LONDON, United Kingdom — Fast-growing powdered-meal startup Huel is ramping up its global expansion plans following a £20M investment round, with China the first new territory on its list.
The brand’s only external investment since launching in 2015, provided by growth equity investor Highland Europe, which has previously backed MatchesFashion, GetYourGuide and WeTransfer, will also be used to support the launch of new innovative products, says the company.
Riding the tailwind of increasing global demand for nutritious yet convenient, complete food, Huel, which launched in 2015, has already successfully expanded into Europe and the US, selling over 25 million meals across 80 countries — its powdered meals appealing to time-poor consumers looking for sustainable and healthy options.
Now, having gained a foothold on its existing markets, the company has ambitions to scale worldwide, and in doing so, cement itself as the ‘Food of the Future’.
Founded by experienced entrepreneur Julian Hearn, who has worked with brands including Tesco, Starbucks and Waitrose, Huel goes against the norm in terms of focusing on the primary purpose of food being nutrition rather than exclusively taste. And the brand is on a mission “to make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimum impact on animals and the environment,” Hearn tells Welltodo.
“I set up Huel because I was troubled by the sheer amount of food we waste as humans. I hoped that Huel could go some way to combating the global food crisis we are now facing in offering a functional and convenient food in an alternative format. Ultimately, I respect the environment and so I looked for a lifestyle that supported these views,” he adds.
The startup, which offers consumers a diverse range of nutritionally complete foods in a convenient, affordable format, currently sells granola, bars and powders, with each product containing the recommended balance of protein, carbs, fibre and fats, plus all 26 essential vitamins and minerals needed on a daily basis. This the brand argues, provides an alternative way for individuals to consume optimum nutrition. However, this hasn’t stopped the startup receiving criticism from commentators who view the products as a form of food replacement.
“We don’t replace food, Huel is food,” argues Huel CEO James McMaster, who joined the company in 2017, to support Hearn’s global ambitions for the rapidly expanding brand.
“Society has got used to wide choices of readily available food, which often has poor nutritional value. We generally eat too much of the bad food options and that’s part of the reason why we have a global obesity problem. Huel is satiating and reduces the need for snacking so it can play a role in helping people to become healthier,” he adds.
For McMaster who boasts over 10 years experience of growing food and drink brands including Gü’ and Ella’s Kitchen, Huel represents “a brave, modern brand that allows consumers to enjoy food in a new way.” And he believes it has the potential to change nutrition habits globally.
Stan Laurent, Partner at Highland Europe, agrees. “We knew that Julian and his team had created a special brand before even meeting them: people around us were raving about Huel,” he comments.
“It’s a textbook example of the next generation of e-commerce businesses: a big mission and brand, innovative products and a superb business model,” he adds. And for Hearn, ultimately it’s a brand he believes will leave the world in a better place for future generations.