‘Bridging the gap between food and drink’: Behind BOL Foods’ foray into the meal replacement category

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image source: BOL Foods
Image source: BOL Foods

Related tags: Complete nutrition, Soylent, Huel, Ready meals, plant-based

Plant-based ready meal company BOL Foods is joining the likes of Huel and Soylent in the meal replacement market with its newly launched Power Shakes. FoodNavigator catches up with founder Paul Brown to find out how his range sets itself apart in the burgeoning category.

BOL Foods is ‘reinventing mealtimes’ with its new range of ready-to-drink Power Shakes, according to founder and CEO Paul Brown.

A ‘first of its kind’, the meal replacement drinks are designed for ‘busy people’ who ‘don’t want to compromise on taste or nutrition’.

The launch sees BOL make its first steps into the meal replacement category – one that is growing rapidly with the likes of Huel, Soylent, Ambronite, Vitaline, and Feed.

So what are BOL’s Power Shakes’ point of difference? They are produced in a ‘radically different’ way, Brown told FoodNavigator, “and the overall taste and experience is wildly different too”.

A ‘game-changing’ meal solution

Brown launched BOL back in 2015, following a 14-year stint at Innocent Drinks – where he started as a grocery commercial manager and worked his way up to lead the company’s food arm.

BOL started out with a range of pots, salad jars and soups. Yet two years in, Brown decided to ditch meat and fish from the range. Since then, the CEO has also cut out dairy, to create a 100% plant-based brand.

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The Power Shakes range joins BOL's pots, soups, jars and dinner boxes / Image source: BOL Foods

The range includes salad jars, dinner boxes, soups, veg pots, and ‘power’ brekkie and lunch shakes.

This latest offering, a nutritionally complete product, is key for consumers looking to get ‘all the nutritious benefits’ from a ‘normal healthy meal’, but who don’t have time to cook, Brown explained.

“Too often choosing the convenient option means having to compromise on taste, health or quality. We wanted to create a game-changing meal solution that addresses these issues and allows those who might often skip meals to easily get a nutritionally complete meal into their bodies.

“In the UK, people typically don’t get enough Vitamin D, we struggle to hit our recommended 30g of fibre a day, and women are the largest at-risk group for iron deficiency.”

BOL’s Power Shakes, which come in six flavours including Coconut, Almond & Chai Spice and Chocolate, Orange & Toasted Hazelnut, have been ‘carefully developed’, he continued. They contain all 26 essential vitamins and minerals and are ‘perfect on the go’.

Vitamin and protein fortification

Analysing a 450ml bottle of BOL’s Mango, Peach & Creamy Coconut Power Brekkie Shake, for example, the product has 250kcal, contains 13g protein, is a source of fibre, and is low in fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt. It represents two servings of your ‘5-a-day’.

The SKU is made from a blend of pea protein, orange juice, mango, peaches, butternut squash, creamed coconut, sunflower seeds, orange zest, vitamin complex, gluten-free oats, and basil.

The Power Shakes represent BOL’s first step into vitamin and protein fortification to ensure it provides a nutritionally complete meal, said Brown, “just in a bottle”.

“Complete nutrition means different things to different people, but our Power Shakes contribute a significant amount of to your reference intakes.”

Entering the meal replacement category

The meal replacement products market is on the rise. According to Mordoor Intelligence, the market is expected to register a CAGR of 7.1% between 2019-2024.

The market research group puts this predicted growth down to a variety of factors, including busy lifestyles, rapid urbanisation, rising health consciousness, and increasing demand for food convenience.

While Brown acknowledges its ‘whole plant food meal solution’ naturally sites within this category, alongside a number of ‘incumbent brands’, the CEO stressed the uniqueness of BOL’s offering.

"Unlike other meal replacement drinks, our Power Shakes are packed with fresh fruit, vegetables and wholefoods and ensure you don’t have to compromise on taste or nutrition."

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Image source: BOL Foods

To use Soylent and Huel as examples, the former is made from a blend of soy protein isolate (from GM soybeans), maltodextrin, isomaltulose, soy lecithin, soluble corn fibre, gellan gum, cellulose salt, sucralose, and a vitamin and mineral premix.

Huel is made from a blend of oats, pea protein, flaxseed, brown rice protein, vanilla flavour system, MCT powder, sunflower oil powder, and a micronutrient blend.

“Most of the protein in each of our Power Shakes comes from the fresh vegetables, beans, pulses and seeds,” ​explained Brown. “Over and above these ingredients we give them a plant-powered protein boost with pea protein – which is an amazing source of easily digestible protein that has all nine essential amino acids the body needs.

“Pea protein is also higher in iron than whey protein and compared to soy, uses much less water and landmass in its manufacture.”

'Plenty of room in the category'

This does not mean to say that BOL sees itself as 'competing' against existing brands in the meal replacement category. Rather, Brown told this publication the focus is on 'helping to create a new sub-category', which 'bridges the gap between food and drink'.

"As our Power Shakes are made by Mother Nature, they offer something quite different to the current choices on the market. I'm sure there will be plenty of room for ourselves and lots more future innovation that is no doubt on the horizon from other companies in this space.

"The macro trends of health, convenience and plant-based are still on the rise so innovation like our Power Shakes, although completely innovative, should deliver on what much of the UK are looking for."

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