How sustainable is Huel, really?


#6

Relatively unrefined product.
Little packaging by KG of product.
Long shelf life so little waste.

On the other hand couriering a couple of bags around the country is less efficient than a single big delivery truck to your local supermarket, followed by only local miles for individual bags to your door.


#7

An easy starting approach to this question might be an indication of the countries of origin of the main ingredients so you could think about food miles…

Although many of the main ingredients grow happily in our climate and many are also low-input, I’m guessing from the residue tests Huel have published that the brown rice, peas and coconut come from China, the flax seed from the U.S.A., and the oats and sunflower seed from the U.K. That’s purely inference from the labs’ locations though, so could be very wrong.

If correct though, that would suggest the flax seed and pea protein could conceivably be more local (not sure about rice or coconut!), but at least these are dry ingredients, so far more efficient to transport than liquids. On top of this they’re all fairly long life ingredients, which would lead me to expect use of surface transport, with far less impact than air freight.


#8

I agree with Hannah that rough estimates of environmental impact would be nice, certification can wait till the company becomes more established and can afford to pay for it. Certainly, at least knowing where the ingredients are sourced from would be a good starting point, as Chughes pointed out.

I must admit, if Huel were to lower the footprint of its products by sourcing its ingredients locally, I’m not sure I would still be willing to purchase Huel if this meant it had a significantly higher selling price.


#9

I recently posted on this topic asking Huel to provide even a rough explanation to where is the base ingredients country of origin. They were evasive (edit: not intentionally so, merely in an unsatisfactory way) in answer simply stating they get it from different suppliers and so don’t have the information, which i assume could be easily acquired (not like its uncommon for food brands to post where its from). In my opinion Huel cannot provide a detailed analysis of their environmental impact. However they can easily make some gestures to show that their commitment to a sustainable is more than marketing and just the nature of their product. So how about a statement saying they will try to source base ingredients from within the UK where possible? So at least we know our sunflower seeds aren’t being flown over from Australia on however many liters of kerosene? I haven’t seen anything conclusive from them yet to suggest they want to commit to sustainability, and I agree a price increase in trade for certificates is a bad idea. Still you can guarantee us that the base ingredients which can be cheaply grown in the UK are grown here.


#10

I know that eating beef for example isn’t sustainable at all as the amount of resources used to raise the cattle feed it etc mean that for 1 calorie it takes 70 calories to produce it… so that’s really unsustainable.


#11

Here is docment we recently wrote on food waste…

With ever more demand for food globally, along with some frankly outrageously wasteful processes that occur in the food supply chain, Julian Hearn, the founder of Huel (www.huel.com) set about creating a food that minimised this wastage. He looked at the three main areas of food wastage, to see if there could be a product created that could address these issues, whilst maintaining the nutritional quality and natural benefits of foods with minimal processing. After years of research and development, with the help of James Collier, the Huel meal concept was created.

Area 1 - Household food wastage:

Households throw out over seven million of tonnes of food each year* in the UK, with the majority of this being foods that go out of date and are no longer edible. This equates to more than £200 for every householder in the UK. Huel products provide a solution to this issue, as it is a dried and finely milled product and hence has a shelf life of up to 12 months. As there are 14 meals in a bag Huel, so long as the consumer has a meal about once a month, there is no household food wastage from consuming Huel. (I’m not sure this sentence is necessary)

This long shelf life is not through any use of preservatives or any other artificial method. It is simply due to drying the foods and eliminating all water from the powder. This ensures no bacteria can survive and thrive, meaning the foods will not go off. This production method is no different to milling flour. It is simply milling and drying different ingredients to create a balanced nutritional profile of the Huel products. Drying food is probably the oldest form preserving food, humans have been turning food in flour for over 30,000 years: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101018/full/news.2010.549.html )

Finely milling the ingredients, in addition to resealable packaging, allows the Huel powders to remain in optimal condition, allowing consumers to enjoy the Huel products for up to a year after purchase.

