Made by boiling and straining meaty bones and vegetables for up to 48 hours, demand for bone broth is starting from a small base but is nonetheless on the rise.
According to retail consultancy SPINS, retail sales of shelf-stable bone broth in the US rose to $17.54 million (€14.29m) in the year ending January 2017 - a $5.83m (€4.75m) increase from the previous year.
Meanwhile, Canadean said the market value in Europe for liquid stocks was estimated at around €500 m in 2015 and predicted to grow in value by 5% per year in Europe (3.5% real growth). It did not have data on bone broth specifically but this is likely to be much smaller.
Bone broth has found popularity in the US among followers of the 'paleo' diets. This diet consists of foods eaten by hunter-gatherers during the Palaeolithic period, such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, roots and meat. Adherents also try to avoid processed and cultivated foods such as dairy, grains, legumes, processed oils, salt and sugar, alcohol and coffee.
However, the founder and CEO of Derry-based start-up Carol's Stock Market, Carol Banahan, does not see bone broth as a short-term fad.
“Consuming bone broth is not a trend – it’s the most traditional of all human nourishment," she told FoodNavigator. "People have been boiling bones for nourishment since the Stone Age. Its consumption has only fallen by the wayside in recent decades due to the rise of the fast food mentality.”
Banahan worked as an equity trader in Canada for nearly 20 years – hence the company’s name - making her own bone broth and natural stock to give her energy, before returning to her native Ireland. Unable to find bone broth on supermarket shelves there, she did some market research and identified a gap in the market. Carol’s Stock Market was born.
Sourcing the bones from grass-fed cattle bred in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, Banahan currently produces around 400 litres per week of both bone broth and stock during two days of production in her kitchen in Derry, Northern Ireland. She plans to move to scale up to four days a week.
According to Banahan, bone broth packs an average protein content of around 4 g per 100 ml and has a more intense flavour than the beef stock.
“Beef stock is richer because we add tomato paste before roasting the bones and it is used primarily as a cooking liquid in soups and stews. Beef bone broth has a more intense beefy flavour because of the 18-hour simmer time and can be used to sip on and also as a cooking liquid.
“Beef bone broth is also more gelatinous when cold,” Banahan said.
How and when consumers decide to drink the broth - as a beverage, light soup or cooking base in prepared food - is a matter of individual preference, she said. “Some people love it as a comforting drink to help them sleep before bed. I know of many athletes who drink a cup of warm bone broth for a high protein breakfast to start the day. Personally, due to my love of home cooking, I use it mostly as a healthy and extremely tasty, natural base for soups, stews and casseroles.”
While there is no hard scientific evidence that drinking bone broth is beneficial for bone and joint health – critics say the glucosamine and chondroitin levels are simply not high enough to have an impact – Banahan said there is “a ton of anecdotal evidence that supports the theory”.
The stock-trader turned stock maker has also commissioned product tests to determine the collagen content.
“Natural collagen comes from the connective tissue in beef bones and has the highest concentration in beef bone broth. Collagen is transformed into gelatine and there is plenty of scientific evidence that natural broth can be very healing for the body and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut,” she said.
The beef bone broth has a recommended retail price of €4.95 while the beef, chicken and vegetable stock retails for around €4.50, and is listed in a number of brick-and-mortar retailers in Ireland as well as online.