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How Do We Make Huel?

Have you ever wondered how the raw ingredients make up Huel? Here, we’ve given you an insight into the processing steps of Huel Powder, but they’re similar for all of our products.

We ask a lot of questions when determining where the raw materials are sourced:

  • Does the nutritional composition and quality meet our high standards?
  • Can the supplier match demand?
  • What safety and quality controls are in place?
  • Are the workers treated fairly?
  • Is there clear traceability of the supply chain and does this fit our mission?
  • How far away are the facilities and customer from where the raw material is grown?
  • What happens to the by-products created during processing?

Processing

Each raw ingredient must go through some processing so the quality, consistency, safety and nutritional value is maintained. Find out more information about the processing of food.

Processing generates by-products which contribute to food waste and negatively impact the environment[1]. Often, their impact is overlooked in favor of lower transport mileage, but our suppliers and manufacturers make use of them to minimize product waste and production cost, reducing the final cost of our products for our Hueligans.

We need to make sure the ingredients are exactly what we expect, the supply chain is sustainable, and workers are getting a fair deal, so traceability of the ingredients and materials is key.

During transportation, optimizing logistics and liaising with suppliers is crucial. A limited amount of materials are used to protect, pack and ship full containers of Huel.

Oat Powder

Oats (Avena sativa) are a uniquely nutritious food with high amounts of soluble fiber. Without milling, the oat kernel isn’t fully digestible and would be passed through our digestive system without us receiving its full nutritional value[2].

These are the steps we take to process the oats used in Huel: The whole oat is dehulled to expose the digestible dehulled kernels (groats).

Next, the bran is removed to stabilize and prevent rancidity, and the groats are heat-treated.

The groat is steel-cut for a consistent flake size, then rolled and milled into flour.

Finally, the flour is sieved through a fine mesh to keep consistency in taste, digestibility and looks.

The oats are grown and processed in Canada, where conditions are ideal for producing high-quality oats.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is low in fat, high in protein and has low allergenic properties, making it a popular choice. It has low environmental impact compared to alternative protein sources[3]. The pea protein isolate from the yellow split peas (Pisum sativum) we use in Huel Powder contains a high protein content of over 80%.

The steps for processing the pea protein in Huel are below:

  1. The peas are harvested, sieved and then dehulled, removing the fiber component and leaving a mixed starch and protein liquid.
  2. The weights of the starch and protein are different, which causes the starch to sink to the bottom and the protein to rise to the top.
  3. After the separation, the protein liquid still contains a little fiber and starch so is run through a few more steps to purify. This includes centrifuging, filtering and ion-exchange chromatography.

The peas are grown in Canada and the US, and then processed in China. This is because China already uses the starch to make vermicelli noodles, whereas Canada doesn’t have the facilities in place to make use of the starch. China is also able to recycle any water produced, so wastage is reduced.

Brown Rice Protein

Brown rice (Oryza sativa) protein is a great protein source that is widely regarded as more sustainable and environmentally-friendly compared to animal-derived proteins[3].

This is how we process the brown rice protein in Huel:

  1. The rice is weighed and calculated so the correct protein amount can be extracted from within the grain and bran.
  2. It goes through deionizing to remove unwanted compounds, and is ground and turned into a liquid via hydrolysis. This breaks down the starchy carbohydrates into simple sugar components (saccharification).
  3. Once the components are separated, the protein is extracted through filtration and sterilized via ion-exchange chromatography so the powder can be dehydrated.

The brown rice is grown in China, Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand and processed in China.

The main by-product is dehulled rice, which is packed and sold. As the rice can break during processing, it’s sometimes not up to the specification required (e.g. incorrect size, color, texture), so is thrown away or used for animal feed. This broken rice can be used to produce brown rice protein to minimize product losses. The starch can be further processed to produce brown rice syrup which is used in a variety of food products.

Flaxseed Powder

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) is available in brown and golden varieties. They’re almost identical nutritionally, but we use brown flaxseed for its taste[4]. Flaxseed are a popular source of omega-3, fiber and protein, as well as several vitamins and minerals.

The flaxseed used in Huel Powder have been milled to prevent clumping, improve mixability and increase the bioavailability of the nutrients.

These are the steps we take to process the flaxseed powder in Huel:

  1. The flaxseed are cleaned, sieved and milled at room temperature (cold milling). This makes sure they’re free from nutrient degradation or damage caused by extreme heat treatments.
  2. The roughly cut seeds are then put through quality control.
  3. Once passed, they’re further milled and sieved through a mesh to a fine texture.

The brown flaxseed originate from Canada, the largest global producer. Any by-products from the milling process are used for animal feed.

MCT Powder

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of saturated fat with several benefits[5]. The MCT powder in Huel Powder is sourced from coconut oil.

This is how the MCT powder is processed for Huel:

  1. First, a spray-drying (encapsulating) production starts with mixing, dissolving and homogenization of the MCT oil with a maltodextrin-starch carrier solution.
  2. The solution is then passed through an atomizer to produce a fine mist that aids drying and equal particle size.
  3. The particles enter the drying chamber and are mixed with silica (SiO2), an anti-caking agent. The hot air removes all moisture, leaving the powdered encapsulated MCT.
  4. The powder is sieved to an even particle size. Spray-drying keeps the oil’s nutritional value whilst increasing its shelf life.

The coconut oil originates from Indonesia and Malaysia, and is processed into MCT powder in China.

