Is Broth The Next Super Food?

It’s January and the New Year, New You diet stories are everywhere—and suddenly so is the topic of broth.  While sipping broth as a way to get in shape may sound like a stretch given Americans’ fickle diet and snacking tendencies, the business of broth is heating up.

The terms broth, bouillon and consommé are interchangeable, but the broth making news is bone broth or a rich, gelatinous stock made from boiling meat, fish and vegetables which results in a taste and flavor profile that is a far cry from its mass-produced cousins. Yet reality is, commercial prepackaged varieties (in cubes, boxes or cans, or in concentrated liquid form) are the most widely used and available. With convenience, however, comes a price: Prepackaged varieties get plenty of nutritional knocks for their sky-high sodium content (one Hormel HerbOx chicken bouillon cube has 1100 mg; the USDA recommends individuals get no more than 2300 mg/day) and flaccid flavor. Yet broth is a kitchen staple worldwide with Unilever Unilever’s Knorr and Nestle Nestle’s Maggi brands the industry leaders (numbers 8 and 6 respectively in a Kantar’s Worldpanel’s 2013 Brand Footprint ranking of the 50 most recognized brands), making the global seasoning market highly competitive (Africa, specifically Nigeria, and South America are hotspots).

Maggi’s marketers have done an impressive job in positioning their products so that consumers in a variety of countries think it’s indigenous to their nation. National Public Radio has covered this story and it’s worth a listen.

Bone broth’s newfound status as a diet and health elixir has legs, though, as 3 factors are in the food’s favor for growth in the coming year.

1. Consumers (Now) Love Science.

The current broth boom is linked to the still popular Paleo diet, which lists broth as a staple. Despite it being around 40+ years, the diet recently was re-introduced to audiences by the self-described founder of the Paleo movement, Loren Cordain, PhD, who trademarked the name and has authored 5 Paleo books since 2011 of which millions of copies are in print. Paleo offshoots include a broth diet courtesy of television personality Dr. Oz in 2014 and the current Paleo mom-phenom Michelle Nam.

As Paleo-themed books populate Amazon’s diet best seller rankings, Publisher’s Weekly reported that what bodes well for the broth obsessed is consumers’ interest in diets that are linked to science, real or imagined (Paleo, it should be noted, was number 34 out of 35 on US News 2015 Best Diets Rankings).

Paleo books highlight its health benefits (for example, it’s supposedly an antidote for “leaky gut syndrome”) and include plenty of broth recipes purported to have nutritive powers, although no research to date has demonstrated that bone broth is superior to commercial. It’s worth a mention, however, that research has demonstrated eating soup prior to a meal is a proven way to cut calories.

Broth’s popularity also may be a sign that consumers are rethinking how to get healthier—not necessarily good news for the $60 billion weight loss industry. While industry leaders like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, supplement manufacturers and retailers like GNC, and food manufacturers such as Kellogg +2.6% try to ride the January weight-loss wave, according to RJ Hottovoy, analyst for Morningstar +0.69% who follows the industry, “We’ve seen lackluster performance from the major diet plans because we’re seeing a major structural shift in the business. The emergence of smart phones, calorie counting apps and fitness monitors has disrupted the traditional commercial weight loss market. I think they have commoditized part of the industry, making certain aspects of weight loss management certainly more accessible to a mass audience, while making it more difficult for the traditional plans to stand out among consumers.”

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