Artes, Spain. This small town on the outskirts of Barcelona is home to Aneto, a broth manufacturer named after the tallest mountain in the Pyrenees. Unless you live in Spain or frequent specialty shops in the U.S. you’ve likely never heard of this broth manufacturer. But as Aneto products continue to make their way across more locations in the United States, Canada and western Europe, you’re bound to come across them. And when you do I hope you’ll stop for a moment, take a carton of broth in your hands, and reflect on what I’m about to share with you.
My husband and I returned from Spain a couple of months ago where we had the most inspiring experience we’ve ever had with anything related to the food industry.
But first let me set the stage so you can put into proper perspective just how radically different – and vastly better – Aneto is from other broth manufacturers.
If you walked into a broth factory, whether they’re the makers of the stuff you avoid or the stuff you pay a premium price for at your local health food store, here is what you would observe: People mixing together a variety of flavored powders, extracts or concentrates in water and pouring that potion into cans or cartons to sell as broth, stock, or just packaging it in bouillon cube form. And that includes those products labeled as “natural” and “organic.” What you wouldn’t see is any sign of a fresh vegetable or a real piece of meat (and in the rare instances that you may see some, it will be in the tiniest of quantities – more on that below). That’s because most broths, from cheap to premium organic, are made from concentrate. And from flavor enhancers used to mimic the real thing (yes, that includes “natural” flavors – more on that later as well). That means that maybe somewhere at some point in the long chain of food-manufacturing that produces the stuff that goes into the broth at the end of the factory line, a real piece of chicken made its way into the powdered or liquid concentrate. But you’ll need a microscope to find it.
To be called “broth” the USDA only requires a Moisture-Protein Ratio (MPR) of 1:135. That’s 1 part chicken to 135 parts water. That translates as 1 ounce of chicken per gallon of water. As unbelievable as that sounds, we’re understandably left asking, “So where’s the chicken in the chicken broth?” But it gets even worse. That one ounce of chicken isn’t even real chicken. Using industry standard terms, that ounce of chicken can be anything from “chicken extract” to “chicken powder”, “chicken by-product” and “pulverized chicken tissue.” Sound appetizing?
So in whatever form that chicken may come, we’re left holding a can or carton of broth with a chicken-to-water ratio of 1:135 and the next question we’re wondering is “so if there’s such little actual chicken in it, where’s all the flavor coming from?” And that’s the question we’re not supposed to ask.
That’s a superb question, one we wish the FDA would answer. Unfortunately they have no definition. In Western Europe the word “natural” comes with strict standards that must be met in order to use that word on any food packaging. Very little that’s passed off as “natural” here would be approved as such overseas. That’s because the U.S. has virtually no standards for the term. And so much of what we buy that’s advertised as “natural” is no different from all the suspect material we try to avoid.
But back to the forbidden question: “So if there’s such little actual chicken in it, where’s all the flavor coming from?” In other words, how can something so ridiculously diluted actually taste like chicken? Two words: Flavor additives. Their purpose is to boost or create flavor where there is none. For chicken broth the flavor additive is creatively named “chicken flavor” (whatever that means). Another is “natural flavor”, a sales gimmick that can mean anything. Other flavor enhancers found in broths and elsewhere are disguised by labels such as “natural seasonings.”
Another common flavor enhancer is “yeast extract.” It sounds pretty benign, doesn’t it? After all, we associate yeast with grandma’s baking. But in fact, yeast extract contains the same concentrated free glutamic acid as MSG. A loophole in FDA regulations, MSG has been replaced by yeast extract as a flavor booster in most processed foods, posing problems for those with MSG sensitivities. Two other commonly used flavor additives that contain MSG are “autolyzed yeast” and “hydrolyzed yeast”.
Sadly, the broths on the market are little more than glorified water with a microscopic hint of chicken that’s flavor-boosted with a ton of undesirable chemicals to make you think you’re eating chicken broth.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients in a few top leading brands, some that have been household names forever and some that are advertised as “healthy”, “natural” and “organic” broth that are found in your local health food stores. The nasty ingredients, sugars or fillers are bolded.
Leading Household Name Brand: Chicken stock, salt, monosodium glutamate, dextrose, yeast extract, chicken flavor, corn syrup solids, chicken fat, hydrolyzed soy protein, dehydrated chicken broth.
(Hydrolyzed soy protein is another flavor enhancer that contains even higher levels of MSG and the process of hydrolyzation produces several other harmful compounds.)
Translated that ingredients list reads, “A bunch of water with a tiny speck of chicken, salt, MSG, sugar, flavor enhancer with MSG, another flavor enhancer, sugar, chicken fat, mega MSG, something dried that was reconstituted.”
Anyone hungry yet?