The MCT powder in Huel is sourced from coconut oil. MCT powder can also be sourced from the individual MCTs such as caprylic acid. However, sourcing the MCTs individually results in much poorer traceability as it’s impossible to tell where the MCTs have come from, and it could be from unsustainable palm oil.

Sunflower Powder

The sunflower powder used in Huel Powder comes from sunflower oil.

The steps for processing the sunflower powder used in Huel are below:

  1. The process starts with extracting the sunflower oil from the seeds through cold pressing.
  2. The oil is then filtered.
  3. It’s then encapsulated in a process similar to the MCT powder. This prevents oxygen degradation that is common in liquid oils high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Read more about the types of fat in our article.

The sunflowers are grown in China where they’re also harvested and processed. The by-product is sunflower meal, which is used for animal feed.

Vitamin Mineral Blend

As well as the six main ingredients, Huel Powder contains a unique micronutrient blend. This provides the additional vitamins and minerals required to meet Daily Values (DVs), or higher in many cases, plus some phytonutrients. The vitamin mineral blend in Huel Powder is on a coconut flour carrier.

Vanilla Flavor

There are quite a few steps involved when choosing and creating our flavors. We’ve put together a more detailed review of flavor development here.

Thickeners and Food Stabilizers

We use a blend of acacia, xanthan and guar gums as thickeners and to make sure the ingredients don’t separate. It also gives the creamy texture to our Huel Powder.

Acacia gum is a natural fiber, a probiotic, a natural antimicrobial agent[6], and current research has identified its ability to reduce elevated cholesterol levels[7].

  1. First, the hardened sap is harvested by hand from the acacia tree.
  2. It’s then cleaned and purified, ready to be dried.
  3. Once dried, it’s then ground into a powder, ready to be added into Huel.

Xanthan gum is a naturally occurring soluble fiber, produced by the aerobic fermentation of Xanthomonas campestris with sucrose, glucose and lactose sourced from seaweed and corn.

Below are the processing steps for the xanthan gum in Huel:

  1. Once fermentation has taken place, the solution is sterilized and centrifuged to extract the sediment.
  2. The sediment is filtered several times before being dehydrated.
  3. The dehydrated sediment is ground into a fine white powder ready to be added into Huel.

Guar gum is a polysaccharide produced from the guar bean. Below are the processing steps:

  1. First, the guar beans are harvested.
  2. The beans are then dried and de-husked.
  3. Finally, they’re milled and dried to form a white powder ready to be added into Huel.

Both the xanthan and guar gums originate from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, whereas the acacia gum is harvested in Eastern Africa and Sudan. The gums are blended together in the US.

Sweetener

The sweeteners used in our pre-blended flavor range are stevia and sucralose. Sucralose is produced from sucrose (table sugar), and stevia is produced from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant.

The steps in processing stevia are below:

  1. The leaves are harvested, dried, and then ground into a fine powder.
  2. Using ethanol, stevia can be separated and rested so the stevia glycoside can be extracted.
  3. This extract is then sprayed in a heat chamber, leaving a dry, fine powder.

The stevia added to Huel, is known as low assey stevia, which is certified as safe by the FDA as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for US consumption[8].

The steps in processing sucralose are below:

  1. Sucrose undergoes a common chemical reaction method to produce sucralose. This method is also used in drinking water.
  2. The bonding of atoms within the conversion process prevents sucralose from being broken down in the body for energy, resulting in sucralose being almost calorie-free.
  3. Due to the intense sweetness of sucralose and stevia, only a very small amount is needed compared to regular table sugar.

Mixing and Packing

  1. Once all dry ingredients have been converted into their powder form, they’re sent to our production depot.
  2. The ingredients are sieved and assessed to meet our high-quality standards before being calculated ready for blending.
  3. All ingredients need to be evenly distributed. We use a dry-blending method, viewed as the gold-standard process as it maintains the nutrient profile and product quality.
  4. The powder then goes through a final sieve and metal detector.
  5. Taste tests and quality control checks are made before packing.
  6. Once all tests are passed, the powder is transferred to our familiar pouches. Each batch is coded for traceability, and the Huel Powder pouches are boxed and added to the pallets, ready to be delivered to the fulfillment center, and onto you.

References

  1. Sharma SK, et al. Utilization of Food Processing By-products as Dietary, Functional, and Novel Fiber: A Review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016; 56(10):1647-61.
  2. Decker EA, et al. Processing of oats and the impact of processing operations on nutrition and health benefits. BJN. 2014; 112(S2): S58-64.
  3. Pimentel D & Pimentel M. Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 73(S3): S660-3.
  4. Nitrayová S, et al. Amino acids and fatty acids profile of chia (Salvia Hispanica L.) and flax (Linum Usitatissimum L.) seed. Potravinarstvo Sci J for Food Industry
  5. Dean W, et al. Nutrition Review. Medium Chain Trigylcerides (MCTs). Date Accessed 24/06/19. [Available from: https://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/medium-chain-triglycerides-mcts/].
  6. Impact of acacia fibre gums on the growth of probiotics. Agro Food Industries: Functional food, Nutraceutical, 24(4), pp.10-14.
  7. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products N, et al. Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to acacia gum and maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations (ID 1976) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal. 2009; 7(10):1251.
  8. FDA. Has Stevia been approved by FDA to be used as a sweetener? Date Accessed: 08/28/19. [Available from: https://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm194320.htm]

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