Area 2 - Food packaging waste

Food packaging waste also accounts for a significant percentage of the total wastage from the supply of foods in the UK. Huel also works hard to minimise packaging waste. As Huel is a powder, a fit for purpose pouch was created to exactly contain the product. These Huel pouches weigh only 34g, which means even if a consumer ate Huel meals exclusively for a whole year, they would use only 104 bags of Huel over a years period (on a 2,000Kcal daily calorific intake). Therefore the total packaging used by the consumer on Huel over the year would be only just over 3kgs. When one considers the full wheelie bins placed outside every week for collection, to create only 3kgs of waste every year really is a radical step forwards in terms of packaging waste reduction.

Indeed the team worked out that a single pallet of Huel powders would last an individual almost 96 years. Unfortunately, the Huel pouches are currently not recyclable, due to no current product that can protect against degradation of the ingredients and is also recyclable. However, as soon as packaging technology catches up with the Huel products, this will be investigated also.

There is 96 years worth of Huel pouches, if you consumed 2000 kcals everyday.

Area 3 - Farm to plate wastage:

Post-farm wastage:

A great deal of produce is rejected and hence wasted by the supply chain due to size, shape and colour variation of the individual products. Some estimates have put the levels of rejection for natural variation as high as 30%. Because the Huel product is milled and dried, there is very little post farm-gate wastage. Shape, size and variations in colour of the ingredients are not relevant in the production of Huel powders. Therefore the amount of ingredients rejected during the production of Huel powders is minimised, allowing another improvement on food waste when compared to the traditional food supply chain.

Transit wastage:

Huel products as a powder are resilient to any potential damage caused in transit. As it in a powdered format, the Huel product does not suffer from many of the common challenges associated in fresh produce transport. The Huel powders do not bruise, as with many fruits and vegetables, Huel does not have to be transported in a temperature controlled environment and as the the powders have such a long shelf life, environmentally challenging practices, such as air freight for fresh produce, does not have to be used. Again, the Huel powders have managed to minimise the environmental impact of getting Huel powders from production to the consumer.

With environmental credentials of products becoming more and more under scrutiny by the consuming public, Julian believes that minimising the impact on the environment is not just a moral decision.

“We get almost daily feedback from our customers questioning our environmental credentials and positively reacting when we explain our environmental process and strategy. There is no doubt in my mind that us choosing to pursue processes and products that minimised our environmental impact has helped catalyse our success commercially”

For the above reasons and because Huel is also super-convenient and nutritionally complete, 4.5+million meals have been sold in just 18 months of trading.


Huel in plastic boxes
#12

Plus being vegan is one of our biggest ways to help the planet - Livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the cars and planes in the world combined. Have a read of this - http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/


#13

Well just to point out, if we ate grey squirrel we would definitely be helping our own ecosystem, as they have no natural predator and destroy trees through ringbarking and eating new shoots, not to mention the red squirrel population. Also is there not some contention that the amount of protein in meat is high enough to compensate for the amount of energy/water going into growing protein rich crops? I’m not too clear on this topic as it was explained to me by a friend and obviously their are a lot of other factors so don’t shoot the parrot. :slight_smile:


#14

Cannibalism’s good too for similar reasons.


#15

I don’t remember ringbarking any trees lately but you know, whatever floats your boat :slight_smile:


#16

When i started 100% huel i never intended on going vegan, but after a month or so, it became a no brainer! crazy to see how much of what we eat is purely based on marketing and expectations within our culture ( which also stems from marketing… )


#17

I love what Bodyhack is doing with Huel. Even without the environmental considerations, knowing a well balanced meal can be made up in seconds is a revelation – I wouldn’t want to go back.

Some kind of annual environmental assessment would be welcome though. Maybe something in the vein of Apple’s Environmental Reports, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. And how we’re doing.’


This is really off-topic, but: Those red squirrels we have in the UK are more than likely descendants of reintroduced populations.

