When Harry Kane was named as one of the high-profile investors in bone broth startup Freja, he drew attention to a long-standing, yet niche, food category.
‘Bone broth’ has been a buzz term in the wellness sphere for the past decade, with sister food writers Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley publicly touting its benefits back in 2014.
They claim to have grown up drinking the stuff, prepared for them lovingly by their Filipino mother, who simmered leftover animal bones and vegetables in water over the hob for several hours to create a “restorative, soothing” soup.
Of course, bone broth is nothing new. It’s essentially stock, which has been used as a base in dishes for thousands of years all over the world (think traditional Jewish chicken soup or Vietnamese pho).
However, the Hemsley sisters made it trendy. They drew attention to its health benefits (broth is rich in collagen and gelatine, which are purported to protect the health of skin and joints) and even sold tote bags emblazoned with the slogan ‘Boil your bones!’.
Bone broth and the Goop effect
One of the advantages of homemade bone broth – as pointed out by the Hemsleys – is its affordability. Butchers will often give away leftover animal bones for free, and shoppers can add in whatever vegetables and seasonings they have at home.
Despite this, the emerging crop of preprepared bone broths sold in retail often come with hefty price tags, however.
Freja’s range of 500ml broths, for instance, are currently £7 each on Ocado. Their main ingredient is water, followed by bones, vegetables, salt, herbs and pepper, all of which are relatively inexpensive. Even Freja’s vegan broth – obviously devoid of bones – is £7.
Broth’s premiumisation could be explained by the ‘Goop effect’. In March 2023, Gwyneth Paltrow received backlash after sharing on a podcast that she “ate” bone broth, alone, for lunch. She was subsequently dubbed an “almond mom” (gen Z’s derogatory term for middle-aged women who perpetuate disordered eating habits) on social media.
However, Paltrow’s endorsement of broth, along with those from the likes of Kylie Jenner and Shailene Woodley, have given it an elevated status – particularly among ABC1 women – which justifies higher shelf prices. Plus, store-bought broths are much more convenient for time-poor shoppers, who don’t have hours to spend watching a simmering pot.
Target markets for bone broth changing
Their target market is personified by Borough Broth MD and founder Ros Heathcote, who started making and drinking bone broth when she was burnt out from a high-pressured, corporate career. Her 324g bone broths are now listed by Ocado and Waitrose at £4.95-£5 each.
“Our customers love a slow-cooked traditional broth but appreciate the convenience of a ready-to-use pouch,” says Heathcote. “After all, why go to the trouble of cooking with quality, organic, fresh ingredients, and then adding a crumbly salty stock cube with zero nutritional benefits?”
Heathcote has found a small, but growing consumer base. Exclusive NIQ data shows Borough Broth’s value grew 22.4% to £1.4m, on volumes up 28.6% in the year to 9 September 2023.
And now, Kane’s vote of confidence in Freja – alongside that of Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee, who has also invested in the startup – could help boost bone broth’s appeal to a different target market: affluent male shoppers who are interested in sports. At least that’s the hope.
However, at £7 a pop, it’s unlikely Freja will appeal to the masses – particularly amid the cost of living crisis. Unless prices come down, shop-bought bone broth will remain a staple of the worried well for the foreseeable future.