Huel – A Modern Subscription Brand
Subscription CASE #1
By Niels Vestergaard
The market for meal replacements has been around for quite a while and with a collective market value of almost $12 billion dollars, new brands are still coming to the party.
Historically, the industry has been accused of profiting on false hopes of weight loss and that liquid replacements for real meals have never been a good idea. But today there are a few brands that deliver replacement products that work fine with a varied diet. At least if you ask the experts.
One of these is British Huel and today, we’re not looking at the contents of the product, but how their subscription engine works and which retention tools they are using. See, Huel is a good example of a true ‘Subscription 3.0’ company. Let’s dive into the subscription value proposition of Huel.
A subscription offer aimed at the modern consumer
Huel is a subscription to meal replacements with a core focus on natural ingredients, high levels of protein, and without gluten. In addition to classic protein products like shakes, bars, and powder, they offer quick meals that you mix with boiling water and will be ready in 5 minutes. It does sound a little strange, but as opposed to other protein products, Huel products are made from natural ingredients only.
When starting your membership, you can choose from different ‘bundles’ of products that you choose to subscribe to. Here, we see the first metric characterizing subscription 3.0: Tailor-Made.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to food. We want different tastes, different portion sizes, and different consistencies. At Huel, you can choose from different dishes and flavours and you can tailor how much you need from each product. Just as you want it.
And here is one of the first points: In order for a subscription to last, it has to meet the needs of the customer. Especially when it comes to food products, it’s extremely important that the subscription welcomes your tastes and your preferences.
It should be easy, to start eating easily
When you’ve chosen your preferred bundle and read how to use the product, you receive a ‘starter set’ with your first delivery. This part contains subscription metric number 2: Convenience
Behavioral change is one of the hardest things to teach a consumer. One thing is motivating a purchase decision but motivating a change in behavior has been a frustration for many marketing executives through the years.
Therefore, Huel aims to lower the barrier to behavioral change by giving you everything you need in your first delivery. You will receive a shaker, a bowl, spoons, a handbook, and a Huel T-shirt in your first delivery – free of charge. This makes it possible for you to start your lifestyle change the second the product has entered your home.
This is subscription metric number 3: Instant Gratification, meaning the experience of value the moment you receive the product. This has shown to be a crucial part of the onboarding process because the subscriber needs to experience the value that they get from the product as soon as they open the package.
Naturally, all the starter products are kept in brand-specific black and white with a logo, so you can flash your subscription in your local fitness center or at your dorm. Maybe someone might ask you what it’s all about.
Aimed at millennials
Did I mention that Huel products are 100% plant-based? And that they are engaged in the work of several climate NGOs?
Huel has captured many of the demands from millennials – the young and demanding consumer group who prioritize time, mental health, self-development, and climate. If you visit Huel’s social media you will find blogs about mental health, workouts, and their engagement in the climate. They deliberately communicate about topics that the modern consumer is concerned about. And they do it in a nonchalant and convincing way that comes off as honest and is also integrated into the mission statement of the brand:
“To make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment”
A movement – not a product
At the same time, Huel understands that in order to start a strong subscription, it’s important to create a membership feeling. It’s no coincidence that a free T-shirt with a logo is included in the first package. No, Huel actually offers an entire collection of branded clothing that subscribers can choose from.
This is because Huel is trying to start a movement, a lifestyle that subscribers can identify with and perhaps, most importantly – a space where subscribers can identify with each other. Using hashtags and the nickname ‘Hueligans’, the brand is building an identity around being a subscriber with Huel – and addressing membership experience through funny memes and pop culture references.
What we can extract from this social media strategy is that Huel maintains a customer-centric 3.0 approach in its communication.
By sharing pictures from members, recipes including Huel products, motivating images, and tips for a healthy lifestyle, the customer is constantly reminded that they are the hero of the story. It’s not really important how amazing a Huel product is, however it’s more important how it helps you become amazing.
So, Huel is just the perfect subscription – or?
I know what you mean, I got carried away. Naturally, Huel is not an infallible and fantastic approach to meal replacement.
Several reports from Trustpilot suggest that the products have inefficiencies and that quick meals like these don’t have much to do with real, nutritious food. Especially the taste and consistency have disappointed a few customers. Also, several customers report that there are better products out there, with fewer chemicals in them.
However the product is sustainable in the long run and how it affects the body, I’m not sure. I’ve merely analyzed the brand as being a good example of modern subscription brand thinking.
As a subscription company, there is much to learn here. As a subscription 3.0 company, you must the customer-centric and make sure that your entire organisation cultivates membership feeling and promotes subscription behaviour for customers. And I can only find good examples of this at Huel.