Two Hawke's Bay companies have created the world's first pure collagen and pure water without preservatives, flavouring, colours or other additives.
Collagen is the protein found in skin and connective tissues and collagen supplements claim to help improve skin, hair and nails and increase joint mobility.
Hawke's Bay's Adashiko Collagen and Parkers Beverage Company's new product Adashiko Refresh, which comes in still and sparkling varieties, has been on the market for about two weeks and the companies are looking to introduce larger bottles to hospitality venues soon.
Adashiko CEO Luci Firth says the new drink is designed to "rejuvenate" the premium bottled water industry which "has seen little innovation for some time", typically consisting of unflavoured still and sparkling water.
"Many New Zealanders will struggle to pay for bottled water and with so little value added by suppliers, restaurateurs and bar owners are left to compete head-on with tap water, while still having to cover the cost of supplying it."
The addition of the "functional water" means there will now be a competing product "which they can justify retailing at a premium price".
She says the idea came to her in Japan where their collagen is produced.
"We saw some overseas trends in drinks in the States but they were more around fruit juices and things where you could hide a lot of the protein," Parkers Beverage Company managing director Doug Speedy said.
A specialised piece of equipment from Austria allowed them to pasteurise the product to a precisely controlled temperature so there was no need for preservatives, he said.
"After several iterations in the trial process, ultimately it was the purity of the ingredients, collagen and water, that helped us create a shelf-stable final product - the first time this has been done.
"What we found is that the refined collagen also gives the water a crisp, light taste and there was no need for additional flavours to mask any bitter notes that can be associated with this type of product," he says.
He said exporting bottled water from New Zealand "can be a tough sell" with low barriers to entry and little point of differentiation, but there is a strong global interest for Kiwi-made wellness products and buyers overseas had suggested this would be a key differentiator as part of their export marketing strategy.
Speedy says each market around the world views the same ingredients differently, which entails navigating each country's requirements.
"With a beverage like this the conversation isn't just around product and price, it is product, price and regulations.
"None of these challenges are insurmountable, however, and we have already begun the process in several key markets such as Australia, USA and Singapore," he said.
The 350ml bottle retails for $5 and contains 5g of collagen and the 750ml bottle $10 and contains 20g.
Reporter's taste test
Without having tried a collagen product before I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but had been told it was flavourless and odourless.
Trying the still version, I was surprised to find that was the case - it was just a nice water.
There's a slight colour to the drink and it's very slightly thicker than water, but this doesn't change the feeling that you're drinking a bottle of water.
It's something I could imagine buying at a café or at the supermarket and I think the sparkling version could be a good replacement for tonic water in some drinks.