Can we get recyclable packaging?

I’m mainly talking about new customers, or existing customers who naturally want to try the different flavours and types of Huel, but turns out it doesn’t work for them.

Isn’t the amount of food wasted down to the individual, rather than the company they bought from?


There is of course some responsibility both ways. But this doesn’t excuse the company forcing people into buying more than they need or want.

In the UK Tesco came under a lot of fire a few years back for offering multibuys and group deals on salad bags, because this was leading to a lot of food waste with people throwing away unused salad etc. You could blame the consumer here, but really the company needs to take responsibility and stop encouraging overbuying. Now this wasn’t even a case of forcing people to buy more - it was an incentive. So the situation with Huel’s minimum orders is probably worse.

We haven’t landed the answer yet, no, but we know a lot about what doesn’t work. It’s very difficult and hugely complex. Take our RTD bottle for example. The company who make this bottle make thousands of different bottles for many of the biggest FMCG brands, they have one other bottle that has the same number of barriers (air/light etc) that our bottle does. Our packaging is more complicated that anything brands like coke or pepsi make. This takes a long time.

Currently our pouch reduces huge amounts of food waste. Are you saying that we should change to a recyclable pouch now, but reduce the minimum order value, and those food waste values will cancel each other out? That wouldn’t reduce food waste, but increase it. Recyclable pouches we have at the moment aren’t strong enough, the complaints of burst pouches we would get would be huge.

What data do you have on quantity of customers who throw away pouches they don’t use?


I only buy 2 bags at a time and if I want to try a new flavour I only get the 1 bag of it in case I am not keen on it. But even though I may not be keen on it I don’t waste it I just try and use it up quickly. Sometimes by the time I finish the bag I have grown to like it a bit more. I have never wasted Huel ( only when the cap on the lid of a shaker has come open in my work bag :smirk: twice that’s happened )

A recyclable bag needs to be balanced with a durable bag and a bag that keeps the product freshest for longest.

Until this year (Covid yawn) I used to still get invitations to all sorts of packaging technology and packaging innovation exhibitions, usually held at the Birmingham NEC because for private equity, packaging was a fairly safe play and I was known to be interested in buying companies along those lines.

You would -never- believe how complicated some of this stuff was for something we basically take for granted. A company I know that specialises in packaging food pouches for ethnic products spent five years and over a million quid researching just one new product line.

Another exciting development (being a bit sarcastic here) was a company that had to develop a specialist food package for babyfood- I don’t think they ever figured a way to make that one recycle friendly. It’s obviously not a lack of desire, simply that packaging stuff is way way more complicated than the average punter would think.

I’m sure if Huel had found a way to improve on their packaging they would already be using it.

@chev Probably the worst part of Huel or any other company in the sector is paying money and throwing away the non recyclable bag.

But the solution is not as easy as it seems. Overall Huel compensates its packaing a lot by just being a powdered and complete food in one single bag.

But the problems of the new packaging are many… It needs to be very strong, durable, flexible and cheap while being light and safe for food.

I am sure that Huel is looking into it but it is not easy. Some users have suggested many ideas but the implementation in real life is harsh for sure.

We discussed some ideas here if you are interested:

And here one of the concept we shared.

@Tim_Huel could be interesting for some huel users to know your view about this complicated topic in an article or thread and share some of your develpment, concepts and some to follow the evolution of this topic with updates.

I should never have posted that here. I literally just received an invite to a virtual exhibition from packaging innovations lol :joy:

‘They’ are watching you. All the time. :rofl:

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You are putting words in my mouth now. All I’m saying is that if you genuinely cared about food waste, rather than using it as a basis for green-washing the unsustainable packaging, you wouldn’t be insisting on these high minimum orders - it’s hypocritical.

Of course you need a working solution before switching to something better, but after 5 years there ought to be some progress.

I know it may seem like I’ve created this account to have a moan and I’m coming across overly negative… but I do care because in most areas Huel is vastly better than any of the competition. It’s a great product with quality, healthy ingredients, it’s just a shame they can’t extend this greatness to all areas.

Some ideas:

How about air sealed tins with foil tabs, like you see in coffee like Lavazza Prontissimo?

Or dare I mention SlimFast… as far as I can see their powder tins are recyclable, maybe take a look at what they’re doing?

Or put recyclable bags in cardboard tubes or boxes for protection (like a cereal box)

You can’t stick your head in the sand. It happens. Of course I don’t have quantitative data, but I have seen plenty of evidence across social media.

