It is also getting top billing at hip venues including Brodo in New York, JoLa Cafe in Portland and Red Apron in Washington, D.C., while an online search reveals a flurry of recent entrants to the market, many of which are selling primarily online, says Justin Mares, a serial entrepreneur who launched his shelf-stable broths in TetraPaks (with a 2-year shelf-life and no preservatives) in August 2015 and is doing a steady trade online at the bonebroths website and at Thrive Market.
What’s the difference between bone broth and stock?
But what is bone broth?
Made from meaty bones and veggies that are left to simmer and then strained, bone broth is basically stock, but is typically made with higher-quality ingredients, and simmered for considerably longer (up to 48 hours – whereas commercial stock brands are typically cooked for a couple of hours) such that the final product has more protein, more nutrients and a gelatinous quality once it cools down.
It is also designed to be sipped as a hot beverage, rather than used as a cooking ingredient.
But can brands such as Bone Broths Co, Bare Bones, Au Bon Broth, Real Bone Broth, Grow and Behold, Kol Foods, EPIC, and BRU Broth convince shoppers that they are not just selling overpriced stock and calling it something else?
And does it have mainstream appeal, or is this a trend that will remain the preserve of hardcore Paleo enthusiasts and a few hipsters?
Collagen, gelatin, glucosamine
Evangelists such as Mares insist bone broth is more nutritious than commercial brands of stock because the lengthy cook time breaks down the bones and releases joint-friendly nutrients such as glucosamine, plus proteins found in bone and connective tissue such as collagen and gelatin.
Mares also points out that while paleo nuts are early adopters, bone broth – which is actually a very simple, warming nutritious drink that everyone ‘gets’ once you explain it - has far broader appeal than many functional beverages, with health-conscious women proving the biggest customers according to his online order book.
Skeptics, in turn, observe that collagen breaks down into amino acids - which are used by the body as needed - when you ingest it, rather than making a beeline for your joints/bones; while you need to consume gallons of bone broth before you took in the amount of glucosamine proven to benefit joints in clinical studies.
That said, no one disputes bone broth is a lot more nourishing than many other beverages on the market, while key players in the natural products sector – including Whole Foods – are reportedly very bullish about its prospects.
Plenty of room for new players
So what does the category look like right now?
Wide open, says San Francisco-based Mares, says Mares, who says most players are selling frozen products in pouches online, although some new entrants (BRU Broth, EPIC) are positioning themselves in the grab & go chillers with other premium products such as cold-pressed juices.
“We think there is room for a new player as many of the companies out there right now are still very small. We validated our product before we made a big commitment, created a landing page and bought some google ads to help raise awareness, and we got a ton of pre-orders, and sold out our first production run in 80 days, so we knew we were onto something.”
Bone Broths Co products, meanwhile, are shelf-stable, so would sit next to stocks and broths instore, he says, acknowledging that all bone broth players face challenges when it comes to consumer education, wherever they are positioned in store (having a product that you have to heat up can be confusing if it is packaged with ready-to-drink beverages in a bottle; while having a beverage in the soup/stock aisle or the freezer aisle is also unexpected).
“It’s been around forever but it’s a new category for food retailers and consumers. A lot of the people selling it at the moment are just making it at home and selling it online frozen.”
While large brands in the stock category that already have real estate in 10,000+ stores might appear to be well-placed to enter the bone broth category, consumers may distrust a line extension from a mainstream brand that comes with a big price premium, while manufacturers in turn struggle to make the economics work for their brands, he says.
“It doesn’t make sense for them to take ten times longer to cook one batch of bone broth when they could crank out ten batches of a product they are already selling.”
Not all bones are created equal
With this in mind, how is Bone Broths Co differentiating itself in the market?
First, it’s organic; second, it’s made with bones from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle that are hormone and antibiotic free; third, it’s cooked at a slow simmer for more than 24 hours; and fourth, it uses an apple cider base rather than a tomato base; says Mares, who launched with a beef bone broth, and is now working on a second chicken bone broth, due out in the next couple of months.
“We are also very selective when it comes to the types of bones we use. Not all bones are created equal, which is why we only use knuckle, patella, femur, and feet bones. These bones have been shown to contain the highest concentration of white and red stem-cell marrow, as well as high levels of collagen.”
Finding a co-packer that could produce the product to Mares’ specifications and put it in a TetraPak with no preservatives and a two-year shelf-life was a challenge, says Mares, who launched his product in August 2015 with his brother Nick (co-founder) and says he must have contacted “about 500 companies” before he found a couple of firms in the Midwest that fitted the bill.
“When you say, hey we want you to source however many thousand pounds of grass-fed bones, a lot of the people we spoke to just saw that as a huge headache.”
The biggest challenge right now is how to raise awareness – both of his company – and of bone broth in general, says Mares, who says many people that discover bone broth and enjoy it, tend to consume it regularly, which means that if you can earn their trust, you can enjoy strong repeat business.
Read more about Bone Broths Co HERE.
Interested in new beverage trends? Sign up for our FREE online, LIVE beverage innovation summit on Feb 18, which features an awesome line up of speakers, including:
- Chris Campbell, co-founder & CEO, CHAMELEON COLD BREW
- Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO, REBBL
- Bob Kral,president and CEO, PROTEIN2O
- Ryan Emmons, president, WAIAKEA HAWAIIAN VOLCANIC WATER
- Eric Green, founder & CEO, DUST CUTTER BEVERAGE CO
- Jeff Church, CEO, SUJA JUICE
- Hal Kravitz, CEO, AQUAHYDRATE
- Mathis Martines, senior category manager, KROGER
- Howard Telford, senior beverages analyst, EUROMONITOR INTERNATIONAL
- Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director, CANADEAN CONSUMER