As I sit writing this post I’ve got a container of Huel next to me. It’s been a busy day so far and by now, about 2 pm, I am starving. I don’t have time to go and make a big lunch, but I want something that is filling and nutritious. Enter Huel – Human fUEL.
Powdered, quick food seems to be a new frontier for start-ups to tackle. Last year we reviewed and recommended Joylent – an instant food from the Netherlands and now we have a home grown competitor in the UK – Huel. Huel calls itself “The Future of Food”. So what is it? Order your Huel and you’ll get a big (1.75kg) bag of what looks like a very fine powder. This powder mixes with water to produce a shake that is the eponymous Huel. There are two basic flavors – unflavored and vanilla. Taste is a very personal thing but I’ve found the unflavored to be best described as wheaty and while not unpleasant not to my taste. It’s quite strong but is designed to have flavor added to it and Huel make additive pouches in toffee, rhubarb and custard, mocha, strawberry, pineapple, banana and chocolate or you can just add your own – I found maple syrup a good choice. The vanilla has a subtler flavor but is clearly recognisable as vanilla and I found it pleasant on its own.
RRP £45 for 1 week (± £1.50/meal) – Free delivery included
Larger orders, more flavours and gluten-free version available from Huel directly.
Each order includes Huel in 1.75kg bags (3.5 days)
About Huel (Company)
Huel has been started up by a two man team of Julian Hearn and James Collier. Hearn brings the successful start up experience and with his last startup – Bodyhack – a passion for nutrition. Collier is a Nutritionist who worked for the NHS and created diets for sportsmen and brings the scientific know-how.
- Target audience: Health and fitness conscious individuals short on time and unconcerned with fripperies.
- Target age range: Teens 15+, Adults
- Target gender: Unisex/gender neutral design
Plain Huel has a very distinct taste and if you like the taste – you’ll like the drink and the recipes. Unfortunately it’s a strong taste and if you don’t like it, it’s very hard to disguise. We tried different ways to change the taste such as syrup, fruit, cocoa powder and had some success with coffee but it never completely changed the taste. Adding flavouring also has the downside of adding complication and extra calories. Huel now sells a range of flavour pouches that allow users to add their own flavour. The pouches contain natural flavouring and Stevia (artificial sweetener).
The vanilla version of Huel has a much milder taste and if you like or can tolerate vanilla you’ll be okay with it. It doesn’t handle additions well but has the advantage of being very simple and straightforward.
Environment & People
The economics of Huel can be viewed in two ways, comparing it to a normal diet or to other food replacements drinks. Huel costs £45 for 7 days, £84 for 14 days or £162 for 28 days. Delivery is free in the UK. That works out at about £6.42 a day or for 5 meals £1.28 per meal. If you have access to a fully equipped kitchen and shop and cook carefully, a Vegan diet would be possible for less money, but that would entail cooking from scratch for most meals. Compared to ready meals, which take a similar amount of effort if a little more time, Huel is more economic and requires very little equipment.
Compared to other food replacements it is mid-range. Joylent is the only significant competitor in Europe and the UK and the cost of a Joylent meal is also around 90p. Joylent also sells in smaller quantities – their smallest order is 15 meals for €30, making it the cheaper of the two. Abronite, the premium organic meal replacement is £8.80 per meal, but it’s a different kind of product – using real organic food instead of supplements – to create their powder – and that’s reflected in the price.
Weight: 3.4 Kilograms (1 week supply)
Country of origin of primary ingredients: China
Made in England
Ingredients (vanilla): Oats (Contains Gluten), Pea Protein, Brown Rice Protein, Flaxseed, MCT powder (from Coconut), Sunflower Lecithin, Vitamin and Mineral Blend: Potassium (as Potassium Citrate), Chloride (as Potassium Chloride), Calcium (as Tricalcium Phosphate), Vitamin C (as Ascorbic Acid), Choline (as L-Choline Bitartrate), Vitamin E (as D-Alpha Tocopheruyl Acetate), Niacin (as Niacinamide), Pantothenic Acid (as Calcium-D-Panthotenate), Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Riboflavin, Vitamin A (as Retinol Palmitate), Iodine (as Potassium Iodide), Folic Acid, Chromium (as Chromium Chloride), Vitamin K1 (as Phytonadione), Molybdenum (as Sodium Molybdate), Biotin, Vitamin D2 (as Ergocalciferol), Vitamin B12 (as Cyanocobalamin), Copper (as Copper Citrate), Vanilla Flavour, Sucralose. For complete ingredients of other flavours and gluten free Huel, click here.
Serving Size: 120g
Energy: 2092 kJ, 500 kcal
Fat 16.25 g
– Saturates 4.25 g
– Mono-unsaturates 3.4 g
– Poly-unsaturates 6.93 g
Carbohydrate 50.63 g
– Sugars 0.88 g
Fibre 8.78 g
Protein 37.45 g
Sodium 0.85 g
Vitamin A 200.00 mg
Vitamin C 75.00 mg (93.75% NRV)
Thiamin 0.73 mg (66.36% NRV)
Potassium 830.25 mg (41.51% NRV)
Calcium 276.25 mg (34.53% NRV)
Phosphorus 398.75 mg (56.96% NRV)
Iron 3.7 mg (26.43% NRV)
Huel as flour
Powdered food is usually very straightforward – would you like a shake or a shake? Huel offers another option – using it as flour. I’ve tried making biscuits, scones and pancakes with varying degrees of success. Huel does work as flour – the consistency and cooking characteristics seem to be about the same but there are a few downsides. The resulting food all tastes at least a little of Huel even if you put in other flavoring and the food all turns somewhat brown.
Food is usually judged on a few issues. Taste. Cost. Ease of preparation. Nutrition. Huel excels on Nutrition. It does very well on ease of preparation and pretty well on cost. Taste is far more subjective – it is the Marmite of Milkshakes. If you like it you’ll love it. If you don’t then it’s not going to be sustainable long term for you. Huel is never going to replace food in the long term for anyone but as a short term meal replacement or for those who are trying to control or gain weight it would work very well.
Personally Huel isn’t going to be a part of my daily diet but it’s a convenient option to keep in a cupboard for when things get busy or when I’m travelling. Recommended.
The review is based on the a 3.5 day sample of Huel kindly provided by Huel and an updated Vanilla Sample. Read more about Ergohacks’ eco, access and feature icons used in reviews. First published on 7th August 2015 and last updated August 2016.