Listen to the BBC Radio 4 interview by Peter White with Huel founder Julian Hearn, Huel user Matt Phillips, and nutritionist Liz Tucker. This interview took place in July 2015 on the You and Yours consumer affairs programme.
Here is the transcript:
Peter white: No prepping, no cooking, no washing up and on top of that, a balanced diet for £45 a week. Too good to be true? Well those are the claims for Huel, a powdered food that has just come onto the UK market. Mathew Phillips is a regular user of food replacements and a convert to Huel.
Mathew Phillips: I found the convenience really quite useful and health definitely comes into play. Being able to receive your week’s food / shopping, if you will, in one box that just gets delivered to you and contains very little waste, is good for everybody involved. The benefit of actually eating healthily rather than unhealthily, as a side effect, is a great one. I feel more alert, a bit more awake, and I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin. I’ve noticed an improvement in my general well-being. When you eat a real meal, it’s very easy to overeat, but because you’re eating a prescribed amount with these products, you feel really sated; you feel that you’ve eaten, you feel healthy, but you don’t feel that bloated awkwardness that you can easily get by simply eating too much. I do real food probably once a week, I might have one meal a week if you’ve got a visit with friends, maybe they’re having a barbeque and you’ll sit down and join in socially with them and eat whatever’s on offer. I just don’t need to cook and prepare it for myself anymore. It’s great on television, good home-cooked food, but who really has the time any longer. Some people, yes, love growing their own food, and love making really nutritionally complete meals; I don’t have the time or money for that.
Peter white: Well, Huel has been developed by Julian Hearn who’s with me. Also, I’m joined from Truro by independent nutritionist Liz Tucker. Julian, first of all, why have you developed this?
Julian Hearn: It was a personal need that started it off. I was trying to get fit myself and found that I was having to cook all my own meals; my wife wouldn’t do two sets of meals just for me. I had quite a strict diet I was trying to follow, so to do all my own cooking and shopping just took too much time and the other thing that bothered me was that I was eating quite a lot of animal protein, whether that be eggs, milk, fish, meat, and it did bother me the amount of animals that were required to produce the food that I wanted to eat.
Peter white: So what’s in it?
Julian Hearn: Well, it’s basically made up of oats, pea protein, rice protein, flaxseed, sunflower and MCT which is a fat from coconut, plus a vitamin blend.
Peter white: It’s almost compulsory isn’t it; I’ve got to try it. So, it is a drink, is it?
Julian Hearn: Yes, you can drink it, but it comes in a powdered form like a flour, so you could actually cook with it; we’ve made cookies with it, we’ve made pancakes with it.
Peter white: I’ve got a glass here. [Drinks Huel] It’s like liquid porridge, that’s what it is.
Julian Hearn: It has got quite an oaty taste, yes.
Peter white: I’m surprised, because you were talking about it being no sugar, it’s quite sweet. Is there no sugar in there?
Julian Hearn: There is a sweetener in there; there’s no extra sugar but there is some sugar in the actual product itself like oats do have a small amount of sugar in them, but there’s no added sugar.
Peter white: Let me bring in Liz Tucker. I mean, first of all, what’s your feeling about this kind of product? You know, is it a good idea to replace food almost entirely with these kinds of powdered alternatives?
Liz Tucker: Well, there’s nothing new about meal replacements; we’ve been using them in the diet industry, for hospitals and particularly now recently in endurance sports now for a long time. But my real concern is that they are promoting products, I don’t want to talk about Julian’s in particular, they are promoting process products like these, as an alternative eating plan. There is no alternative to a natural plant-based diet from real food. I mean, what is wrong with real food? Nature has it all; it doesn’t need to be processed this way.
Peter white: Will you accept that Julian? Really, quite apart from the point that Liz is making about natural food being the best alternative anyway, you’re taking all the fun out of it as well aren’t you?
Julian Hearn: Well there are two things: firstly, it is made from real food; there’s nothing in there really apart from the vitamin blend which isn’t real food. It’s basically just dehydrated food, where the water’s been removed and then it’s been turned into a powder. So it’s made from actual real food. In terms of what people eat these days, if you could grow your own vegetables and grow your own meat, in your own garden, and produce it yourself, and you knew exactly what you were trying to produce, then yes, that would beat Huel hands down. But that’s not how the majority of people eat these days. The majority of people would buy food from the supermarket that has been heavily processed, which has lots of nasties added to it, and we don’t add any nasties to our food at all.
Peter white: Liz Tucker?
Liz Tucker: Well, I agree that it does have, as I refer to, natural […] but actually it is heavily processed. All those ingredients have been processed in a factory somewhere. You can get carrots straight out of the field and eat it on your plate; you don’t need it to go […] We’ve got a real issue now in this country where, we call it zero grazing farming, where everything is going to be under sheds; our landscape, our beautiful countryside and all of that fertile soil is being covered over by these food factories.
Peter white: Julian, are you really envisaging people filling a jug with this and taking it to work and eating it, and having nothing else during the day?
Julian Hearn: No. I think that some people will, such as the person that called in earlier. I think that the majority of the time, the best place that Huel can be used is to replace convenience food or junk food as I would like to call it. So, on the way to work in the morning, when you get up…at lunchtime people grab a panini or a coffee, or something like that, and that food will be beaten by Huel in what it contains.
Peter white: Nothing wrong with that, is there Liz?
Liz Tucker: Well, it’s true that the nation’s diet is in melt-down, there’s no doubt. The majority of people don’t follow a healthy balanced diet. But for me, they’ve got to start eating more food. We are encouraging the food industry to put more natural foods in, but the key thing is that there are other things in real food, like an apple off a tree or whatever...
Peter white: I think we got your point Liz, we’ll have to leave it there. Liz Tucker, Julian Hearn, thank you very much indeed.