What is collagen? Back to the basics

The word "collagen" comes from the Greek κ?λλα, or kolla, which means glue. Designed by nature, it is the most abundant protein in mammals, accounting for 25% to 35% of the total body protein content. This fibrous connective tissue holds our bodies together. 

Collagen consists of three long chains of over 1,000 amino acids each. These are winded together to form a triple helix, a unique structure in biology, that enables the building of elongated fibrils. Collagen’s atypical amino acid composition is characterized by a high content of hydroxyproline, glycine and proline.  

28 types of collagen have been identified. They occur in different parts of the body and are classified in several groups, according to the structures they form, either fibrillar (Type I, II, III, V, XI) or non-fibrillar (most of the other types). 

Collagen, people and history

Collagen has a long history of use. Centuries ago, people extracted it from bovine or porcine bone broth, seeking to use every part of the animal and waste nothing. Our ancestors also quickly understood the value of this protein. In the 12th century, abbess and scholar Hildegard von Bingen advised people to get relief from joint complaints by taking broth made from calves’ feet—a rich source of collagen. Napoleon is also believed to have been a big fan, supplying his troops with this nutritious ingredient. 

Gelatin, which is derived from collagen, soon also gained wide use - used not only in our grandmothers’ kitchens, but also in industry. Because of its unmatched physicochemical properties and functionalities, it found its way into many applications.

Rousselot’s long history with collagen

Rousselot started to work with the collagen molecule as of 1891, beginning with the production of gelatin from skins, hides and bones.  In 2008, Rousselot started to produce Peptan collagen peptides, using an innovative process and in 2018, new types of collagen-based products were developed, such as Peptan IIm or X-Pure.

Our long history with collagen has given Rousselot extensive know-how of collagen and its derivative products, and a leading position on the market.

Comprehensive collagen expertise, at all stages of product development

Scientific knowledge

Rousselot Expertise Center has acquired extensive knowledge of the collagen molecule. Our scientific teams work daily with the different collagen products in our portfolio. They know their many properties and functionalities, and how they behave in various environments. In order to expand our knowledge, gain new insights and accelerate progress, Rousselot also works with a continuously growing network of academic and private experts at universities and private research institutes. Our scientists know there is still much more to learn about this unique molecule and the endless possibilities it offers.

Production and processes

Rousselot’s operational teams in 11 state-of-the-art-plants have also developed outstanding know-how in manufacturing products from collagen-rich sources. There are many ways to process materials containing collagen, and different extraction methods can yield different products. In order to produce gelatin, for example, we use acid or alkaline extraction. For collagen peptides we apply targeted enzymatic processes. And we use freeze drying to obtain highly purified gelatins and collagens for the biomedical markets.

Our operational teams constantly work on improving our processes. This explains why we have continuously been able to upgrade the quality of our products and have also been able to reduce the impact of our production activities on the environment by reducing our energy consumption and water foot-print.

With Rousselot’s new pilot hall literally two steps away from our Expertise Center in Ghent, Belgium, we can now test new processes faster and more efficiently than ever, accelerating the continuous improvement of our production lines and our innovation speed. This brand-new facility, inaugurated in March 2018, is another sign of our commitment and growing success as innovators.

Formulation, innovation

Our experts in our three Applications Laboratories have been formulating with gelatin and collagen for decades. They know how to optimize the use of collagen & gelatin in all kinds of applications, whether food, nutrition, pharma, medical, or technical. And they can help our customers to market faster.

A wide range of premium solutions

We produce more than 400 types of products, all derived from collagen-rich raw materials. This makes us a true market leader in our field. Our range of gelatins is highly diverse, with each gelatin exhibiting specific properties (bloom, pH, viscosity) and offering different kinds of value-adding functionalities. Our collagen peptide portfolio comprises a growing range of raw materials. These all come with specific, targeted characteristics and enable us to answer the very diverse needs of our customers.

Driven by a team of passionate people

While collagen is already a highly valuable ingredient in numerous industries, what keeps our science teams enthusiastic is that they continue to discover new functionalities and properties daily. This means that even after 125+ years, the collagen molecule enables us to keep expanding our portfolio with new biomedical applications and health benefits.