The boil is back in broth and bouillon sales, as retailers and manufacturers promote both items as fat replacers.
Traditionally used as soup, gravy, sauce and stew bases, broth and bouillon products are being added to dishes like rice and mashed potatoes in place of butter and oil. Healthy recipes in cookbooks, magazines and newspapers are encouraging readers to flavor vegetables, meats and pastas with low-fat options like liquid broth and cubed or granulated bouillon.
Typically a flat category, broth and bouillon has been on the rise lately, according to numbers from Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Dollar sales have shown a 5.1% change for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 7, 1996, jumping from $110.2 million to $115.9 million.
This increase doesn't include the effect recent vendor ads touting the healthier aspects of cooking with broth and bouillon have had on the category. Industry observers reported that ads -- developed by Hormel, Campbell and Borden -- are causing sales to climb.
Borden and Campbell could not be reached for comment and Hormel declined to discuss the ads or the category.
Meanwhile, retailers said they've noticed a change in sales, though some stop short of attributing the increase to manufacturer ads.
"Sales in this category are up about 7%. It's hard to tell what, if any, contribution these ads have made to that sales increase," said Gary Evey, spokesman for Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Pat Redmond, grocery buyer at Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash., estimated that his sales have jumped between 5% and 10%, because "consumers are looking towards anything where they can still get the flavor without the calories or fat," he said.
He commended the manufacturers for running ads pushing the products as fat substitutes. "The companies are smart. They're telling consumers about it. Before, we really didn't know about it," Redmond said.
Rosauers has been supplementing the manufacturer ads with some of its own, particularly on canned broth, Redmond added. "We're frequently running the Swanson's broth and Healthy Choice," he said.
Another advertising vehicle for these products is the supermarket food-service department. Some stores are incorporating broth and bouillon into their in-store recipes.
For example, Albany, Calif.-based Andronico's Market is labeling products as low-fat or no-fat because its chefs are replacing butter and oil with homemade stock.
"We offer a Puttanesca sauce for pasta and some vegetable ragus in which we can pretty much get the oil down to nothing with the use of a little of [the stock]," said the independent's corporate chef, Danna Cordova.
Evey of Spartan Stores added, "The suppliers of these products are participating with our retailers in their different meal-solution and menu programs."
Although consumers in his marketplace have been cooking with bouillon for years, Roger Burks, senior vice president of The Mad Butcher, Pine Bluff, Ark., said he's noticed more people cooking with bouillon cubes and granules.
During Thanksgiving and Christmas, the independent brings in additional displays near its baking centers and meat departments, Burks said.
Seaway Food Town sees most of its sales in the winter season when the chain uses a dump display to capture the impulse sale, said Bob Rieck, buyer at the Maumee, Ohio-based operator.