.

Medlie veggie mashes“When we thought about the mashes and usage occasions, knowing how much consumers are looking for protein, we felt collagen is one of the cleanest and most compliant with several dietary tribes…most allergen-friendly way to deliver that,” said Jen Berliner, chief executive officer, in an interview with Food Business News.

Medlie began incorporating collagen into its drinkable soup products after observing a trend among its consumers on social media.

“What inspired our collagen s.k.u.s… we were seeing people take a bottle of Zupa with a packet of collagen and pour it in and shake it up,” Ms. Berliner said.

Based on that feedback, the brand launched a kale avocado soup with collagen last May. That product has “skyrocketed to the No. 1 s.k.u. for us,” Ms. Berliner said.