But for 43 years, from 1903, there was an active effort on estates across the Highlands to trap, shoot and kill reds.

By 1946, the Highland Squirrel Club had killed 102,900 squirrels and paid out £1,504 in bounties.

BBC News: ‘Send me tails of red squirrels’


I have sent you today by train, a box containing 523 squirrel’s tails.

Am Baile: Letter from the Lovatt Estate, 1920

And red squirrels aren’t, contrary to popular telling, under threat, Sciurus vulgaris, the Eurasian red squirrel is of ‘least concern’ (Wikipedia).


#18

Dammit @neeklamy, the first rule of Highland Squirrel Club is …

More seriously, I like your idea of an environmental assessment or similar. It sounds very much in tune with Huel’s direction anyway, so one might hope that formalising the process a little wouldn’t be too onerous. It might be interesting to talk to an organisation like Ethical Consumer for some guidance on best practice for small companies in that arena. The impression I get is that they give companies a lot of credit simply for engaging with these issues at all.


#19

I have lost all faith in the Wildlife Trusts since the announcement to cull the grey squirrels using volunteers (read thugs) to bludgeon the poor creatures to death. Heck there is little scientific proof to support the cull…and for a charity that opposed the badger cull to go down this route means they are losing a lot of support.


#20

Hi Julian, do you have a link to that document external to this forum, would be great for sharing with friends and family who are interested in why we do what we do! =)


#21

As much as I would like to put this topic to bed (never should have raised it in the first place) as I don’t think animal rights is a concern of Huel.
BUT like the itch you can’t stop scratching…
Can I point out that I have heard first hand from a woodsmen that has made it their life work (and several generations after that) that grey squirrels and deer are a real problem to woodsmen, due to the lack of any natural predators (so whereas dogs, foxes, owls and other birds of prey can and do red squirrels but due to the grey squirrels size and bite capacity nothing (save larger non native birds of prey) can successfully prey on them, and their nests are impossible to reach (once again since they have no Arial threat they just move higher. Whether or not we introduced either population, they upset the balance of an ecosystem which to me is far more damaging then any individual animals suffering, I would take a human giving a quick death (with the intent on killing them quickly and moving on) to an animal just eating it, living or not.
Obviously not expecting anyone to be convinced by this, my science says this your science says that an all, but I trust the woodsmen who’s spent his life living there to know what he’s talking about. Sorry if any offense was taken, what I was really asking about was the energy input of growing vegetable protein versus meat, assuming an eco-conscious production of it.


#22

I’m a bit busy right now to type up a full response, but this article from a few years ago is a good one.

I will say the following though. There are various myths about the greys not backed by scientific fact.

The myths are that greys spread pox which kills reds…only 2% of reds die of this, and many are near artificial feeding stations where reds gather…so it is passed from red to red. sexual contact is way it is spread, yet greys don’t mate with reds.

Road accidents account for 53% in past 25 years of research, so prohibiting cars is better than culling greys, but of course selfish humans won’t do that.

Another myth is that greys being larger stronger etc. eat all the food…again not true, their diets are actually quite different.

How about song bird populations? Natural England Trust for ornithology carried out research and concluded there is negligible detriment, and in the 70s reds were also demonised due to this.

Destruction of trees. Yes in times of hunger greys can damage trees, but the scale has been exaggerated on purpose. In fact greys are the world’s biggest forest regenerators.


#23

Like I said, you have your science and I have mine, but we remain convinced of our own truth. But I think between us we’ve contributed enough info for Huelers to investigate themselves if desired, and clearly Huel appeals to people on either side of this kinda small fence.


#24

One final thing. Human activities have accounted for over 60% of red squirrel deaths in past 25 years…and we wanna cull the scapegoated greys. Humans just love killing things…seagulls, urban foxes, grey squirrels, pigeons…we cause the problems and only see fit in dealing with our actions with killing them… Kinda sucks…


#25

Liked for your viewpoint obviously, not the fact of all the senseless killings. :disappointed: