It’s pretty much missing the whole preamble into meal replacement. I got really hooked into the idea while reading the initial Rob Rhinehart’s blogs while he was developing Soylent. I like the idea and I’ll make it work. Some people quoted in this article already religiously reject the idea and they will just make up any argument to make it not work, if they were interested in making it work they would have a deeper conversation.
My wife has a similar fear on Huel that I commonly see on people, although she’s a bit excused because she suffers from anxiety. People fear they won’t be able to consume food any more, but so few people on Huel stopped having food. Rhinehart’s put it very nicely in one of his first blogs, he said I love beer, but most of the time I just drink water because I need to fulfill my needs.
The main issue people have is this turning into a war vs wholefoods, which in my view couldn’t be farther away from the truth. If you end up watching a movie like soylent green and you imagine you just force a lot of people to eat only soylent green forever while they are unable to secure any other food, well, that’s an extreme dystopia and I agree it sounds pretty bad, but we are not talking about that, although I think that’s what lots of people see when you say this is “the future of food”.
After skimming through the article, it is from what I can see fearmongering and guesswork from a pool of people lacking credentials on the topic at hand. There also seems to be very little “I dislike Huel because of X”. And they even asked the opinion of an “investigative food journalist”. A very quick google search claims she got her education in London, but this could be art or psychology for all I know.
The British approach to food continues to shock me as a Scandinavian. As someone who has grown up around very slim and active people, it shocks me to hear of cities where only 25% of the citizens are considered a healthy weight. Norway definitely also has a brewing obesity problem, but from my observations back at home people generally stay in the overweight category rather than grow to be obese like in the UK. The current wave of food fashion seems to be whole foods, raw, organic etc, which caters more to the already healthy rather than those in need of guidance. I am looking at you, packed lunches with crisps and bottles of Irn Bru.
I’ve noticed the same with amazon reviews of Soylent. The overall score is 4.1 of 5 stars. But a number of those who rate the product one-star make it clear they never tried the product. And they made mention of the same “arguments” that the people in this Guardian article make.
`But when I talk to Joanna Blythman, an investigative food writer who has written five books on the food industry, she scoffs at the idea that the ingredients are “natural”.
“There is almost nothing in there in its natural form. These are very, very technologically altered hi-tech ingredients. They’re the opposite of what whole, natural foods are. If I read that list of ingredients on a product on a supermarket shelf, I would have a major problem.
It’s super good. I kind of even like the taste. It’s very oaty. It’s like having porridge or similar “Look at the eighth item on the ingredient list. It’s called a ‘vanilla flavour system’. I mean, seriously, what is that? It’s not vanilla extract or vanilla pods or vanilla grains or even vanilla essence. You are talking about the very rarified regions of food processing and industrial food chemistry where basic ingredients are being mucked around with and transformed. There are these very intense chemical sweeteners in there. There’s sucralose; that’s something like 200 times sweeter than sugar. There’s maltodextrin – that’s another sweetener. And xylitol – that’s another one. It’s all just rubbish. And then there’s ‘pea protein’, which sounds good, doesn’t it, but what the hell is it? You’re treating peas with a number of complex, chemical reactions to extract some sort of beige powder.`
What does Huel (the company) have to say in response? The words above go for the neck here stating there is nothing organic or whole food about Huel.
Pretty appalling article and the tone was set for a Huel bashing after the first couple of paragraphs.
If you can live off the land and eat raw organic natural hole food diet fair play to you. The vast majority of us can’t so comparing Huel to that without comparing it to what the average Joe buys from the supermarket shows to me the article was only going to be one sided. There also didn’t seem to be an attempt by the author to try it for a week and gave her assessment after 1 or 2 portions. I hadn’t even got the amount of Huel or the ratio of Huel/water right after 2.
Definitely written by someone who wanted to hate it before they’d even tried it. I don’t understand how people just don’t get it. They always seem to assume you’ve taken some oath to never eat a single bite of regular food again. Personally I have Huel to save time without resorting to junk food, but if I’m in the mood for regular food I just have it. I don’t turn down trips to restaurants if people want to go out. But most meals I cook at home during the week aren’t that exciting, they’re just to fulfil a purpose, so Huel replaces these and gives me an extra hour of free time.
