Is a beige gloop called Huel the future of food?

    11 May 2017

    Food takes a lot of time: to prepare it, cook it, to wash the dishes afterwards. Ever since we started jumping on mammoths and digging stuff up from the ground, food has been a faff.

    A British company called Huel claims to have solved all that. It takes everything you need from food, mostly derived from peas, oats, seeds, and various other plant sources, and turns it into a kind of soulless dust. You mix that dust with water to create a grim drinkable gloop.

    Huel was set up less than three years ago but is already the default food replacement used by students and those in Britain’s growing technology sector. (Its biggest rival is the US firm Soylent.)

    The gloop is nutritionally balanced so, if you want to, you can withdraw from one of the oldest human conventions: mealtimes. I decided to go hardcore Huel for a week to see what would happen.

    I hit my first major hurdle on day one, meal one, when I realised that I had a breakfast interview. I quickly revised the rules so that every meal I did not have with another person would be a Huel meal.

    Things went better than expected.

    Huel doesn’t start you off without assistance. It sends you a Huel starter kit, which consists of powder, a bottle for mixing with water, and a T-shirt so people know you are on a different path to them.

    I tried the vanilla packets and found the flavour to be passable. The texture, however, was awful. It was dry and viscous, with random patches of powder. That was my fault. By day two I had industrialised the process with correct ratios, a blender and a fridge full of liquid. Process became key.

    Once you commit, things get easier. If done at a reasonable scale, meals take on average two minutes to prepare. What is also worth bragging about is the cost. Lunch for less than £2? Yes please.

    There are ups and downs. Some meals make more sense than others. Breakfast and that meal you scrape together when you get in drunk from a night out are excellent Huel meals. Dinner doesn’t work the same. It just doesn’t feel right.

    Before long, I was able to consume a full portion without much thought, feeling a near immediate boost in energy. I also found that the mild vanilla flavour became something of a treat as it started to be associated with the coming energy kick.

    The drawbacks? People won’t understand you. They will talk to you about where your life went wrong. Apparently if you have rejected food you are already checking out of society. Perhaps you’ll reject showers next, or shoes. Going out for a meal suddenly seems very expensive.

    After the week ended I continued consuming Huel. Not religiously. Not zealously. But it does help the general food mix, for when you are tired, or lazy or stingy or drunk, or all three together.

    So, is gloop the future of food? Tragically yes, I fear it is. It’s soulless and simple. It’s antisocial and inexpensive. For social mealtimes, that may be a terrible thing. But, for the way many of us eat — on the go, at our desks or early morning and late at night — it’s a huge step forward. The future is bleak. The future is beige.