This article shows what exactly goes into Huel (relating to North American formula v1.0), with information about each ingredient and how Huel is put together. You can read about the nutritional profile of Huel here. Huel is made from six main ingredients plus a proprietary micronutrient blend to provide optimal amounts of all essential nutrients, beneficial non-essential nutrients and additional phytonutrients to provide health benefits and to support disease prevention. All ingredients are halal and kosher approved.
Each raw ingredient must undergo a degree of processing to ensure quality and consistency in order for the nutrients within Huel to be utilized. You can find more information about processing of food in our article Food Processing & Good Nutrition.
Oats (avena sativa) are a uniquely nutritious food with an excellent nutrient profile including high amounts of soluble fiber. However, the oat kernel is largely non-digestible and must be milled to fully enable the nutritional benefits to be utilized. Without milling, the hull would pass through the digestive system without delivering any worthy nutritional content (1).
The oats in Huel are milled to a fine powder. All of the nutritional value of raw oats is maintained during the milling process, which is made up of a number of steps. The most important process is dehulling in order to expose the digestible groats (the dehulled kernel). The bran is removed before being heat-treated. As the bran contains the largest proportion of fat, the removal process is required to stabilize the oats, preventing rancidity and nutrient degradation when stored.
The groat is cut using steel blades to ensure consistent flake size, then rolled, finely milled and ground into oat flour. The process ends with sifting the flour to ensure consistency in taste, digestibility and visual attractiveness. The oats are then packaged and metal-detected to ensure that the oat flour is free from any foreign objects. The packaged oat flour is wrapped on a pallet and transported to the Huel production facility.
The oats used in Huel are grown and milled in Canada, where growing conditions are ideal for producing high-quality oats.
Figure 1– Flow-chart to show how the oats in Huel are produced
Pea Protein Isolate
Pea protein is one of the most popular vegan proteins available and continues to grow in popularity due to its smooth texture that is low in fat and high in protein. Adding to the appeal of pea protein are its low allergenic properties, versatility and low environmental impact compared to that of animal proteins and alternative plant-based protein sources (2).
Protein isolates undergo further processing compared to protein concentrates. This process yields a higher protein content. The pea protein isolate used in Huel contains a high protein content of over 80%.
Firstly, the peas (pisum sativum) are harvested; then they are sifted and dehulled, which takes out the fiber component resulting in a mixed starch and protein liquid. As the weight of starch and protein is different, the starch goes to the bottom and protein to the upper levels of sediment. After the sediment separation, the protein liquid contains a little fiber and starch, so the protein liquid needs to run through several more separation steps to purify the protein content. This includes centrifuging, further filtering and ion-exchange chromatography. Then the pea protein is tested to see if it meets our specification requirements; it’s passed, bagged and shipped to the Huel production facility.
The pea protein in Huel originates from China and is supplied to the Huel blending facility.
Figure 2 - Flow-chart to show how Huel’s pea protein isolate is produced
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice (oryza sativa) protein is also a suitable protein source for vegans and those with lactose allergies. Similar to pea protein, brown rice protein has a high protein composition that is widely regarded as more sustainable and environmentally-friendly than animal-derived proteins.
The brown rice protein in Huel is carefully processed to extract the beneficial protein fractions undamaged. The main source of protein is found within the rice grain and the rice bran. To extract the protein, the rice is weighed and calculated to ensure the required quantity of protein is extracted. The rice is put through a process of deioning which removes unwanted metallic compounds. The rice is ground and turned into a liquid via hydrolysis to break down the starchy carbohydrates into simple sugar components (this is also referred to as saccharification). The conversion of the starch into simple sugars is initiated by naturally occurring enzymes that are highly stable when heated, which is particularly effective in the rice protein separation process. Once the components are separated the protein sediment is extracted through filtration and sterilized via ion-exchange chromatography. All that is left is to dehydrate the powder and package the rice protein concentrate to be sent to the Huel production facility.
The brown rice protein in Huel is non-genetically modified and originates from China.
Figure 3 - Flow-chart of how Huel’s brown rice protein is produced
The combination of rice protein concentrate and pea protein isolate in Huel is ideal; this is because rice protein is high in the amino acids cysteine and methionine, whereas pea protein is not. Furthermore, pea protein is high in the amino acids lysine, while rice protein is not. This balance brings together the perfect marriage of plant protein sources to provide an amino acid profile to equal milk-based proteins without the associated allergens.
Flaxseed (linum usitatissimum) production can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who harvested flax seeds for their oil and produced linen from their fibers (3). Flaxseed is available in two varieties: brown and golden.
Flaxseed is a popular source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and protein as well as several vitamins and minerals. The brown flaxseed used in Huel has been finely milled to prevent clumping and aid mixability, for ease and pleasure of consumption; the process also increases the bioavailability of the nutrients.