A Leading “Organic” Broth Brand offers: Chicken Broth (Water, Chicken), Chicken Flavor, Cane Sugar, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Rosemary Extract
So the first ingredient, chicken broth, is defined for us as “water, chicken.” Yes, we already know about the 135:1 ratio. And because it’s so watered down we must add a dash of that cryptic ingredient, chicken flavor. Perhaps to camouflage the weird aftertaste, we add some sugar (who adds sugar in chicken broth when making it at home??). And because flavor is still lacking, MSG comes to the rescue in the form of yeast extract. Because there’s a glaring absence of actual broth ingredients (like carrots, celery or leek) we at least find some onion – onion powder. That way we can claim it’s made with veggies. And to pass it off as something gourmet let’s add an herb, albeit rosemary extract. Let me point out that if they were actually making the broth, as in cooking/simmering it with whole foods, extract wouldn’t be necessary.
So is there a real broth on the market that’s made with real, whole foods and without all the junk additives? A flavorful, wholesome broth like the kind grandma used to make?
Yes. Let me introduce you.
What if you picked up a carton of broth and saw this?
That’s Aneto’s ingredients list on the back of their carton of chicken broth. Simple, whole, clean ingredients. That’s it. No flavor enhancers of any kind, no fillers, no “natural flavors.” So where does all the flavor in Aneto’s broths come from? The flavor comes from the real, whole ingredients! And from large quantities of real, fresh chicken!
Aneto’s ingredients are so refreshingly simple and healthy compared with the food manufacturing world as a whole. But the remarkableness of Aneto’s products, the thing that sets them apart, goes far beyond the purity of their list of ingredients: It’s also their method of making broth that is unlike any other broth manufacturer in the world. And as dramatic as that sounds, it’s quite the opposite: At Aneto they’re making broth the way that we – you and I – make it in our own kitchen.
They make it from scratch. They follow a recipe. And they use pure, whole ingredients – without any concentrates, sneaky fillers, flavor enhancers or additives. In every sense of the word it really is 100% natural.
As for the chicken, it’s real and in generous amounts. They use whole fresh chickens because that’s not only where the flavor lies, but the nutrition also: The nutrition is largely in the bones and it’s also from the breakdown of collagen and muscle tissue that gives good chicken broth its rich body and texture. And that breakdown is accomplished by Aneto’s good old-fashioned method of slow-simmering for hours.
It all sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? And that’s what bowled us over to the point where I was actually feeling emotional during parts of their factory tour. Emotional. In a broth factory! Seriously, I was that overcome by the purity and honesty of their approach to broth. Throughout our tour I kept thinking about two things: (1) my frustration with the broths that are passed off as wholesome back home and the general lack of awareness about it, and (2) my excitement about returning home to share what I had found with others.
Yes, for 13 years Aneto has had the audacity to do something completely radical: Make broth the way you make it at home.
Let’s see how they do it.
My husband and I were in Spain a couple of months ago and Aneto invited us to take a personal tour of their factory near Barcelona, something they regularly invite people to do. Their open-door policy and transparency is truly remarkable and in stark contrast to the attitudes and secretiveness of many food manufacturers.
Our family has been a fan of Aneto’s broths for over two years now and it was so awesome to be able to tour their factory. It’s made us appreciate Aneto’s products all the more.
Left to right: Alba (Aneto’s food scientist & product developer), Me and Joaquim (Aneto’s CEO)
For 40 years, Aneto was a respected producer of Serrano hams and cured charcuterie. About 13 years ago they shifted to producing what we consider the finest artisan broths in the world.
Let’s head inside the factory and show you what we observed ourselves.
Different days are dedicated to making different kinds of broth and were were there on the day slated for chicken broth.
The first room was the prep room loaded with massive crates of the freshest vegetables. It was almost like walking through a farmer’s market.
In this portion of the factory we saw two people in clean white scrubs coarsely chopping up the fresh vegetables.
Cabbages, leeks, celery, onions, carrots and more. The aroma of fresh vegetables filled the room.
One by one they grabbed fresh vegetables, cut and sliced them and placed them in tubs of water to give them a final washing.
The process was methodical, thorough and very organized. And everything was done by hand with close and immediate oversight of every step in the process.
The vegetables were carted out and placed into what looked like huge metal colanders along with fresh whole, free-range chickens.
These big colanders were then attached to long chains that would soon lift them to the massive pots for simmering.
The process that followed was absolutely incredible – because it was so simple. So wholesome. So exactly like homemade.
The huge colanders, packed to the brim with fresh vegetables and chicken, were lifted up and then lowered into enormous stock pots filled with water.
These huge stock pots were designed by Aneto and are used exclusively by them.
We were able to climb up to the second level and watch as the broth was prepared.
Water filled into the pot and it was slowly heated.
You would think that a broth manufacturer would want to accelerate the process to increase the volume of their production. Not so with Aneto. All of their broths are simmered low and slow for a minimum of 3 hours. That allows the needed time to not only maximize the flavor but to break down the collagen and muscle of the chicken pieces for optimal nutrition, body and texture.
If only you could have been in that room with us while those mass quantities of chicken broth were being simmered – oh, the heavenly aroma!
For some of their broths, like certain meat broths and their seafood broths, they have special ovens in which they first bake or roast the meats and seafood (eg, crab, lobster, etc) for an especially rich and vibrant flavor.
We were there just in time to witness completion of one batch of chicken broth.