Care about food waste = remove the minimum orders.

I suspect that new packaging will add to the cost of Huel. Currently there is not fee for postage. Therefore new, heavier packaging may increase postage cost. Whilst I am happy to pay for improvement to the product, I will be unhappy to pay more to compensate for packaging. I suspect I may not be in the minority here. Why pay more for something if it will ultimately be disposed of?
Regarding food waste, if the minimum order was removed, would this mean smaller orders could be ordered for a postage fee? Is this a favoured option?

Using metal canisters in food packaging is really taking a step backwards for many reasons. They cost far more to produce pack and ship and expend significantly more energy to manufacture than flexibles. They are also prone to damage and deformation as well as being difficult to make fully aseptic. To ensure full food hygiene standards they have to be coated with several plastic barriers or liners on the inside making them not nearly as recyclable as you would imagine.

Combine this with extra freight and shipping tonnage, changing the entire production and packing lines etc and they make much less of a compelling argument. Given the entitled uproar when Huel dared to increase their prices for first time in four years, the increase in per pack cost probably wouldn’t sit well at all.

Adding corrugate outers to inner barrier bags is also going to significantly increase costs – when you look at pack manufacturing – a printed folded carton costs double what a flexible flow wrap does to produce. A rigid (plastic/glass/aluminium) container is at least 6 to 7 times the cost.

The only viable long term solution for products with the specific barrier needs of Huel is continuing research into flexible barrier packaging that is both fit for purpose and suitable for widely available recycling methods.

hearsay on social media is hardly definitive evidence - you may as well just look on wikipedia.


There are other complete food brands with recyclable packaging, there has been for a couple years now.

It might mean not using the exact same format of bottle/pouch etc (and Huel is right to be cautious here because of so many different reasons around brand recognition, production and shipping) but we all know it’s feasible.

Sooner or later customer demand will make it an issue and then it’ll be resolved. For now though; less waste packaging through a huel diet is clearly better than more through a ‘normal’ one.

…Unless of course the food options being replaced by huel came in recyclable packaging, like sandwiches and crisps :wink:

What I’d like to see is no more black cardboard used in delivery. Feels a needless use of ink though I assume that was chosen to stand out during delivery to offices @Tim_Huel?

you have to ask yourself if they are actually fully recyclable or even claimed to be and if they offer the same barrier protection to preserve the ingredients. the plastic pots you get many protein products in for example are generally not fit for purpose unless they are of the opaque black plastic variety and thats a whole set of different issues.

they should really direct that demand at their local government / councils to upgrade their recycling facilities to match the pace of pack development.

potato chip bags are incredibly difficult to recycle for the same reason Huel bags are - they just don’t tell you that.

black ink is the cheapest of all the colours but yes, ink coverage does play a factor in packaging cost.

The specific example I’m thinking of uses bottles made by fermenting sugar into lactic acid and polymerising it into to PLA. The result is a bottle that 100% recyclable and even compostable. Their aim is to switch to edible bottles within a few years when the technology allows.

That’ll never happen in the UK. Recycling is done so much better elsewhere in the world but all the focus here is on consumers. If we have to make better choices, brands have to help us. There just isn’t the will in government (local or national)

I didn’t mean cost so much as why use ink at all. A brown cardboard box would surely be cheaper and more better for the environment.

Unfortunately biodegradable polylactic acid has incredibly poor barrier characteristics - so to improve them it has to be blended or lined with with other types of plastics which kind of deals the object.

they are great for products like fresh beverages which have short shelf lives so the barrier protection issue is mitigated but useless for anything requiring long exposure to energy sources that would degrade it - light, heat etc.

I suggested plain packs once on here for repeat subscription deliveries - young Tim was not keen on unbranded packs leaving the warehouse :slight_smile:

Well… The plain packaging is a good idea as an option for long term users, but I think branding get lost there…

Combining that option with a Huel zipper to put in every opened bag for those users could be interesting.

@Phil_C what colour would it be a plain package? aluminium foil + transparent plastic cover?

I think this is just a bit too much now. If you switch to Huel you are saving (in most cases) a LOT of packaging materials since you get a lot of meals out of one single bag vs purchasing separately in boxes/tins/PU wrappers, etc.
This is like complaining that Huel is just 90% green not 100% vs a high street average of 50.

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