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Multi-collagen — the next big thing in functional ingredients?

An Interview With Monica Watrous
San Francisco startup Elavi is introducing the first-to-market multi-collagen snack bar, featuring marine and bovine collagen peptides. Previously available in only powders or pills, the combination boasts a host of health and beauty benefits, said co-founder Michelle Razavi.
Billed as a “modern wellness brand,” Elavi offers a collection of plant protein bars formulated with sustainably sourced wild marine collagen, which is linked to strengthening skin, hair, nails and connective tissue.   Consumer requests over the past year led to the development of a bite-size bar and inspired the addition of grass-fed bovine collagen, which contributes to digestive health, Ms. Razavi said.
Functional food and beverage sales increased 9.4% to $78 billion last year, according to data from New Hope Network. Collagen continues to gain traction in new product launches, and Nestle’s recent acquisition of Vital Proteins underscores the market opportunity for collagen-based food and drink. However, Ms. Razavi noted, as an ingredient, collagen presents formulation challenges.
“On its own it doesn’t hold liquid well together,” she said. “A lot of oil separation happens, and we experienced that in the first couple of prototypes. That’s why a lot of bars use whey. To have a collagen protein bar that’s non-dairy is incredibly hard.”
Elavi’s multi-collagen protein bites contain pea protein, almond protein powder, cashew butter and coconut oil, plus goji berries and cacao nibs. Organic dates and honey, culinary staples of Ms. Razavi’s Middle Eastern heritage, add sweetness and binding.
“We really had to manipulate and play with a lot of different ingredients and ratios to make sure we’re reducing the oil separation without adding in additives or fake emulsifiers that other processed bars use,” Ms. Razavi said. “We worked with food scientists for months to make sure it was soft enough to bite into but not crumbly where it would fall apart in your bag.”
A communications and marketing professional, Ms. Razavi launched Elavi with friend and fellow fitness instructor Nikki Elliott in 2019. Both worked corporate office jobs and relied on protein bars to fuel their busy lifestyles. Ms. Razavi found many options in the marketplace contained inflammatory ingredients that created digestive discomfort.
“I craved something that delivered all the nutrients my body needed every day to thrive, but in a convenient way that I could rely on and trust, and I didn’t trust anything out there,” she said. “I was making these collagen protein bars at home, bringing them to work, the office and the gym, and I had friends try them because they were just so curious about what I was eating.”
Encouraged by the reactions, the pair invested personal savings to launch the brand, beginning with a chocolate goji bar. Two additional flavors, chocolate chip cookie dough and blueberry vanilla crisp, joined the lineup last year. 
“We formulated this to be a food product first, and then for it to have all these functional benefits is an added bonus,” Ms. Razavi said. “We started with wanting the experience to be good for the consumer. The best piece of advice I got from someone starting out was to make sure it tastes good. It doesn’t matter what fad you’re chasing. Make sure it tastes good because if it doesn’t, people aren’t going to buy it again.”
The products are available online at elavi.co and in local retailers in San Francisco and at Erewhon stores in Los Angeles. Amazon.com recently invited Elavi to join its emerging brands program, Ms. Razavi said.
With deep roots in health and fitness, the founders hope to create a platform that spans well beyond snack bars.
“We see ourselves as not just a food company or a snack company, but really this modern wellness brand that is all about empowering people to be the healthiest, strongest versions of themselves,” Ms. Razavi said. “Nikki and I started as fitness instructors and that passion has naturally progressed to providing a holistic experience for everyone, starting with food. We see this evolving to providing other products in the food space, but also we’d love to evolve it to providing digital content that really empowers and activates people in terms of mindset and wellness and fitness.”

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