Can you imagine standing over an enormous pot of slow-cooked chicken broth like this? I just wanted to keep inhaling!
We observed how the broth is filtered down out of the pot, leaving the fat to float on top to be skimmed off. The broth is then put through a second filter to remove more fat. At the end the pot is left with all the leftover cooked vegetables and chicken at the bottom. We were able to sample those delicious vegetables, pick some of the chicken meat off the bones, and were then given a cup of the freshly made hot broth. (Incidentally, none of these leftovers go to waste: Aneto immediately ships them off to producers of healthy animal feed.)
This is broth production at its very best.
I mentioned before that Aneto makes different broths on different days and after our tour we were able to sample several of them, including ones not yet on the U.S. market. In all we’ve tried more than a dozen of Aneto’s broths. They are all absolutely incredible and the flavors are so fresh and vibrant!
A particularly delicious broth is their Jamón broth, the first broth Aneto ever created. It’s made with Jamón Ibérico, Spain’s famous and highly prized cured ham. Imagine a broth made with smoked ham hocks, then imagine it’s a hundred times better. That’s Aneto’s Jamon broth. They don’t currently sell that one in the U.S. but I have a feeling it’s coming and I hope it does!
As the tour continued we saw the broth cooling and packaging machines. Throughout production, multiple safety measures are in place to maintain product purity. The Aneto staff answered every question we had (and we had a lot of them) and the entire process from beginning to end was absolutely fascinating.
The packaging room was also fun to observe. I don’t have a picture of it but the speed at which the cartons were formed and filled was amazing. We observed rigorous quality control each step along the way to ensure a flawless product.
Bricks and bricks of broth came pouring out of the packaging machine onto conveyor belts that were then gathered and boxed for shipping.
Included in Aneto’s lineup is their new artichoke broth, used as a detox drink. (We sampled some later on after the tour and I’ll just say this: It works!)
Aneto also has a line of delicious low salt and no-salt broths. Throughout Spain medical pharmacies carry those for people on special diets.
In addition to the broths, Aneto also has a line of gourmet paella cooking bases. You simply add them to the rice along with your vegetables and meats or seafood and your paella will taste amazing! I brought two paella pans back with us from Spain and making paella with Aneto’s paella bases has practically become a tradition in our home.
There are several more broths that Aneto makes that aren’t pictured here.
And Aneto is constantly (and literally) brewing up new ideas and products. I can’t wait to sample what comes next!
Once the tour of the factory was done we headed back upstairs for some lunch and to check out Aneto’s test kitchen.
Alba (left) is in charge of product development and interestingly, besides being a food scientist and product developer, she’s also a food blogger in her spare time.
Alba develops recipes for new broths, paella bases and other products in Aneto’s test kitchen. She uses the same equipment that they do downstairs in the factory, just on regular everyday scale. She packs fresh vegetables, meats or seafood into a metal colander and slowly simmers it in a stock pot. The Aneto staff will all taste the broth and weigh in with their opinions to adjust certain ratios or tweak certain ingredients. The final recipe is then taken downstairs and produced on a large scale.
It’s really that simple. And it’s really that spectacular. You see, at Aneto they don’t create formulas. They create recipes.
Yes, Aneto is doing something truly revolutionary: They’re making food the right way. The wholesome way. The natural way.
Meeting the wonderful staff at Aneto was also a real privilege. I have never met with a team of professionals that was more genuine, passionate, committed and friendly as the team at Aneto. Meeting with them felt like I was among dear friends.
From left to right: Joaquim (CEO), Nuria (Marketing Director), Me, Alba (Food Scientist/Product Developer), Josep (Social Media Manager)
Todd and I came away energized and excited by what we saw, heard and tasted.
Truly, touring the Aneto facility was the most encouraging and inspiring experiences we’ve ever had in the food manufacturing industry.
In summary, at Aneto the process is as simple as the one you follow in your own kitchen: They wash and chop fresh vegetables, use quality free-range chicken, then lower everything into a pot of water to simmer over low temperature for several hours.
Aneto’s broths are 100% made from scratch. No concentrates, no fillers, no flavor enhancers – no additives of any kind. In every sense of the word, Aneto broths are 100% natural.
Aneto’s most effective marketing tool is giving out free samples everywhere – nearly 265,000 gallons a year! – because those who try it fall in love.
Try it for yourself! In soups, casseroles, risottos, pasta dishes and sauces. Or simply heat it up and sip away. The link below provides a list of stores throughout the U.S. that carry Aneto products.
WHERE CAN I BUY ANETO BROTHS? Click here for a list of store locations in the U.S. (plus where to buy online)
Click here for more FAQ’s about Aneto.
In the meantime, we’re giving away a set of broths to two winners!
Two winners will each receive a set of four premium Aneto products. To be entered into the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling us what impressed you most about this article. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winners will be contacted via email and must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be selected. This giveaway ends September 30, 2016.
THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Congratulations to our two winners, Fran and Libby!
Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this post. I published this in a desire to share with you a company and product that I greatly love and respect. A special thank you to my readers for supporting the brands we love!