Huel’s new RTD is official and is almost here. I’ve been patiently waiting for this to be announced since Soylent 2.0 was first released and I was super excited to rush to Huel and place a pre-order in – but then I changed my mind, and now I might not buy any at all.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The bottles, are awesome…

Being a Huel product the nutrition is similarly superb and overall the new Huel Ready to Drink matches Huel Powder relatively well with a couple of key changes.

MealPowerBottlechange2000kcalPowderBottlechange
Fat12.9g18.6g+5.7g65.6g96g+30.4g
Carbs37.1g33.9g-3.2g185g169.6g-15.4g
Protein29.3g20g-9.3g146g100g-46g
Fibre7.7g5.7g-2g38.4g28.5g-9.9g

On the left we have the differences per meal, on the right the overall differences if you used it for 100% of your diet. Obviously most Huelers don’t go 100%, but considering full nutrition helps the differences stand out – and one certainly does. The drop in carbs is welcome but is my maths right? 9.3g less protein per meal and 46g less over the course of a day? They’re still nicely within the recommended 50 to 175 grams of protein recommended for 2000 to 3000kcal diet, but it’s a reduction I’m not immediately fond of.

This isn’t simply a case of selling pre-mixed Huel. Ingredients have had to change for this 500ml 400kcal meal in a bottle to stay shelf stable for it’s 6 months shelf life. Looking at the ingredients list we have…

Powder: Oats, Pea Protein, Flaxseeds, Brown Rice Protein

In the UK manufacturers have to list ingredients by weight, so from the above we know that the main ingredient of Huel Power is Oats, followed by Pea Protein, flax, etc.

Tapioca is a dietary staple in Africa, Asia and South America, and you’ll also find it in beverages and puddings in the United States. Although commercially packaged tapioca is generally safe, the plant can be highly toxic if not prepared properly. Tapioca naturally produces cyanide, which is poisonous to humans; however, the cyanide may be removed during processing. LiveStrong

Huel RTD: Water, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Gluten-Free Oat Powder

Water, unsurprisingly is the first ingredient, but what’s Tapioca Starch and why has it supplanted Oats?

100g of Tapioca Starch is 350 Calories and almost pure carbohydrate, with little to no essential health benefits or adverse effects apart from ticking the gluten free box. It’s almost certainly replacing Oats as the primary carb source to stop the drink being too thick in texture.

One of the things I really liked about Huel when I first found it was the use of Oats rather than maltodextrin. Mainly because the GI level of Oats is so far below that of maltodextrin (Oats is roughly 55 whilst maltodextrin ranges between 85-105). Honestly; I’ve never really heard of tapioca starch before so I need to do some proper research, but from what I’m reading it has a GI of 85 – on par with Maltodextrin. Though the rest of Huel’s recipe likely brings the overall GI down.

So, packaging good, nutrition good, ingredients good. oh and the packaging is 100% recyclable and made from 25% recycled plastic. So why am I probably going to give it a miss?

Pricing is part of it. Let’s get the comparison with powder out of the way because obviously Ready to Drink is going to be more expensive, just over double in fact with 500kcal of powder comes out at £1.47 a meal whilst RTD comes out at £3.14 per 500kcal. But comparing Huel’s regions, things get interesting.

Huel, in case you didn’t know, has three websites: Huel UK, Huel EU, Huel USA. And so, three sets of pricing to compare. Each seem pretty keen for me to buy 24 bottles in an order (my screen kept defaulting to that anyway) so I’ll compare pricing for 24 bottles (and display pricing for each in £, $ and € to keep it easy. Each row is a Region).

 Single purchase (12 bottles)Subscription
UK£74$94.51€83.10£60.30$77.02€67.72
USA£84.56$108€94.96£69.76$89.10€78.34
EU£94.40$120.59€106£76.14$97.27€85.50

So we can see that the UK is cheapest and EU and US pricing is a touch more. That makes sense, Huel is a UK made product after all. Except if you take a look at the UK RTD’s faq you’ll see this:

That’s right: the UK RTD stock is made somewhere in the United States, shipped a couple thousand miles by container and then after arriving in the UK goes on sale cheaper than where it was made? And that’s forgetting the EU RTD which is made in Austria and only shipped within the EU, but is £20 more expensive.

Is my maths right? Have I even got the right figures because that just looks, odd. That aside, who are they competing with here? There are already so many great RTD’s on the market and (no surprise here) Huel’s foray into RTD is one of the most expensive per 500kcal; with only Saturo’s limited editions and Kate Farms Komplete costing more.

Ingredient Sources
Oat: UK
Flaxseed Powder: Canada
Sunflower Oil: India
Pea Protein: China
Brown Rice Protein: China
MCT Powder: China
Original Forum Post

And that’s my main problem with this. What looks to be a great product crosses far too much distance after being made. My “local” purchase from a county away suddenly has more miles on it than I travel in a year. I loved Huel because of the lofty environmental aims but it seems there’s been a marked departure from the claimed “minimum impact on animals and the environment” in their mission statement. They now source all but one of their main ingredients from outside of the UK and are clearly fine with shipping bulky containers all around the world. Good nutrition is the main goal of course, and the Huel product line is still impressive, but it’s sad that they couldn’t keep true to their mission statement as they developed.

Not to mention the price impact that international shipping must have on the UK bottles. But then, how is does it come out cheaper than where it’s been made? And what’s with the six months shelf life?

I love Huel. I’m drinking some right now as it happens and whilst I try to keep to positive news about the the Complete Food market in my writing endeavours on EatComplete, this is a bit of a disappointment. It’s just my initial thinking though, I’m going to do some more reading over the next few days and see where that takes me. Seems like a few Huelers share my opinion though, reception on the forums hasn’t been as positive as it could be.