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Bone broth: How one company has turned a homegrown idea into big business

From kitchen table to cupboard staple: the introduction of Karnlea Bone Broth was very much a ‘home grown’ project. The qualities of bone broth as a superfood – packed with vitamins, minerals and high levels of collagen – have long been known.

Traditionally used as recuperative sustenance for humans and animals, it has wide reaching benefits…but the reality is, it’s a pain to make.

For many years, I would cook it for my two dogs after every Sunday roast. The bones would go into a large pot and simmer away for many hours, requiring regular top ups of water, with the resulting meaty smell pervading the house, often lasting for days.

The obvious delight of my dogs spurred my enthusiasm but the practicalities of making it had to be fitted into a busy lifestyle and was always something else to do. I tried making in large batches but it occupied huge amounts of fridge or freezer space and there were times when I really needed it, only to find there wasn’t any left in the freezer, or I’d have to wait for one to defrost! 

Commercially, the only bone broth that I could find for pets was frozen, and whilst I tried some excellent products, they still took up freezer space or weren’t as convenient as I wanted. I didn’t want a powder or concentrate, which had gone through a lot of processing, losing a lot of its goodness and taste in the manufacture.

This started me thinking…was there a way to produce and preserve this elixir while maintaining its natural quality?

Research & dedication

Fortunately, I didn’t have to start from scratch. I’ve worked in the pet industry for more than 15 years and previously ran a successful pet supplement company which introduced Scottish salmon oil to the UK market. Having sold this in 2021, I found myself considering the next challenge: could I develop a 100 percent natural, ambient cupboard-friendly bone broth?

It needed research and dedication: the right production, packaging, quality and green credentials were at the top of my wish list.

I identified that the best method for locking in freshness would be a Tetrapak style heat-sealed carton. I wanted all packaging to be fully sustainable and recyclable and found suitable sources including a bio-plastic made from sugar cane for the spout and cap.  The brick shape of our cartons also makes for a lower carbon footprint – they fit neatly into boxes for dispatch.

Of course, these credentials had to be matched by the quality of the ingredients: meat produced from antibiotic and hormone-free grass-fed animals reared on cooperative farms and naturally filtered spring water.

I identified a suitable manufacturer that specialises in the production of stock and broth for human consumption and has a hi-tech approach to this traditional product. I have witnessed the production process in its state-of-the-art, energy efficient factory which enabled me to ‘power up’ my homemade efforts for the wider market.

The recipe is simple – there are just three ingredients: fresh meaty bones – a bi-product from human food production – apple cider vinegar, but just enough to ensure all the goodness is extracted from the bones, and naturally filtered water. But simple things deliver big benefits. It is packed full of collagen, amino acids and minerals, with a multitude of positives, including:

– Joint, skin/coat and gut health

– Recovery food for sick or elderly dogs and cats

– Encouraging hydration and eating – just add a little to the bowl

– Suitability for all ages, breeds and sizes

– Supplementing diets.

Using aseptic packaging means that Karnlea Bone Broth can be packed from fresh and is free from additives and preservatives. It can be used in a variety of ways. As a liquid, it can be poured over food and into water – fresh from the pack or reheated. Once chilled, it becomes jelly-like – an ideal topper. It can also be frozen for portion control or to use as treat.

Conveying the brand’s benefits

In September 2021, the first samples arrived. At the start of 2022, we launched the brand putting independent retailers front and centre of our marketing and distribution. My previous company had grown primarily through ecommerce but the products offered were more of an established nature – already understood by consumers.

I was aware that not every dog and cat owner may be familiar with bone broth. It was important to have ambassadors who could convey brand benefits and advise on how it should be used.

We launched with a beef flavour, five months later lamb was introduced and a chicken flavour will be added before the end of the year. Karnlea has grown faster than anticipated, we have become a member of the Pet Industry Federation, PetQuip and the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society. Although bone broth is a cooked product, its natural credentials attract raw feeders and complements such diets.

We were also delighted to become finalists in a number of major industry awards – celebrating our innovation and sustainability achievements.

By the summer, we had reached a retail landmark: 100 outlets across the UK and Ireland from boutique stores to independent multiples, including Just For Pets which has more than 20 outlets. We were also invited to join Pedigree Wholesale which has become our UK wholesale partner, further extending opportunities for Karnlea to acquire new stockists.

It is a well-established and trusted company which has 50 years in the business. It manages more than 2500 accounts and has a proactive sales team which updates customers on new products and recommends ways to help independent retailers grow and flourish.

It has created a massive opportunity to extend our reach and allow retailers to ‘dip a toe into the water’ by trialling small quantities of our products as part of larger orders. In fact, its introduction was so positively received that its initial order was tripled only ten days in.

Delivering key messages

This relationship has also given us a trade spotlight, via Pedigree’s customer magazine and on its stand at PATS Telford, one of the UK’s leading pet industry exhibitions that was held at the end of September 2022.

Marketing and public relations has played a part in our success. It was vital to convey key messages around the product to introduce it to the industry and pet owners. We have built on the story of early success, underpinned by consistent messaging around Karnlea’s convenience and benefits.

We have been delighted with the media coverage that it has generated and the relationships it has helped forge within specific audience segments including the veterinary, training and sporting dog environments, as well as wider awareness within retail and consumer groups.

Early on, we were able to achieve a celebrity endorsement from popular comedy actress Diane Morgan, star of acclaimed Netflix series ‘After Life’ which poignantly features the relationship between a bereaved man (Ricky Gervais) and his dog.

So, what next? We continue to develop and evolve our product range with exciting plans for the future. As Karnlea grows, so does the level of our operation, exploring opportunities to launch within EU countries and wider markets.

We plan to further heighten our profile and presence in the UK and Ireland and by exhibiting at key events including Crufts, PATS, Zoomark, as well as a number of smaller shows through 2023.

All this from an idea that began at the kitchen table. However big the Karnlea may become, as a pet lover with an obsessive interest in animal health, our journey will always be steered our ultimate passion – a love of pets.

For more information on Karnlea Bone Broth visit

Article Contributed by Lara McCullough, Founder, Karnlea, UK



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