Outdated Hipster Gruel or Legitimate Food of the Future?

Huel product

writer icon Emma Lindgren     Huel   |   Culture     🕐 15. Jan. 2019

Huel came onto the scene and into everyone’s Facebook and Instagram ads, somewhere in the middle of this past decade.

The meal replacement powder contains “oats, rice, peas, coconut, flaxseed, and [a] unique mix of vitamins and nutrients to provide the carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, and 26 essential micronutrients your body needs to thrive”. It is completely vegan, made from sustainable ingredients and has an impressive shelf life of 12 months.

After a few years on the market, feelings about it spanning from the Guardian to online bloggers, remain mixed. Unfortunately often unlike the shake itself. Reviews of Huel on Trustpilot paint an overwhelmingly positive response however, where out of 695 reviews 85% find it 'excellent'.

Rob Moore, who uses the powder shakes, credits his weight loss to replacing meals with “three scoops now for breakfast, and two shakes of three scoops each during a 12 hour shift at work” and the occasional other Huel shake on top of that.

In also addressing the issue of weight loss, Huel’s co-founder Julian Hearn argues that Huel serves a vital purpose in the fight against obesity. The problem being that people have "for most of our history anyway, not had a consistent source of food... but today we now eat what we want, when we want”, Hearn argues. Huel can help counter that.

As a name and brand, human and fuel is combined to 'Huel', but as the recipe and final product closely resembles that of cold gruel, it is hard not to draw a parallel between the two. Especially after UK comedian Dave Gorman, aptly dubbed it hipster gruel on his show. 

The company has grown markedly over recent years, and as one of the fastest growing companies in the UK in 2017, it had a revenue of around SEK 160 million [£14 million]. While it clearly serves a purpose for people who do not like or have time to prepare food, a substantial number of people still like to cook, as witnessed by recent food trends.

Current and expected food trends:
Simple and traditional home-cooked meals in the style of Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski have had a noteworthy resurgence in 2018, with Eater recently dubbing Porowski the food “#Brand” of the year.

His popular instagram dishes, this one in partnership with Whole Foods has received almost 70 000 likes, include “harpoon-caught swordfish tacos, Gochujang summer red slaw and [his] flavor-bomb cubed watermelon salad with extra-virgin olive oil, an aggressive amount of fresh cracked pepper, fresh mint, and slices of grilled halloumi cheese”.

Moreover, when Whole Foods released their list of food trends for 2019, there was no mention of thick gruel style shakes. Instead they depicted such mouth-watering delicacies as Pacific Rim-inspired flavours, ‘faux meat’, and gourmet snacks. Also offering new takes on ice cream with “innovative bases like avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water”, next level hemp and more alternative uses of algae-type ingredients such as “seaweed butter and kelp noodles”.

Whole Foods did take note of one trend that might help ship Huel into the following decade however, that of a growing focus on eco-conscious packaging. According to them, the food market can expect to see a “switch to packaging with the environment in mind [and] an emphasis on reusing”. This translates well to the minimal packaging of the powder meals, and reusable shaker mug. Time will tell if that is enough to carry Huel into the 2020's.

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