Milling the flaxseed is a simple multistage production that begins with cleaning and sifting to ensure the end product is contaminant-free. The whole flax seeds enter a process of milling, where the flax seeds are maintained at room temperature. Cold milling is the preferred method as it ensures that the flax seeds are free from nutrient degradation or damage induced by extreme heat treatments. The cold milling maintains all the nutrients and benefits for which flax seeds are renowned. The milling duration is adjusted depending on the desired texture. Once they have passed quality control, the roughly cut seeds are further milled and sieved through a fine mesh to achieve a fine granular texture that is yellow and brown in appearance, giving a subtle nutty taste.
Figure 4 - Flow-chart of how the flaxseeds in Huel are produced
The milled flaxseed undergoes metal detection to ensure the product is free from foreign objects. The brown flaxseed used in Huel is non-genetically modified, originating from Canada; the largest global producer of flaxseed.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are types of saturated fat that are metabolized similarly to a calorie-dense carbohydrate. The benefit of MCTs is that they are digested and utilized more quickly than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) to provide a usable energy source rather than being stored as fat. Coconut oil is one of the few natural sources of MCTs to which has been attributed a range of benefits to metabolic and physiological health. For more information on dietary fats, read Good & Bad Fats and Benefits of Medium-Chain Triglycerides.
The MCTs in Huel powder are sourced from coconut oil. A process called spray-drying (also known as encapsulation) converts the MCT liquid-oil into a powder. The spray-drying process maintains all the oil’s nutritional properties and aroma, while increasing its versatility and shelf life. Spray-drying production starts with the mixing, dissolving and homogenization of the MCTs and a maltodextrin carrier solution to create a suspension solution. Maltodextrin carriers are widely used in food production, forming a protective layer to encapsulate the MCTs’ properties.
The solution is passed through an atomizer to produce a fine mist that aids drying and ensures equal particle size. The particles then enter the drying chamber and are mixed with silica (SiO2). The hot air removes all moisture, leaving the powdered encapsulated MCT, and the silica is an anti-caking agent. The powder is thoroughly sieved and packaged, ready to be mixed in to Huel.
Once in a powdered form, the MCTs’ shelf life is increased while preserving their nutritional attributes. MCT powder mixed into Huel provides a range of nutritional benefits and a rich, creamy taste. Research shows the benefits of the MCT oil powder to be identical to that of the oil since the only difference is the delivery method (4).
The MCT oil in Huel originates from China and is supplied to the Huel production facility.
Sunflower oil is extracted from sunflower seeds; it is then filtered prior to being spray-dried and encapsulated, in a process similar to that of the MCT powder. Encapsulating the sunflower oil is particularly beneficial as it prevents oxygen degradation that is common in liquid oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are prone to turning rancid.
The effectiveness of spray-drying is highlighted in a wealth of studies, giving credit and confirmation that the process is free from adverse chemical reactions and is an effective method of preserving the nutritional content by minimizing lipid oxidation (5), and maintaining flavor and aroma (6), as well as nutrient properties and profiles (7).
The sunflower oil is sourced and manufactured within the U.S. The powdering of the MCT and sunflower oils aids their ease of consumption, transportation and storage.
Figure 5 – Flow diagram of the spray-drying process used to powder and encapsulate Huel’s coconut MCT and sunflower oil
Vitamin Mineral Blend
In addition to the six main ingredients, Huel powder contains a uniquely formulated micronutrient blend which 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 powdered Huel is on a xylitol carrier. You can read details about where each vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient in Huel comes from in this article About the Vitamins & Minerals in Huel.
With the exception of Unflavored Unsweetened Huel, vanilla flavor is added to provide a subtle, creamy vanilla taste and aroma. The use of vanilla lends itself to be consumed ‘as is’ or to become a base flavor to complement additional ingredients (such as Flavor Boosts) to suit individual preferences.
The flavoring used in Huel Vanilla (both Gluten-Free and non-gluten-free varieties), is manufactured using a powdered flavor that is derived from essential oils and vanilla extract. The flavoring is stabilized to protect the taste and aroma from degradation. It is sourced from Canadian suppliers that have met the raw material specifications and is free from genetically-modified ingredients.
The vanilla flavoring is a blend of natural vanilla extract and artificial vanilla flavoring, encapsulated on a carrier of maltodextrin and arabic gum, to prevent the flavor and aroma from degradation.
Thickeners and Stabilizing Agents
Huel uses a gum blend of organic acacia, xanthan and organic guar gum. These are commonly used natural thickeners and stabilizing agents. Acacia, xanthan and guar gum are natural ingredients that can be found in a large variety of food products such as salad dressings, yogurts and drinks. In most cases, as in Huel, it is used as a thickening agent to provide a creamy texture and as a stabilizer to prevent the ingredients from separating.
