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Founder's Corner: Cooking Up Something Beauty-full

Stila cofounder Maren Jensen is harnessing the functional food category with her hair-, skin- and nail-boosting bar brand Glow Beauty Fuel.

By Emily Burns I January 20, 2023, 8:00am

While Maren Jensen’s past is deeply rooted in the beauty space, having cofounded Stila Cosmetics alongside makeup artist Jeanine Lobell, the former model and “Battlestar Galactica” actress is harnessing her passion for wellness with her new ingestible brand.

Stila Cosmetics kicked off the color cosmetics revolution in the ’90s. Now, Jensen is looking to do the same in the beauty-focused functional food space in 2023 with her bar brand Glow Beauty Fuel, which was in a soft launch phase throughout the latter half of 2022.

Jensen’s focused devotion to the wellness category came after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, for which there is no cure, ultimately leading her to leave acting and modeling. She began using food as medicine and exploring what supplements could sustainably treat her symptoms, while also looking at the beauty benefits. Most notably, she became a true believer in the benefits of collagen, estimated to be a more than $9 billion global market in 2022, according to Grand View Research.

At first, Jensen’s research into the health benefits of collagen was a personal endeavor, but a mutual friend introduced her to Laura Shoemaker, a licensed aesthetician and classically trained homeopath. The two hit it off and got to brainstorming what would eventually become Glow Beauty Fuel, focusing specifically on the food space as consumer pill fatigue is on the rise.

“We weren’t so interested in going into the non-food area. Functional food as a category is, to me, fascinating. I love the idea that you can eat something delicious and also get these functional benefits,” Jensen said. “We started kicking the idea around of having a wellness-based beauty brand, and I kept seeing opportunities in the bar space because I love the idea of protein bars but I hated all of them. They’re disgusting.”

Functional food is a strong area of growth for wellness. In total, the functional food market is expected to reach $586 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research, which said it has seen immense growth as consumers are more focused on their overall health while also seeking convenient supplement formats. The global bar market is also expanding, expected to rise from $4.68 billion in 2022 to $7.07 billion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insights. Industry sources say that sales for a start-up brand like Glow Beauty Fuel could reach between $20 million and $30 million by 2025.

Jensen noted the brand’s unique value proposition is the combination of a delicious protein bar with efficacious beauty supplements. She and Shoemaker started developing different batches of bars at Jensen’s home kitchen. “Then we joined a collective kitchen. We became licensed food handlers. We bought equipment. We hired food scientists. We kept experimenting. Literally, we’ve probably made 100 different batches of all of our flavors.” Though she says they officially have the base down, Jensen is continuously working with their food scientist to make the bars taste even better.

The bars currently come in three flavors: Chocolate Mania, Orange Dream and Cherry Grazie, Jensen’s personal favorite. They are equal to 15 capsules’ worth of nutrients and 100 percent of daily beauty supplements, according to the brand, each including 6,000 milligrams of single-source, pasture-raised, grass-fed hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides, 120 milligrams of hyaluronic acid, 400 milligrams of hibiscus flower extract and 90 milligrams of vitamin C.

The bars, priced at $29 for a six-pack, are also packed with 13 grams of protein, employing watermelon seed plant protein, to compete with other traditional options on the market. In terms of the benefits of the bars, Jensen says consumers will immediately notice that their skin is more moist. After consistent use, they should also see longer and stronger hair and nails, according to the brand.

While the bars are packed with beauty-boosting supplements, come in enticing flavors and don’t include binders or fillers, a beauty-boosting bar is a new multifunctional concept and requires education, especially as the protein bar space is an increasingly saturated market.

“We’re at the convergence of wellness and beauty and nutrition,” Jensen said.

She has used the website as a key source for education with articles and content backed by the brand’s scientific advisor Brooke Russell, who has a PhD in microbiology and spent the last 10 years studying collagen. Glow Beauty Fuel has also harnessed YouTube and Instagram as sources to educate and differentiate the product to consumers, as they target women in their 30s and 40s.

While Glow Beauty Fuel started out direct-to-consumer focusing entirely on education through its website, the brand is also committed to expanding its retail footprint with spas and salons. Currently, its flagship retailer in New York City is The Well, and it’s also sold at Mirbeau Inn & Spa and Menla, both in the Catskills.

While the brand is still in the early stages, Jensen has her sights set on retail with a goal to be in 1,500 specialty food stores and beauty apothecaries in the next two years.

“I definitely want to meet the customer there where they buy their organic foods or their special artisanal products,” Jensen said. “That’s where we want to be.”