by Elisabeth King

Eat and drink your way younger is an irresistible promise. Nutraceuticals, aka ingestible beauty and health supplements, are no longer a fad for the few and have become a routine staple worldwide. According to Transparency Market Research, global sales of collagen supplements alone are expected to reach US$9.3 billion by 2023. The inner beauty category isn’t new, but more and more consumers are convinced that the inside-outside approach really works.

Outer beauty reflects overall health and there are four major drivers turbo-charging the nutraceutical market globally and in Australia. As people live longer, they want to age well and prevent illness. Proven active ingredients such as collagen are naturally-sourced and the increased demand for natural and organic products is also boosting the buzz about well-being supplements. Consumers are also more educated about balanced nutrition and the fortification of skin, hair and nails has become a cornerstone of the nutraceutical market. New research from international researcher Mintel reveals that younger women in particular are on the hunt for functional supplements that support their demanding and fast-paced lifestyles and regard them as a linchpin of their beauty routines.


The roots of foods and ingredients for beauty benefits stretch back millennia, especially in Asia. Globalisation has helped import ingredients and practices from trend-setting countries such as Korea and Japan into the Western beauty and well-being mainstream at a dizzying pace. Collagen supplements are red-hot right now but the Japanese have known for centuries that they replenish and replace natural collagen in the body which decreases with age, says Anna Lahey, Co-Founder of Vida Glow, one of Australia’s most successful beauty supplement companies. “These supplements aren’t just about vanity in Japan, they are considered beneficial in skin repair, help hair and nails to grow and improve joint health. The Japanese also know that it’s best to begin earlier to help prevent and delay the signs of ageing”.

The word collagen comes from two Greek terms: kola meaning glue and gen meaning producing. It’s the second largest substance in the human body after water and is the building block protein that keeps skin firm and resilient. The body’s natural collagen production not only decreases with age, the process is also accelerated by lifestyle factors such as stress, sun damage, poor diet and pollution.

A former sales executive working in the licensing industry with such major companies as Disney and the AFL, Lahey had always struggled with her hair, skin and nails, relying on hair extensions and acrylic nails from a young age. But a trip to Japan to visit a friend became a life-changing journey. “I quickly noticed that Japanese women had amazing complexions and also how widely available collagen supplements were, from drinks at the gym to supermarkets. I had always thought of collagen as an injectable and I spoke to a local pharmacist about the phenomenon. She was in her 60s and had flawless skin. She explained that because collagen was so readily absorbed, Japanese women strongly believed that oral supplements counter-acted the loss of collagen with age”.


Lahey wasn’t an instant convert but she bought some collagen to take home as she was suffering from hair fallout at the time.
“I started with three servings a day – 9g in total – and within three weeks there was a dramatic decrease in hair loss. My nails became less brittle and stronger and my skin became clearer and more plump-looking. I was hooked”.

With an eye to starting a family, Lahey had been thinking of starting her own business. “I was considering several propositions but I decided to undertake in-depth research on the benefits of collagen supplements. Not only did I discover a wealth of science-backed studies confirming its importance in strengthening the hair, skin and nails. There is also a large body of evidence that collagen helps with joint pain and healthy muscle, tendon and ligament strength”.

But even though the nutraceutical market is rapidly expanding, consumers are looking for quality, evidence-based products. Key ingredients, simple branding and effective communication on how a supplement performs are critical to a brand’s success. Lahey has a Brazilian heritage and chose the name – Vida – which is the Portuguese word for life – coupled with Glow, when she launched her company in 2014.

We use only natural marine collagen derived from the scales of fish, she adds. “It is sourced from ethically and ecologically sustainable practices and comes in highly bio-available powder form for maximum efficacy.

Success was rapid and word spread quickly that Vida Glow really lived up to its promises. Testimonials started flooding in as women experienced the same impressive results Lahey had enjoyed. There’s a lot of wannabes on the market, she says, but our marine collagen has achieved such strong cut-through because it is a hydrolysed collagen peptide powder, a process which breaks down the amino acid chains into smaller amounts. That means it has a significant absorption rate above 90 per cent, by contrast to pills and tablets which average 20 to 30 per cent absorption.

Once ingested, it’s distributed by the bloodstream to the deeper layers of the skin to stimulate fibroblast production to increase the body’s natural production of collagen, adds Lahey. “Our marine collagen also triggers the HAS2 receptors in the dermis responsible for the production of hyaluronic acid, one of the most widely used hydrating ingredients in skincare, to raise the natural hydration of the skin by 91 per cent and fight other natural signs of ageing”.


Lahey’s belief and evidence that the brand had launched a product that was head and shoulders above its competitors, prompted the launch of Vida Glow online internationally from day one to major markets in North America, Europe and Asia. “Today, the brand is available online in 100 countries and we have strong distribution in 50 markets. We entered Myer stores in 2017 and launch in David Jones this October. The Australian market is very strong and we are also stocked by leading online retailers such as and Nourished Life, Australia’s leading site for natural health and beauty products”.

The concept “you are what you eat” is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. According to TaoBao, China’s largest online retail platform, the fastest-growing nutraceutical products in the Chinese market are powders and drinks with major beauty claims. A report from leading global consultancy firm, Roland Berger, predicts that China’s nutraceutical market will reach US$26.8 billion by 2020. “Our sales in China are strong and we are also making major headway in rapidly expanding markets like the Middle East and other Asian Markets”, adds Lahey.

Differentiation has been top-of-mind for Vida Glow since the early days. In 2015, the brand launched its first beauty blend. The original marine collagen has a neutral taste, but to cater to all tastes pineapple, blueberry, peach and mango versions were added. The Australian functional beverages market is now worth $1.3 billion a year, reports IBISWorld, and Vida Glow offers Collagen H20, two collagen-rich drinks flavoured with Blueberry & Acai and Lime and Mint.

The appeal of Vida Glow crosses generation and gender lines. Fashion-forward, social media savvy Millennials aged 18 to 32 are a core market because of their interest in natural beauty and the athleisure market and want to ensure their hair, skin and nails are in the best condition, says Lahey. “New mothers suffering from post-partum hair loss and hormonal skin changes have become very strong brand ambassadors because they are looking for 100 per cent natural products when they are breastfeeding”.

Health-conscious women up to the age of 45 also represent a solid percentage of repeat customers. “Many are high income earners and businesswomen and are seeking anti-ageing products which are non-GMO and contain no artificial ingredients or sugars”, says Lahey. Vida Glow also offers a range of Beauty Powders that are Australian Certified Organic and vegan. “Young professional men interested in working out and improving their health are also turning to collagen supplements. As are women in their 50s and 60s who want to look great for their age and maintain joint and bone health”.

It’s not just the inspiring results that have made Vida Glow such a success in Australia and worldwide. Hydrating skin from within, rejuvenating hair growth and saying goodbye to weak, brittle nails has never been so quick and easy. Depending on their needs, people can take one to three sachets a day, says Lahey. “Heat stable and fast-dissolving, just mix with your favourite liquids, including coffee, tea, water, juice, smoothies and more. I have never seen anything work so well for so many types of people such as collagen. No wonder, it’s become the “It” ingredient of the nutraceutical category”.

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