Meal replacement startup Huel – which makes snacks and shakes for people too busy to throw together a sandwich – today announced a new $24 million Series B funding round. It values the eight-year-old startup at $560 million.
Idris Elba – the actor who is official Not the next James Bond (probably) – and his wife Sabrina invested in the company, along with British comedian and TV presenter Jonathan Ross and Grace Beverley, CEO of activewear brand TALA. Some conventional investors are also involved, including growth equity investor Highland Europe, which also led Huel’s previous £20m funding round in 2018.
A portmanteau of “human fuel,” Huel was founded by Julian Hearn, former founder of marketing firm Mash Up Media, which quit in 2011. It wasn’t the first meal-replacement startup — US company Soylent was there first — and it wasn’t the last.
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From e-commerce to off the shelf
Meal replacement powders, shakes and bars are a common sight in workplace kitchens these days. In addition to Huel and Soylent, there is also Munich-based yFood, backed by Felix Capital, and Paris-based Feed, backed by Alven.
And whether you like the trend or not, it’s taking off. Huel says it’s particularly popular with health-conscious millennials, who don’t mind meals that come with what some describe as “gritty texture, weaker flavor and farting issues.”
Huel says annual sales are up 40% this year to hit $170 million. Its biggest market is still the UK, but when this Sifted reporter mentions she’s Swedish, CEO James McMaster says that’s where Huel has the highest market penetration (number of customers compared to the size of the country).
Originally started as an e-commerce company, Huel now also sells its products in brick-and-mortar supermarkets. For the future it is planned to expand this channel and to develop new products.
Huel makes plant-based, low-carb drinks, powders and protein bars. The branding aims to appeal to those looking to lose weight or build muscle, as well as those who care about issues such as climate change and sustainable agriculture.
That’s where Idris and Sabrina Elba come in. The theater couple are working with Huel on a climate action initiative aimed at a diet that limits global warming to 1.5°C.
“I’ve been a Hueligan for several years now and started my journey while preparing for my role in Thor, so coming on board with Huel was an easy decision,” Idris said in a statement.
IPO plans postponed
According to FT, a year ago Huel asked Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to advise on a listing on the London Stock Exchange.
Then came the market crisis in 2022 and all plans for IPOs are more or less history for most startups.
McMaster doesn’t comment on plans to go public, but says it intends to remain private for now and that Huel is happy with the great investors it has.
Mimi Billing is Sifted’s Nordic correspondent. She also reports on healthtech and tweets from @MimiBilling