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In the colder months, healthy salads and fresh fruits might lose some of their appeal – or even be unavailable to stock in a fine food shop. But there’s another trend that has emerged as the perfect antidote for customers who are looking for a healthier option that’s also warming for the body and soul: bone broth.
Walking the line of simplicity of ingredients and premium quality, bone broth is a functional food product that could be a boon for retailers’ sales in the new year.
Bone broth is simply a stock made from animal bones. Usually, this takes the form of chicken broth or beef broth. The difference between a bone broth and a plain old stock is that the broth is simmered down for a very long time, usually around 24 hours, in order to release key nutrients.
“Bone broth dates back thousands of years and has been used in traditional cuisines around the world as a source of nourishment and healing,” says Jessica Higgins, co-founder of Freja, a bone broth brand that dubs this warming liquid the ‘original superfood’.
Bone broth has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to aid digestive and kidney health, adds Reema Patel, a London-based nutritionist at Dietitian Fit. But its origins are far from the kitchen. “The origins of bone broth come from hunter-gatherers who would use the entire animals when cooking over fire, including the bones,” she continues.
More recently, broths are still used across numerous countries and cultures, from ‘Jewish penicillin’ (classic, nourishing chicken soup) to Vietnamese pho and Japanese ramen. “For centuries,” says Ros Heathcote at Borough Broth Company, bone broth “has been a staple in cooking to utilise the whole animal, from nose to tail, and has long been the go-to healing and nourishing drink of choice for convalescence.”
For a product that has been around for centuries, its recent ascent to trendy superfood status poses the question: why now? In short, this is because of bone broth’s impressive nutritional benefits.
“Prior to the industrialisation of the stock cube, almost every home had a stock pot on the go,” says Ros. “Plenty of celebrities and wellness bloggers are leading the current trend for bone broth, coveting the anti-aging benefits and low-calorie nutrition it provides.”
Indeed, ever since first gaining mainstream traction in the mid-2010s, bone broth has become a favourite amongst health-conscious, meat-eating consumers. “It has been trending more recently because it is being advertised and consumed by many influencers, including celebrities and athletes, as a way to get in a range of nutrients, such as collagen protein, magnesium and zinc,” Reema tells Speciality Food.
As well as its health benefits, bone broth is natural and made from simple ingredients, which is increasingly important to consumers looking to steer clear of ultra-processed foods. What’s more, its use of parts of the animal which could be discarded give it sustainability kudos, too.
Jessica agrees the recent popularity is no surprise. “Sipping a warm cup of bone broth has been a healing ritual for cultures, and it’s no wonder why. Bone broth provides a mega-dose of nutrition that can boost your overall health and wellbeing.”
Good quality broth is a restorative tonic that can be used to soothe the body and support the immune system, says Ros.
“Protein, collagen, and gut health are the largest functional health requirements for food and drink consumers,” Jessica says, and bone broth ticks all these boxes. She calls it a ‘foundational health food’ that is a natural source of protein and key amino acids. Its naturally occurring electrolytes make it a good choice pre or post-workout, Ros adds.
Bone broth is also a rich source of glucosamine, a compound of the skin, Reena says, which can help improve elasticity, connective tissue and support joint health. Marrow from the bones provides a source of vitamins A and B, as well as nutrients such as iron and selenium.
What’s more, it provides sources of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, which are all essential nutrients for healthy and strong bones, Reema says. “As it also provides a source of zinc, this can also support our immune health. Because of the amino acid profile of bone broth, it may also help with chronic inflammation as part of an anti-inflammatory diet,” she says, though more research needs to be done in this area.
Bone broth “supports strong bones, supple joints, glowing skin, robust immunity, efficient digestion, and balanced inflammation,” Jessica summarises. “It’s a low-calorie, gut health essential, an immune system booster and a nutritional powerhouse to make you feel great.”
Whether you’re keen to stock ready-to-use bone broth for customers who want to sip before a workout, or your deli can feature authentic, classic soups like Jewish chicken soup, there are ways for every retailer to make the most of the bone broth trend.
Here are three tips to remember:
Making your own or choosing products to stock? Whichever way you go, make sure you prioritise quality. “Choosing a good-quality bone broth is important,” Reema says. “Source a product that has been simmered for a long time using the bones of free-range or grass-fed animals. It should list bones as one of the main ingredients, as well as water, herbs, spices and vegetables to flavour the broth. Avoid any bone broths that contain high levels of added salts, sugars, preservatives and artificial flavours.”
Ros agrees, saying that good quality bone broth should be simmered in quality water for a minimum of 24 hours for maximum flavour, protein and gelatine/collagen.
Bone broth can be used in several ways, which could cause confusion for customers searching in your ambient aisles if you stock yours in a refrigerator, or vice versa.
“It can be placed with the fresh meat for home cooked casseroles, or with the ready-made soups and meals for sipping as a warm drink, or even with the noodles/stir fry kits for a more modern approach to its use,” Ros says.
“We suggest retailers try a few different spaces to see what works best for them. In some, we feature in both meat and soup counters,” she adds.
Consumers will want to know the provenance of the bone broth you sell, Ros says. If you make your own for products sold on-site, list your ingredients and be sure to talk up the sustainability credentials or any certifications you may have.
“At Borough Broth, we make all our broth in a purpose-built, London-based kitchen and use only whole ingredients, organic meat and bones from British, Soil Association Organic Farms,” Ros says. “Almost nothing goes to waste, our products will go to charity food banks and our used ingredients are either composted or used as biofuel.”