Meet the founder of Huel
Hi Julian, what do we need to know about the man behind Huel?
No idea, what do you want to know?
You are working on changing how we see food. What is the inspiration behind it?
I was scratching my own itch. My previous business was in the health and fitness space. In 3 months I went from 21% down to 11% body fat. I exercised 3 hours a week, the same as I normally did, the difference was that I planned out all my meals, cooked it all from scratch and weighedall my food, (2000 cals on non training down and 2200 on a training day). The issue was that my friends couldn’treplicate my results, they said it was too much work to cook and weigh all their food. So I looked for a simpler way, protein shakers were very convenient but one dimensional, e.g. they only provide protein and you can’t live on protein alone. So that’s how Huel came about; a substance that contains all essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre, phytonutrients, and all 26 essential vitamins and mineral.
The old-school way of eating and producing food has been damaging the earth. How has your target audience responded to Huel?
The engagement and support from our loyal customers is the best I’ve ever experienced even though I’ve worked for some massive brands such as Startbucks, Tesco, Waitrose, House of Fraser, etc. They like that we offer a practical solution to their nutrition problems whilst doing the right thing for the environment. Huel is 100% vegan (Livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the cars and planes in the world combined) - have a read of this.
Also they love the ways in which we reduce food waste. Currently 30% of all food is thrown away. A large percentage of food doesn’t reach local shops and markets because they are bruised/go off, are the wrong size, or just misshapen! It's outrageous, that we throw food away just because it's the wrong size or shape but it happens a lot.
This is where the bulk of food waste comes from and isn't applicable to the ingredients, we don't care what size and shape they are because they are milled into a powder. The drying and milling of our ingredients means that there is no water and without water bacteria can't live, so the shelf life is 1 year.
Where do you spend your time when not working on Huel?
For the last two years Huel has been my life, 7 days a week, evening and weekend. When I squeeze in some free time I spend it with my family, mates down the pub, gym or walking the dog.
How did you fund the business in the beginning?
I sold my previous business back in 2011 for a life changing sum. So Huel is self-funded.
The production process is important. How did you decide on the right production company?
Getting the product to market was extremely difficult. Most food manufacturers are not interested in startup ideas, they believe (correctly) that most ideas will not go anywhere so they are not keen to invest time and effort in developing or adapting production lines. I started to build relationships with several, but they all let me down. So we ended up with the product company by default rather than choice, but likely it worked out.
If you could choose one person to record your voicemail, who would it be and why?
What is your biggest tip for utilising social media as a small business?
Engage but don’t be a pushover. We are quite happy to tell potential customers they are wrong, when they are wrong. This creates a honest and open debate.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs wanting to get into the food industry?
Allow a lot of time to get to market. My background is ecommerce. I’m used to getting websites live within a month or two, and then to make frequent changes and improvements. Our first two products each took over a year to get to market, which was incredibly frustrating.
What is your best advice for eating healthy and sticking to it?
Educate yourself about nutrition but don’t believe everything you read. We have a great beginners guide here.
What plans do you have for Huel over the next 12 months?
We will soon be launching globally later this year. We also have a lot of other exciting developments which I would rather keep under my hat the moment.