My Huel inspired Thesis for the University

Hello everyone!

My name is Adolfo, nice to e-meet you :blush:

I am a Spanish student that is doing a project on bottle design. Being a fan of the Huel style, I made the label inspired on the one from you guys. How does it look?

By the way, the bottle in the picture above is 100% Biodegradable made of PLA, just in case it may be useful for you – I saw several sustainability related posts. Significantly more sustainable than the 51% r-PET bottles.

This post is to ask for permission to use the label design for the project. It will not be commercialized and will only be presented to my teachers.

PS1: Also, I have seen that there are great designers in this forum (looking at you @Phil_C :wink:) so any feedback on how to improve it is welcomed.

PS2: The project is mainly about the bottle structure and its functionality for the market. There are no promotional purposes behind this post.

1 Like

Hey Adolfo - Nice work - you probably already went through this exhaustive thread too :slight_smile: good that you’ve gone with the sqround pack format!

as for PLA - there are as many cons as there are pros I’m afraid and it’s really not an ideal solution for long shelf life packs like Huel. honestly it has no real world benefits over a 100% rPET bottle. it’s true you’re not burning huge amounts of fossil fuels to create it but the same is also true of rPET. You also have a lot of complications with it in the recycling circular chain.

As with all things recycling - there really is no magic silver bullet material at the moment so we have to make the best decisions we can on balance for the time being :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thank you Phil! Your feedback is much appreciated :blush:.

Yes! Behind every thesis there is always an extensive research. I cannot lie and say your design was not an inspiration. I believe that the reduced carbon footprint the squared packaging provides due to the reduced volume in transportation can’t be ignored. The less space between two bottles in a box, the bigger the number of bottles you can fit!

Of course, everything has it’s pros and cons. But I will have to disagree over your statement “ Honestly it has no real world benefits over a 100% rPET bottle”. Of course, everything has it’s pros and cons. However PLA has tremendous benefits over r-PET, namely:

  • It has a 75% lower CO2 footprint. 75%! No joke.
  • It is derived from plants, while r-PET from petroleum. No room for oil derived packaging in many of the most known brands nowadays.
  • It is vegan and plant based
  • Over 90% of the bottle will biodegrade in less than 6 months, while into industrial composting environment! Wow, 90% just disappears in less than 6 months! For r-PET, hundreds of years would be needed or 400 times faster degradation… No joke either
  • If not into a composting plant but by mistake brought into a landfill, the biodegradation times would be of few years (bacteria would eat the bottle) compared to hundreds of years for r-PET, or 20 times faster degradation… No joke either

In a nutshell 20x to 400x faster degradation times, 75% lower CO2 footprint, vegan & plant based! Quite a powerful advantage list you would agree with me, don’t you?

On a side note, you said that “ it’s really not an ideal solution for long shelf life packs like Huel”. In a post made some days ago in the US forum about someone asking if they could consume a product from 2019, the Huel team recommended the user “to not have any of that Huel!”. The expiration date on the Huel drink is 12 months, and PLA bottles have a shelf life longer than that.

Of course! And for that I think that you will agree with me that saying that 51% of the bottle is rPET is a form of Greenwashing. Nowadays many companies do offer a 100% rPET product, and it is being commercialized by many brands with similar products. I do not know the process Huel is following to transition to 100% rPET, but you know the saying “there is always room for improvement”.

So, Adolfo is making a bottle named Heis?

Are you sure, you didnt mistake the “L” with an “S”?

Jokes aside, are you from Spain?

absolutely - freight volume reduction is the easiest win to make

its carbon footprint relates only to virgin PET resin - it has no advantages over rPET in that respect as rPET does not need any additional oil to manufacture over PLA

PLA can be made from many things include fish so thats not technically true. PET is made from oil which also comes from plants. A long time ago.

PLA degrades only in very specific circumstances as you allude to. if it is simply dropped in a landfill or the ocean it will still be there as long as any other plastic. the problem is - and seriously there have been people on the forums here who have said they thought that you could simply throw PLA packs in the street and they would turn to dust - most consumers have zero clue how and what to do with it - the same as any other plastic.

this is not the case. its highly unlikely PLA will degrade in a landfill completely. PLA does not require bacteria to break down it needs heat and not to be compacted. if it were reliant on bacteria it would not be suitable as a food packaging material.


their structural integrity maybe - their light and gas barrier properties do not. Im talking about the shelf life of the product inside the packaging not the packaging itself.

of course not. Huel’s challenge with rPET is supply. they have doubled the amount of rPET in their bottles in less than two years and are committed to increase it but face two main issues:

  • consumer apathy with recycling who dont see it as their responsibility.

