Need to know
- We compared 24 liquid, 9 powdered and 14 stock cube products
- Stocks are low in fat and carbohydrates, but can be quite salty
- Liquid stocks have more sodium than powdered or cube stocks
Pre-made stock is convenient, versatile and inexpensive – and offers an excellent boost to home cuisine, adding savoury flavour to wintry meals such as casseroles and soups, risottos, curries and pastas. But what exactly is in these products?
We compare chicken and vegetable stocks from Coles, Woolworths and Aldi to find out which are the best value, but also which have the highest levels of salt.
Stocks are relatively low in fat and carbohydrates but can also be quite salty.
Manufacturers add salt for flavour, and also to preserve the product and improve the stability of emulsions.
But too much sodium in our diets is associated with some serious health conditions, such as heart failure/heart attack, stroke, kidney problems and kidney stones, oedema (fluid retention), osteoporosis, left ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of heart muscle) and high blood pressure.
Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend sodium intake be less than 1600mg/day for adults and no higher than 2300mg/day.
The consumption of too much sodium in our diets may result in some serious health conditions
We examined the packs of 24 liquid, nine powdered and 14 stock cube products and found that 21 of the 23 'dry' stocks had salt listed as their main ingredient. But this wasn't an indication of the overall salt content when the product was made up as directed.
Comparing all stocks 'as prepared' on a per 100mL basis, liquid stocks were highest in sodium.
Aldi's Chef's Cupboard Simply Stock Real Chicken Flavour
The most salt
Aldi's Chef's Cupboard Simply Stock Real Chicken Flavour. This product contains 600mg sodium per 100mL which equals a whopping 1500mg per 250mL serve. That's 57% of the recommended maximum or 94% of the suggested daily sodium intake.
Coming in second is Continental's Superb Stock Chicken Stock Pot, which contains 476mg sodium per 100mL, followed closely by Campbell's Real Stock Chicken, which contains 447mg sodium per 100mL.
Campbell's Free Range Chicken Stock
The least salt
Campbell's Free Range Chicken Stock has only 33.6mg sodium per 100 mL, while Maggie Beer Natural Chicken Stock has the second-least with just 94.5mg sodium per 100 mL.
These varieties beat out even the reduced salt options provided by most brands. But at a cost of $1.20/100mL and $1.00/100mL respectively, they come at a price premium.
Campbell's Real Stock Vegetable
The most salt
Campbell's Real Stock Vegetable, which contains 541mg sodium per 100mL, followed closely by Coles Real Vegetable Stock at 530mg per 100mL and Campbell's Real Stock Salt Reduced Vegetable which has 390mg sodium per 100mL.
Maggie Beer Natural Vegetable Stock
The least salt
Maggie Beer Natural Vegetable Stock has 45.6mg sodium per 100mL. Vegeta Real Gourmet Stock powder comes in second with 136.4mg per 100mL, and for those watching their hip pocket, this was the best value of the products we looked at, costing only $0.01 per 100mL when made up as directed.
Interestingly, the salt-reduced vegetable options weren't particularly low in sodium compared to the other vegetable stocks. Campbell's Real Stock Salt Reduced Vegetable contains 390mg per 100mL while Massel Salt Reduced Vegetable Stock Cubes have 257.6mg per 100mL (although it was the fourth lowest).
- Only four stocks in our comparison are truly 'low salt', which is defined in the food standards code as no more than 120mg sodium per 100mL. These were Campbell's Free Range Chicken Stock (33.6mg/100mL), Maggie Beer Natural Vegetable Stock (45.6mg), Maggie Beer Natural Chicken Stock (94.8mg) and Vegeta Real Chicken Stock powder(115.2mg/100mL when made up as directed).
- Interestingly, products labelled as 'salt reduced' aren't always the lowest in salt. This is because salt-reduced products don't have to be low in sodium, rather they only have to be 25% lower in sodium than the reference product. If you're after a truly 'low-salt' product, check the sodium content on the nutrition information panel.
- If you're looking for a stock with a higher chicken and vegetable content, 'real stock' options such as the Maggie Beer and Campbell's varieties are probably the way to go. See our stock comparison table for ingredient details.
We visited Woolworths, Coles and Aldi in May 2019 and bought every variety of stock available. We then compared each product's listed sodium levels 'as prepared' on a per 100mL basis, chicken/vegetable content and country of origin. *When made up as directed. Vegetable/chicken content is as stated on pack, percentages included where available. Vegetables were those listed in the ingredients as vegetable, vegetable powder, dehydrated vegetable, or separately that were not a spice or extract (e.g. bay leaf is included while rosemary extract and pepper are excluded).
Homemade stock is cheaper, tastier and easier than you think – and you can control how much salt is included. Our home economist Fiona Mair shares her recipes:
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.