Huel Carbon Footprint Concerns


#1

Something is really wrong with Huel: only 1 of your main ingredients is sourced from Europe.
Oat: UK
Flaxseed Powder: Canada
Sunflower Oil: India
Pea Protein: China
Brown Rice Protein: China
MCT Powder: China

Given that Huel is branded vegan and great for the environment, it is sad and extremely disappointing to see that so many of its core ingredients are sourced from the other side of the planet. There are 2 main problems with that. First of all, Huel’s ecological and carbon footprints are quite significant given that most of the ingredients are sourced overseas to be then processed in the UK. Second of all, I am extremely skeptical about the quality of the products grown in China given the pollution problem that their agriculture is suffering from.

Let’s take on Huel’s main ingredients.

Oat: UK
Great! Minimum transport required and produced under strong European regulations: great for the environment and great for the consumers.

Flaxseed Powder: Canada
This is really disappointing given that the UK is actually the first flaxseed/linseed producer in Europe, followed by France. Instead of shipping flaxseed powder all the way from Canada, why don’t you source powder from flaxseeds grown by local UK farmers?
source:
http://www.factfish.com/statistic/linseed%2C%20production%20quantity

Sunflower Oil: India
France is the 4th largest producer of sunflower oil in the world: sounds like this would be much better for the environment than shipping it all the way from India. If you don’t like sunflower oil grown in France, how about sourcing it from Ukraine instead? The country is the second largest sunflower seed producer in the world (far in front of India).
source:
https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/world-s-leading-producers-of-sunflower-oil.html

Pea Protein: China
Brown Rice Protein: China
MCT Powder: China
First, sourcing 3 out of 5 of Huel’s main ingredients from China has a really big impact on the carbon footprint of the product. But most importantly, China has a major and critical pollution problem and it is estimated that more than 10% of the soil used for agriculture is polluted. It is really disappointing to see a product with a high focus on health like yours sourcing 3 out of 5 of its main ingredients from China. There are many other countries producing these ingredients with higher standards of quality and safety.
sources:
I wanted to share 4 different sources here but got the message “Sorry, new users can only put 2 links in a post.” So just Google “China agriculture pollution” or “China polluted soil” for references.

We can all easily guess the reasons why you are sourcing most of your ingredients from Asia: cost reduction.
But for a product like yours, sacrificing the quality of the ingredients and negatively impacting the planet to save on costs might actually be the worst possible decision for your company and negatively affect your brand image.

I would bet that the great majority of Huel’s customers are health-conscious and environmentally friendly. So when you think about it, starting to source your ingredients from Europe would actually greatly benefit your brand image and make marketing extremely easy. I am sure that Huel’s customers would even be willing to pay a little extra for a totally safe and sustainable source of nutrients. (See the thread in your forum called Pesticide-Free Huel? as a proof of your customers’ standards)

If Huel or one of your competitor start producing a similar product with all ingredients grown in Europe, I would order 2 years worth of it immediately! I know that the MCT powder produced from coconuts might be hard to get in Europe but for the other ingredients, there are no excuses.


#2

Not lots to add, but with Huel’s repeatedly stated ideals around reducing food waste and saving the planet I’m a little surprised some ingredients are sourced from as far away as China.


#3

A well laid out and reasonable post i thought. I commented on the pesticide thread to so I won’t repeat, just to say I’d like to hear a variety of others thoughts including the Huel team.
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Adding that before starting on huel, l paid almost zero attention to where my food came from. As part of the changes I’ve made including adding hue l to my diet, I pay more attention now.

Leaves me feeling oddly slightly guilty calling into question huels procurement policies.

Plus where do other powdered food producers source theirs, is a fair question i think? After all there are a few people who post here who appear to be on a tight budget and who’d likely be impacted by supplier changes.I
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Fixed font probs & tidied


#4

I’ll guarantee it’s profit .There is literally no other reason I can think of .


#5

Hi @Tom_S and others

Thanks for the post and a very valid point made. Just so others reading this are aware, at Huel we aim to be transparent about what we do and we recently posted this article so people can understand the ingredients we use, so I’m guessing this is where the info for this post came from. (But please correct me, Tom, if I’m incorrect with this assumption).

It isn’t, however, as straightforward as some would think. Far from it, as it happens. And, no, it’s definitely not profit @Jaijai, despite what you think; and there’s no ‘easily guess’ reasons @Tom_S, because, bluntly, you’re wrong!

Firstly, here’s the reason why we have the current suppliers
Although we’re growing rapidly as a business, we’re still recruiting and one area we’re looking at is procurement and these people will look at all aspects when suggesting new suppliers including nutrition and sustainability issues. Ingredient choices so far have been driven by quality and nutrition rather than other factors. Also, with smaller companies, options are limited so we had fewer options; but I’d like to think now we’re at a size where suppliers would be keen to work with us more; meaning we can continue to address these points. So, you’ll be pleased to here we have been already working on this.