  • big brands such as Pepsico stockpiling and hoarding rPET resin further choking supply.

the other main disadvantage of PLA is if that it is introduced into the recycling stream of other plastics or vice versa - it contaminates it rendering everything in the batch unusable.

Yes I am!

That is not correct, the melting point of r-PET is ca. 2x that of the PLA. You get that thanks to temperature. Needing higher temperatures on the manufacturing process means more CO2, which results on higher rates of carbon footprint.

Saying that it can be made, does not mean that every manufacturer makes it from fish. 99.9% of them know that the most important feature of PLA is that it can be made 100% from plants so they assure that it is made that way. And yes, dinosaurs converted into oil as well…

That is not correct Phil, PLA into a landfill will degrade much faster than conventional plastic since the 3 elements are present: temperature, moisture and bacteria (the first two elements perform hydrolysis, the third consumes it once hydrolyzed). Similar to a waste water plant. High five to the bacteria!

Same as above, your statement is not correct. High five to the bacteria!

Ok, let’s assume you are correct here, wouldn’t this go against all of your statements above? Since the barrier properties depend on the thickness of the bottle, are you inferring that after 1 year the bottle is biodegrading under environmental conditions? But then, didn’t you say that it was only BIOdegradable under very specific conditions? Either one. :sweat_smile:

Despite all the above PLA advantages over r-PET, if Huel still wants to go with r-PET, there is massive r-PET in the market. I offer myself to find 100% r-PET bottles. Huel, just let me know and by next week I send you a solution with both materials, whatever your choice 100% r-PET or 100% PLA.

Thanks Phil!

1 Like

eeeep triggered. I would say that ‘biodegradable’ plastics are greenwashing, since there are very very few places that have the facilities to industrially compost the bottles you are describing. If they don’t get sent to composting, they aren’t biodegradable → greenwashing. As Phil says, consumers in general don’t separate biodegradable from recycling (or home-compostable from industrial-composting) and mixing ‘biodegradable’ plastic in with recycling streams pollutes them.

We believe rPET is the best option we have right now because it can achieve a circular economy we need - realising the packaging to it’s full potential. By 2025 all our packaging will be recyclable.

It’s worth noting that the ingredients in Huel are not like the PepsiCo and Coke’s of the world. We use vitamins and minerals which are sensitive to light and fats which can be easily oxidised in the wrong conditions. So we have to be careful increasing the level of recycled plastic because it increases this susceptibility and therefore would increase foodwaste in our supply chain. As I’ve said in this thread, reducing food waste has greater positive impact on the environment than reducing reliance on oil-based plastics.


Yes PET has a higher melting point but I was referring to the materials used to make it. rPET does not need the manufacture of additional raw materials whereas PLA does hence the parity in the carbon footprint.

where is your data from on this? PLA is not designed to be a vegan product and the use of waste from the animal processing industry - specifically fish guts and scales - is being seen as a good source of material for PLA, as it avoids this waste being dumped so contributes to the circular recycling economy.

PLA will only degrade in a landfill if it is exposed the whole time, if it is compacted under other rubbish and deprived of air it will not.

No. Barrier properties are nothing to do with the thickness of the bottle. Packaging barriers whether they be for gas, UV radiation etc are dependent on the material structure not its thickness. The structure of the packaging is determined by the types of barriers needed and the length of protection they will provide. PLA’s poor barrier properties are also what makes them suitable for short shelf life packs such as fresh fruit punnets or drinks.

not true - there are huge shortages - due to the poor amount of plastic recycled by customers. there certainly is not enough to meed demand and this is why you will often see large volume bottlers phasing in incremental percentage increases as they manage to obtain greater resin stocks. Some large MNC brands have also started hoarding resin stockpiles which doesn’t help the situation. Smaller niche brand owners may be able to find enough material to meet their needs.

you can read a thread I posted here on the subject of recycled material shortages.

My other problem with PLA is that gives already jaded consumers another cop out excuse to not recycle anything - affirming their belief that it is somebody else’s problem - which studies have found the majority do.

hope this helps.

I’ll pose one last question for you as I think I’ve covered off everything else I needed to say. PLA’s are marked with a resin code 7. 7 is basically the dumping ground for any plastic not covered in the other 6 resin categories and includes polycarbonates, fibreglass, PLA / other bioplastics, Nylon, BPA, acrylic etc.

Assuming you, as a consumer, knew what these resin codes meant, (and most don’t) just by holding it - how would you know what plastic it is and what recycling stream it needed to go in?

