Huel aims to scoop ‘time-poor, health conscious consumers’ with new hot meals

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Huel
Image: Huel

Related tags Huel Clean label Fortification

Meal replacement brand Huel is expanding its powdered food range and launching its first hot meals in the UK.

The new ‘hot and savoury’ range aims to capitalise on growing demand for instant meals at lunchtime among time-poor, health conscious consumers as their lifestyles adjust to the post-pandemic new normal.

Huel said the new fortified product is a nutritionally complete meal for £2.36 with 24 grams of plant-based protein, whole foods and natural ingredients such as quinoa, rice and lentils and all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. The warm and savoury meals come in two flavours: Thai Green Curry and Tomato and Herb, and are ready in under five minutes by simply mixing with boiling water.

The launch was inspired after Huel found 49% of Brits admitted to putting on weight during lockdown due to overeating and making poor food choices, which it said demonstrates the challenges when it comes to achieving a healthy, balanced diet. 

“Nutrition is key in the UK’s fight against obesity and this new food innovation provides all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals the body needs,​” it said. “The new concept is set to redefine quick and healthy lunches either at home or in the office."

Consumers demanding healthy and convenient lunchtime options 

It added the new launch is the perfect alternative for those relying on convenient fast-food to avoid communal kitchen spaces as offices reopen, while also providing a healthy, easy choice for others remaining at home.

Huel's founder, Julian Hearn, said: “Our goal is to make nutritious food more accessible and more appealing to the masses, and Huel Hot & Savoury achieves this. Designed for lunchtime, we’re providing our customers with more options to consume 100% complete nutrition without having to count calories and read food labels. Huel makes lunchtime easy as the nutrition has all been done for you. It’s made with nutrient-dense quality whole food ingredients, so it’s designed to keep you feeling full with all the good stuff you need to stay healthy.”

James Collier, Huel's co-founder and head of nutrition, said the firm's quick success since launching in 2014 demonstrated the desire among consumers on a worldwide scale to change their eating habits. "Huel launched five years ago, and has seen consecutive year-on-year growth,"​ he told FoodNavigator. "In our fifth year we reported a 43% YOY increase. This year we also announced 100 million meals sold to customers across 100 countries, and over the last year sold 92 meals a minute. This demonstrates there’s a desire among consumers on a worldwide scale to change their eating habits, and eat more plant-based meals." 

He added that it was a happy accident that the new range taps into trends that have been accelerated by the pandemic. "Post-pandemic trends were not on the radar. Huel Hot & Savoury has been in the works for over a year. We wanted to get it right the first time. However, a growing interest in healthy and plant-based foods was evident pre-pandemic."

As well as Huel Hot & Savoury, Huel offers nutritionally complete meals in powder and ready-to-drink format. Huel is made from oats, rice protein, pea protein, sunflower, flaxseed, coconut oil MCTs, and several dietary supplements. It is sweetened with sucralose, maltodextrin, and xylitol.

Long ingredients vs fortification  

The new hot range features a long list of fortified ingredients, vitamins and minerals. Although there are no 'nasties', does Huel fear any backlash from consumers about the length of these lists? Many consumers – rightly or wrongly​ -- say they want cleaner, shorter labels and more recognisable ingredients in order to eat more healthily. How does Huel respond? 

"This is not something we fear,​" said Collier. "We are a ‘nutrition first’ brand and we know that one of the main reasons our consumers choose Huel is because of the nutritional benefits. When it comes to ingredients and how Huel is made, we have always been transparent with our customers. When it comes to food labels, we want to make this as easy as possible for customers to understand. For instance, we reference the source e.g. vitamin B12 (as cyanocobalamin) We also work on this through education through informative articles on our website, social media and YouTube videos. In addition, where cost, sustainability and nutrition align we look for cleaner label ingredients. For example, our source of vitamin C used to be labelled as “L-ascorbic acid” and now we use acerola cherries."

Increased satiety  

Another contentious area is satiety. While Huel has attracted legions of die-hard fans (called Heuligans) some customers have complained the ready-to-drink format doesn't fill them up. "Satiety is complicated and involves many factors,"​ responded Collier. "It could be that a person needs to have their Huel over a longer period of time or they need more calories because of their size, lifestyle and any physical activity they’re doing."

The new range comes in a pouch containing seven meals priced from £2.36 based on 400kcal servings, but has the flexibility to be tailored to whatever meal size customers choose.

"The recommended portion sizes for all Huel products are based on standard health guidelines,"​ added Collier. "However, we’re all different and have slightly different calorie requirements. Huel provides the flexibility to choose your own serving size - for example, those who do require more calories based on their lifestyle or who are looking to lose or gain weight. The new Huel Hot and Savoury range also provides this flexibility. It is made with wholefoods packed with quinoa, rice, lentils and vegetables and includes at least 23 grams of plant-based protein providing quality nutrition." 

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