Right now, says Bare Bones Broth Co, which was founded in 2013 by husband and wife team Ryan and Kate Harvey, the category can be confusing for consumers, with some products sold in frozen pouches online or in stores’ freezer aisles (Osso Good); and some sold in TetraPaks in the shelf-stable aisles (Pacific, Bone Broths Co).
Other bone broth brands are sold in glass jars (EPIC Provisions) or PET bottles (BRUBroth) and merchandised in the refrigerator next to beverages such as Suja Juice, chiefly to reinforce the fact that bone broth is something you can drink (as well as cook with) and to attract the same kind of crowd that buy cold-pressed juices and other premium functional beverages.
We’d love to be next to the kombuchas and the cold-pressed juices
Oregon-based Bare Bones, meanwhile, packages its bone broth in BPA-free microwaveable spouted gusset pouches for easy pouring, appealing to consumers who want to drink it, or cook with it.
“When we launched in 2013 we thought we were selling an ingredient, but we found when we went through a rebranding exercise last year that 90% of our consumers are drinking our product,” Kate told FoodNavigator-USA.
Bare Bones products – made with grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken – now have a 60-day shelf-life and no preservatives, are shipped frozen, but can be sold by retailers in the frozen or refrigerated aisles, said Kate, who has built a substantial online business, but is now focused on building a retail presence (not least because shipping costs for the online business are so high).
“We’re having those conversations now [about where to put the products in stores]. We’d love to be next to the kombuchas and the cold-pressed juices, but you also see stores with grab & go refrigerated foods and our product would work really well there.”
Made from meaty bones and veggies left to simmer and then strained, bone broth is basically stock, but is typically made with higher-quality ingredients, and simmered for considerably longer (24-48 hours) such that the final product has more protein, more nutrients and a gelatinous quality once it cools down.
While can be used as an ingredient (Bare Bones’ strapline is ‘part cooking ingredient, part beverage and part souperfood’), the hot trend right now is sipping it as a beverage – perhaps as a more nutritious alternative to coffee in the mornings, or as a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Bare Bones has four SKUS: Classic 100% pasture-raised chicken bone broth, Rosemary and lemon chicken bone broth, Classic 100% grass-fed beef bone broth, and Tomato and spice beef bone broth.
It comes with a premium price tag – the SRP is $8.99-$9.99 for 16oz (two servings) - but has significantly more protein than rival products.
There’s no mess
She added: “But wherever we are in the store, we want to be the most convenient bone broth on the market, whether you are cooking with it or drinking it. You can just heat it up and pour it into a mug if you want to drink it. There’s no mess.
“Wherever the category decides to go, frozen or refrigerated, we can go in either, whereas some of our competitors can only go in frozen. But I think that brands that are selling boxed products next to stocks have more of an uphill battle than those of us trying to get into the perimeter, where there is a much higher perceived value. That’s where our consumer is shopping.”
The size of the prize
As for the potential size of the prize of bone broth as a beverage, right now, it’s anyone’s guess as it’s such a new category, she said, but as a cooking ingredient there is also a lot of potential for more-premium products.
“Nine out of 10 Americans buy a can or box of broth every week. If we can get a fraction of those people to trade up to a superior quality product, that’s huge.”
Retailers, however, are very bullish about the bone broth category, said Kate, who said Bare Bones had been “swamped with inquiries” at the Expo West show in March.
“There has been phenomenal interest especially in the natural channel. In the conventional stores, there is a lot of interest from stores like Target and Publix, although some other chains aren't sure where to put it.”
I wanted to take this traditional food that has been bastardized and return it to what it was meant to be
While skeptics might argue that bone broth is just overpriced stock for hipsters, the Harveys insist that it’s more nutritious 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.
“If you look at a lot of stocks on the market, they often use cheap meat scraps and no joints where you get all that connective tissue, or even bones, they are really low in protein and high in salt and artificial flavors and preservatives,” said Ryan, who trained as a chef and developed the Bare Bones concept after working at a paleo meal delivery service in San Diego.
“So they taste good, but nutritionally they are not great. I wanted to take this traditional food that has been bastardized and return it to what it was meant to be, and educate people about the difference. Our product has the highest protein content on the market.”
Bone broth is also far more nourishing than many other beverages on the market, and makes a more nutritious alternative to coffee in the mornings, or as a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack, added Ryan.
So does bone broth have mainstream appeal, or is this a trend that will remain the preserve of hardcore Paleo enthusiasts and CrossFit nuts?
“The Paleo community were definitely our early adopters,” says Kate, who raised $400,000 last year, and is now looking to raise an additional $2m in order to support the brand’s rollout at retail.
“Now I think there is a much broader audience, people that are into nutrition and fitness, health and beauty. If we can get our prices down a bit we think that will also make the product more mainstream.”