For the recycling streams for resins 1-6, a code 7 plastic represents a contaminant. One misplaced container can destroy an entire recycling batch if not removed. Any other code 7 plastic will also contaminate an otherwise compostable No. 7 PLA stream.

1 Like

The cacao powder I buy comes in plastic pouches with a foil liner on the inside with code number 7 on it and it even says next to the code “recycle as mixed plastic”. I emailed the manufacturer and asked for clarification as to my knowledge most UK kerbside recycling collections wouldn’t separate the two materials as part of the recycling and the pouch is in essence just a thinner version of the Huel pouch.

The reply I got back was that it was best to check with my local council but some councils do collect and process these which is why they’ve put it on the way they have. IMO, they’ve put it on because it looks better, even though they know most councils won’t process these properly.

man - thats not even a legitimate resin code logo - as you say, purely marketing fluff to make it appear better than it is :slight_smile:

Haha, I did think the logo looked non-standard.

This would have been a more honest logo to use…

1 Like

I happened to notice this @Phil_C on the back of my bottle of Radox. Same arrow design as the cacao powder pouches.

odd that a MNC like Unilever cant even get the right symbol but at least they are right about leaving the cap on - maybe its fake Radox :slight_smile:

@Phil_C as the resident oracle on all matters recycling, I have always wondered why on a tetra pak carton they say to put the cap on before putting it in the recycling bin? As one is a solid plastic and one a bit of all sorts, would they not be recycled as separate materials?

I bought a carton of alpro soya milk today which came in packaging that said 100% recyclable. A tetrapak with a plant-based plastic lid. I’ve never see a plant based plastic lid advertised before

Coup - the caps on virtually all bottles, even PET ones, are different materials to the bottle. The advice these days to leave the cap on is due to the recycling sorting process of an initial stage of grinding the pack up into smaller pieces. this mulch then gets passed through a float bath where different materials will either sink or float and can be easily separated speeding up the whole process.

yeah - Tetra offer this as an option to customers for some of their packs. One of these packs was the basis of my second redesign of the Huel ‘square’ bottle. On that type the whole collar and cap can be specified as bioplastic and that pack is designed so a consumer can tear off the plastic component for home composting and just put the board part into recycling if they want/can.


@Tim_Huel thank you for your response! I’m all up to discuss this with you with facts and real data.
This map shows all the composting facilities in the USA. As you can see, the places where there is the bigger density of population are where the most infrastructure is. Huel is advertised for people that have busy lives, and most of that public lives in big cities where you can see there is infrastructure developed.
Imagen3 Imagen2
This is what happens when PLA is composted in these facilities. Wow! (“Días” means days). I personally find these images incredibly optimistic. The future will be better with plastic degraded back into nature than staying always in a cycle of PET r-PET. Also, getting materials from oil is damaging the ecosystem.

It is in the hands of companies like Huel who can take the lead with these materials to adopt alternative solutions. The competition will follow, as they will have to catch up with this competitive advantage. If more biodegradable plastic is being used, more compostable facilities will be built and so on.

If you wish, I can give you the contact of a company that can manufacture 100% R-PET or PLA bottles for Huel. If you end up working with this company, ask them to give me a commission because I am doing this from my planet love :blush:. As far as I know, they already have developed PLA bottles for smoothies and juices companies, so the problems you mentioned earlier about the oxidation must be already studied by them.

Thank you for reading! I am waiting for your response :blush:

@Adolfo I’ve had a chat to Jess, our Head of Sustainability, about all your points and this is what she has said.

When trying to work out what is the most sustainable form of packaging, there is, as Phil rightly points out, no silver bullets. A discussion over rPET or PLA can go loads of different directions - and there are a million buts and ifs involved when you consider different scenarios.

What we want to achieve at Huel is to primarily offer products in multi-use packaging, such as the pouch we use for powder, and focus on this as our main product offering (powder is the vast majority of our sales), and when we do use single use packaging, to do as much as we can to choose a material that will deliver benefits across its entire life cycle, and importantly have a consistently viable end of life option, so that the value of the materials can be realised again and again, so the value that is retained justifies the impacts of its production and use.

In an ideal world we would probably not be using rPET or PLA but a plant based PET - one that is made using waste plant materials (such as fruit peels, wood shavings or pretty much anything plant based) - then this material can also be recycled again at end of life. We are a bit away from that at the moment as the technology is still being refined and it is not currently economically viable or widely available. For now - we find that for our product and our business model, rPET offers the next best solution. Thanks for the challenge - we love it so please keep it coming and thanks to the input from others. It is good to keep us on our toes.