I agree that the article is full of hate but what gets me is paragraph I posted above (altered hi-tech ingredients…etc) I think this needs defending/a response by Huel as it’s a damaging piece.
As well as that, plenty of us are not drinkers of Huel for the convenience, - we’re doing it because of the organic, natural healthy benefits. To me, this is a primary importance as there may be long term effects from taking in man-made factory produced drinks as a staple of your diet.
My point was that whatever your reasons for using Huel, it’s not something you have to lock yourself into and completely shun all other types of food. That was more in reference to the article whinging about food being a “social” thing as much as a need for nutrition. There’s nothing social about me being at home and cooking a meal for one anyway.
The way I phrase it to friends is not that I don’t eat food anymore, it’s just that I don’t have to. I can enjoy food whenever I like but I’m not going to come home knackered after a long shift and slave over a hot stove when I can bust out a shake in less than a minute.
I don’t speak for them but I can say this. The reason people praise organic and whole foods is because of their nutritional values. Huel is nutritionally complete, so you’d have to do a very specific combination of whole foods to achieve the precise nutritional values you are consuming with Huel.
If you just praise the words organic and whole, they don’t mean much actually, the word organic is often meaningless or represents something which is not of great importance.
It goes to show how much of the whole foods movement is quite religious, buys into marketing but very often the consumers of it are not aware of the benefits of it or what is it trying to achieve.
Hang on - by consuming whole foods you might actually be covering your bases with regard to things like phytonutrients. There are millions of such compounds and we don’t know what half of them do for us (if anything). Just look at Huel slowly introducing some of them as the evidence for their merits are discovered.
A bunch of Huel’s competitors (Ambronite, Ample, Bertrand, Nutberg etc.) appeal to this philosophy.
There was something that Julian said in an interview which was something along these lines: If people have a problem with powdered food, what about bread? People have been grinding food into powder for many years because it is a good way to preserve food. And actually, Huel is one step closer to its natural state than bread which gets baked before being eaten rather than just mixed with water.
Yeah, “might” is the key word here. Whereas Huel is trying to approach things more scientifically. But the product is still relatively new and being developed.
I’m not a fan of her bit personally if I’m honest.
She says the food isn’t in it’s natural form, but that isn’t a bad thing. Cooked food isn’t natural, but I doubt she would say you should not cook food. James Collier BSc (Hons), RNutr wrote a really good article on food processing that goes into it in better detail than me:
For most of it, she just seems relatively uninformed/unaware of the makeup of Huel. Xylitol, maltodextrin and sucralose make up less than 3% of Huel. Pea protein, the things she calls rubbish, is hailed by vegetarians and vegans for having helped end the monopoly of whey protein on the marketplace. She can say it’s processed, but doesn’t say why that’s bad, just seemingly that it is.
I think everyone who uses Huel would be met with a lot less stick if everyone stopped referring to it as the “future of food”. It just puts people’s backs up in a very Daily Mail, conclusion leaping way, so they think that, by existing, Huel is somehow going to stop them from eating and enjoying food. “If we’re not careful, one day food will be obliterated and we’re all just gonna be eating powder, if Huel get their way!”. People feel the need to defend their eating habits or love for eating and tasting actual food food because the implication is that it’s all going to change soon, unless we put a stop to this!
It’s not the future of food, it’s just a new product that will come in handy for a few people for various reasons
I think everyone’s reaction, initially, is like “eurgh, freak!”, but as soon as they realise that they’re under no obligation to try it, much less to have only Huel and never eat food again, and that nobody is gonna try and make them, they chill out about the whole thing.
People like to jump to ridiculous conclusions when they don’t understand something new
I rather like Rob Rhinehart’s view that a product like this can become the default meal, just as water is the default drink. If you’re thirsty and you can’t think of what to drink or there’s nothing you like around, you just drink water. In a similar way, if you’re hungry and you don’t know what food to prepare or you don’t have time, you can just have Soylent or Huel. But of course, if you want a roast dinner with a glass of beer, that’s fine too.
So it’s not the future of eating for pleasure. It’s future of healthy food when other options are unavailable.
Even the makers of Huel enjoy good food in addition to Huel, so for many people it’s not about completely replacing all food.