Protein, collagen, non-UPF: Bone broth as a functional food

Broth has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. But an old food can find new meaning in new markets. Now, it is popular for a new reason – its health benefits.

UK start-up Freja, which recently received a new £2m (€2.3m) investment which includes input from figures such as English footballer Harry Kane, hopes to take advantage of this trend with its range of fish, chicken and beef bone broths, and its veg broth.

The investment will be used for export to Western and Northern Europe, for marketing, and for new product development.

Bone broth as a functional food

Traditionally, broth has been used to give flavour to a range of foods such as sauces, gravies and stews.

Now, it is sought after not only as a flavour but as a functional food. “Bone broth is primarily bought by functional health food customers, not gourmet ingredients customers. There’s increasing demand for clean label, non-UPF with the right nutritional profile,” Ed Armitage, co-founder and CEO at Freja, told FoodNavigator.

“According to our recent survey, 68% of Freja customers are buying it to meet a functional need (gut health, collagen, protein etc). Only 9% of customers buy it as a cooking ingredient.”

The nutrients take prominence over other concerns, like price. “For most of our customers, price is not the primary consideration (think of it like daily superfood blends, or meal replacements) because adding specific nutrients daily, and completely removing bad ingredients is the goal.”

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Freja’s range. Image Source: Freja

However, an element of nostalgia – of the connection between broth and traditional cooking – is still a key part of the appeal. “Many of us have an image in our heads of what traditionally nutritious foods should look like, taste like, and how they should make you feel. It’s something we’ve lost as a society, and replaced our food with ultra-processed garbage (stock cubes are a prime example) and so-called superfoods that we all know deep down aren’t helping,” Armitage suggested.

Freja’s broths are sourced entirely from Norway, because of the sustainability credentials of its farms, with a low carbon footprint for cow, as well as a low use of antibiotics compared to many other European countries.

The functions of broth

As a functional food, bone broth has certain advantages that what it is drawn from – meat – doesn’t, Armitage told us.

“Because bone broth extracts the nutrients from bone and cartilage, it has a different nutritional profile to meat. Whilst meat has more protein, bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin, which include the amino acids glycine and proline. Bone broth also has a higher concentration of electrolyte minerals such as potassium and magnesium.”

Alongside its meat-based bone broths, Freja also produces vegetarian broth. While differing from the meat-based broths, it has its own benefits. “The vegetable broth is made with root vegetables, brassicas, and fresh herbs. Nutritionally it does not have the same profile as animal-based bone broths; however it can be used to assist with intermittent fasting and diets that require a liquid-only component.”

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