- Most liquid chicken stocks are reconstituted and are not as close to homemade as you’re led to believe.
- Supermarket liquid stocks can cost 25 times more per serve than powders and cubes.
When a recipe calls for stock — whether it’s for soup, risotto or gravy for the Sunday roast — not everyone has the time to make it from scratch. It’s simpler to buy a stash and keep it in the pantry.
The grocery value and volume of stock sold in supermarkets is steadily increasing, particularly liquid stock. However, if you’re hoping the typical liquid stock you find in a supermarket is close to homemade, or superior to a quality stock cube, our findings tell a different story. Most are simply reconstituted, but not labelled as such.
CHOICE looked at 25 liquid, cubes and powdered stocks and discovered that the common marketing terms “real” or “natural” don’t always stand up to scrutiny. Focusing on chicken stock, arguably the most popular and versatile flavour, we highlight the ones that are most like homemade, the ones with the least salt and the ones we believe represent the best value.
Please note: this information was current as of October 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Where's the chicken?
CHOICE’s hunt for chicken as an ingredient in stock proved elusive. This may seem strange given the labels say “chicken stock”, but only 16 of the 25 stocks we looked at contain animal products. Generally, if the product name has the word “style” or “flavour”, it’s made using flavours rather than actual chicken. This might seem good for vegetarians, but the catch is these flavours may still be derived from animal products and you often can’t tell from the label.
The chicken flavour of both Chefs’ Cupboard (ALDI) and Massel stock is produced without animal products. Massel stock is in fact endorsed by the Halal Certification Authority and K Pareve, meaning it's certified to be meat free and is suitable for people who need to avoid meat for both dietary and religious reasons, The flavours in Continental Chicken Style Stock Cubes, however, aren’t suitable for vegetarians, according to the manufacturer.
“Natural”, “nature-identical” and “artificial” flavouring substances are officially classified as additives, but don’t have additive code numbers and may be labelled as “flavouring” or “flavour”. According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the vast array of flavourings permitted in food means it wouldn’t be feasible to list them individually. So the only way to be sure if the flavour in a product has animal content is to contact the manufacturer.