Now the reasons why it’s not just as simple as 'buy local; it’s better’
Product quality varies hugely. Our company is ‘nutrition first’ and rightly so. Sustainability and carbon footprint are very important to us, but not to the detriment of quality.

For example, with flaxseed, the omega-3 content does vary; it’s the primary reason it’s in Huel. Then there’s the heavy metal content of the soil - we have certain limits to adhere to in end product. What about the milling? It needs to suit our product. Flaxseed can also be a risky product in terms of microbial contamination and we have quite a big inclusion so this is a factor for Huel compared with other flax-containing products. These are just a few top-of-head reasons.

In respect of the Chinese-sourced ingredients, our ingredients have very high quality standards so any contamination from the pollution concerns raised, don’t apply.

Two of you have incorrectly made the assumption that the reason for these choices are profit. Of course, we aim to make a profit, but I’d rather look at longer term profit and I’d like to think we’re doing well because we are transparent and having the best quality formula; also that we’d make more sales by addressing issues of concern and ‘doing the right thing’. I’d like to think we’ve demonstrated this by posting the article and providing replies like this.

Now the bit where I agree with you
We absolutely should be trying to source our ingredients from the best suppliers and the more local the better. But not at the expense of nutrition and quality (ironically, what you suggest this is what we’re not doing!). We are doing this and plan to do it harder. However, supply regions may not change for reasons that it’s not in the best interest of the product. And also, you’re just looking at carbon footprint in respect of food miles - there are other sustainability issues, where a supplier in another part of the world may actually be better than a European one.

Huel is actually far, far better than other food sources in terms of sustainability and there has been a project running on this and we plan on sharing information soon. You’ll like it, especially as it identifies areas where, although we’re miles ahead of other foods, we can still improve our sourcing.

You’re dead right to raise this issues of carbon footprint, but you’re wrong with your assumptions around price and quality: sorry to be blunt! We are absolutely committed to improving which will involve looking seriously at ‘buying local’, but I hope now I’ve demonstrated that there’s a lot more to this.


Pesticide-Free Huel?
#6

thanks for the post


#7

So nothing at all to do with profit?


#8

Mate, seriously…


#9

Seriously what ? ,if it’s 100 % nothing to do with it where they source then they are the 1 and only business who it’s like that .And they should be commended .Any good business who dosnt source the cheapest high quality materials are stupid ,I’m sure you would agree .


#10

I’d agree that stupidity is playing a significant role in this conversation.


#11

Wow ,can’t I change my opinion after the reply and explanation ? Guess not seeing as your so intelligent ,right ?


#12

Useful to read James’ post and the linked article.

I’m happy to hear of the care thats taken at multiple stages and that the scale of Huel is allowing the team / business to investigate alternate suppliers.

Thinking a bit about potential increases in costs and so price, then my initial reaction is that something like 5-10% I’d be fine with. 50% would definitely have me considering alternates and 100% likely see me back on the take aways :laughing:


#13

Honestly if Huel went up in price because it became “more environmental” or whatever, I’d probably stop buying it at that point. It’s reasonably costly as is, but is good value at this point.

It’s already better than almost every food out there from an environmental perspective, so I see no need to go that extra mile and increase cost because of it.


#14

I’d like to think we have more buying power now we’re bigger and this will give us economies of scale. Most companies would look to use this buying power to make a larger profit, but we plan on using this to buy better.


#15

Understood - there’ll be a spectrum of views on this.
I’ve regularly read posts from people -understandably some/most have been studying - who think its a little high already…


#16

Without wanting to try to reveal Huel’s precise formula, I’m assuming that the most abundant ingredient, the oats (maybe 50%-ish of the total ingredients??), is the ingredient that IS sourced locally. That’s a good start I think. So, percentage wise, the smaller quantity ingredients contribute to a lesser degree of the overall footprint of the product. In a perfect world it’d all be grown on the roof of the factory, but perfection doesn’t come overnight. Let’s not forget that we’re all sat here typing away on products shipped over from the other side of the planet complaining about stuff being shipped from the other side of the planet!!


#17

Hi @HarryTuttle - yes oats are over 50% of the total formula.


#18

Just a quick question out of curiosity.

How do you mantain the flavour when you change some ingredients or providers, is it hard? Or do you stick with the result of the new change?

I guess you have to change sometimes or you plan to do


#19

That’s a really great question - if we change, we have to redevelop an it’s a major hassel so that’s why we don’t change ingredients that often. When we change suppliers, we will do a bunch at the same time for this reason.


#21

Thank you for this post. I’m disappointed that most post are solely concerned with individual diets. An organic , pesticide free, ethically sourced version would excite me much more than low fat/carbohydrate/ flavours. Would not hesitate to buy and consume it regularly. As it is it seems just another health drink and nothing exciting in terms of radically changing how we consume and waste food.