Acacia gum is a complex polysaccharide that is indigestible in humans. Acacia (also know as gum arabic) is derived from the hardened sap that naturally seeps out of the bark of the acacia tree. The hardened sap is harvested by hand, cleaned and purified ready to be dried and ground into a creamy, colored powder. The powder is packaged in airtight bags to prevent contamination ready to be mixed into Huel. While acacia is used in Huel as a thickening and stabilizing agent, it is also credited for being a natural fiber, a probiotic, a natural antimicrobial agent, (8) and current research has identified its ability to reduce elevated cholesterol levels (9).
Figure 6 – Figure 6 – Flow-chart demonstrating the manufacturing of acacia gum before being added to 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. After fermentation, the solution is sterilized and centrifuged to extract the sediment. The sediment is filtered several times before being dehydrated. The dehydrated sediment is ground into a fine white powder ready to be added into Huel.
Once the xanthan gum is mixed with liquid, the powder turns into a soft, gel-like, pliable structure.
Figure 7 – Flow-chart demonstrating the fermentation of carbohydrates in the manufacturing of xanthan gum before being added to Huel
The natural thickening and stabilizing agent guar gum is also used in Huel. Guar gum is a polysaccharide produced from the guar bean. The process of producing guar gum is very simple; guar beans are harvested, dried and de-husked, before being milled and dried to form a white powder.
Figure 8 – Flow-chart demonstrating the process of manufacturing guar gum from guar beans, before being added to Huel
Acacia, xanthan and guar gum are individually very effective stand-alone thickening agents and stabilizers; yet when blended, the individual properties work in synergy to result in a highly luxurious, creamy texture that is stable at high and low temperatures and varying pH levels. These ingredients also bind water molecules in the mixture to form an emulsification to prevent the ingredients from splitting. Due to their synergy, a small quantity is required to exhibit the desired outcome.
Organic acacia is harvested in eastern Africa and Sudan, whereas xanthan gum and organic guar gum originate from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. All of the gums are free from genetically modified ingredients and are blended together in the USA before being transported to the Huel production facility.
The sweeteners used in Huel powder, with the exception of the Unsweetened and Unflavored, are stevia and sucralose. Stevia is produced from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar, with minimal calories. Stevia’s sweetness is obtained from the steviol glycosides compounds stevioside and rebaudioside A which are non-fermentable, heat- and pH-stable compounds (10).
Once the leaves are harvested, they are dried and ground into a fine powder. Using the solvent ethanol, stevia can then be separated into is crude from. It is then ‘rested’ so that the stevia glycoside (rebaudioside A) can be extracted. Rebaudioside A is the glycoside of choice as it is free from any bitter after-taste that is present with stevioside. The extract is then sprayed into a heat chamber to ensure a dry, fine powder of equal particle size.
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 U.S. consumption (11).
The stevia used in Huel is certified 100% organic, free from genetically modified ingredients and originates from Central America.
Figure 9 – Flow-chart demonstrating the process of producing stevia, before being added to Huel
Sucralose is produced from sucrose (table sugar), yet the end result is a very different product. Read more about sucralose here.
To produce sucralose, sucrose undergoes a common chemical reaction method also used in drinking water. 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. Sucralose is stable when heated and in varying pH conditions making it a very versatile ingredient. Sucralose has shown to have an excellent safety profile. Due to the intense sweetness of sucralose, only a very small quantity is required compared to regular table sugar.
Mixing and Packing
Once all ingredients have been milled, extracted, encapsulated, dried and converted into their powder form, they are sent to Huel’s production depot. Here the ingredients are, once more, carefully sieved and assessed to meet Huel’s high quality standards before being accurately calculated ready for blending.
It is imperative that Huel’s powder ingredients are thoroughly mixed to make sure all particles segregate and are distributed equally. The flavor, sweetness and micronutrients need to be evenly distributed. We use a dry-blending method which is viewed as the gold-standard process as it maintains the ingredients’ nutrient profile while ensuring product quality. The raw ingredients are weighed ready to be blended, using a blender that achieves a consistent, homogenous powder.
The powder then goes through a final sieve and metal detector, before being placed into Huel’s familiar white pouches. Further sets of CCP tests are performed. The aim of CCPs is to identify and control potential problems before they occur to maintain quality and safety.
The finished formula must be consistent in every batch. Taste tests and quality control evaluations are made prior to packing to maintain Huel’s high standards. Once all tests are passed and quality standards have been met, the batches are coded for traceability. Huel pouches are then boxed and palletized ready to be delivered to the Huel fulfilment center.