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Bringing B12 to life? Vegan nutrition bar startup hungry for success

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Bringing B12 to life? Vegan nutrition bar startup hungry for success
UK-based startup Human Food is looking to plug a gap in the meal replacement category with nutrition bars for the vegan market, with direct-to-consumer model.

The UK startup's meal replacement bars come in three variants – spirulina, curcumin and cranberries & goji berries – and all contain the daily recommended intake (RI) of vitamin B12; whole daily amounts of panax ginseng, cacao and maca root; 50% RI for iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3; and 12g of protein.

Not yet on the market, Human Food has taken to Kickstarter​ in a bid to generate just over €91,000 for processing equipment that will enable business to truly take off. Eyeing an online subscription model, the company wants to initially distribute its bars to 2,000 subscribers across Europe, Switzerland, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia once funds are raised.

Simplified veganism

The idea behind Human Food started around four years ago when, after switching to a plant-based diet himself, company founder Ky Wright realised a gap in high-quality nutrition bars tailored to vegan needs.

bars

“I suppose as an analogy, it's a bit like iPods: before there were lots of mp3 players but none of them were very good, they were a bit ugly and difficult to use. That's the situation with meal replacements now - the only ones available taste pretty disgusting, are made with synthetic ingredients and artificial flavourings, and it's not mainstream partly because there isn't a good enough option available,” ​Wright told NutraIngredients.

The fact, for example, that Human Food bars are packed with a daily dose of vitamin B12 is important for vegans, he said, because it is “pretty much impossible” ​to get enough on a plant-based diet without taking supplements. In addition, the bars are high in antioxidants, contained no added sugar and 100% organic.

“The idea became a kind of shortcut of getting the benefits of principles like avoiding processed foods, avoiding sugar and eating organic as much as possible. If you're doing that already, it's really time consuming and so the bars are a way of simplifying that. If you're not doing any of that stuff, it's just a way to immediately switch into it or at least try it.”

Whilst early developments had been focused on smoothies, Wright said that soon changed to developing bars for easier vegan nutrition, which took two years and thousands of recipes to refine.

“You can break the challenges down into several steps – from a nutritional point of view; a functional point of view; then there's the taste aspect; and then there's the practicality of how you use it. So, if you're making a smoothie and having it, say, five times a week, it becomes dependent on being next to a food blender and there's a big limitation on that.”

The bars give consumers a bit more freedom, he said, although they can still be used as a base for smoothies with the addition of water, ice, banana, avocado, honey and coconut oil.

Closed-loop innovation

No newcomer to the food industry, Wright previously co-founded frozen yoghurt brand Lick which is now stocked in supermarkets worldwide, and says he's got a clear idea on the direction he wants to take Human Food over the next few years.

“I've considered co-manufacturing, and that's what I did with the previous business, but for this we'd like to have more control over how its done. I think it's just a case of a more honest business model. We want no separation between development, feedback and production.

“...In the next two or three years, we just want to be responsive,” ​he said.

Human Food also has no plans to go into retail and will stay online “definitely for the first while”, ​he said, to keep costs reasonable - £3.30 (€3.77) per bar - and maintain a direct relationship with consumers.

The bars are currently produced at the Food Centre Wales, a European-funded food manufacturing space providing access to equipment and food professionals, but once funding is reached Wright said Human Food will establish its own production site within 12 months.

Verified nutrition

The company is working alongside a number of nutritionists, doctors and food experts with regards to formulation, including Dan Reid – author of The Tao of Detox and The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity – two books that inspired and influenced early product development.

“I was in Australia a couple of years ago and found out Dan Reid lived there, so I thought I'd speak to him and see if he thought there was something in my idea and he was really, really supportive. He's now an official advisor on the recipe,” ​Wright said.

With the help of these experts, Human Food has also developed a diet booklet that it will send out to subscribers, containing detailed information on the bar's nutrition but also guidance on how to complete a healthy vegan diet and lifestyle.

Eventually, Wright said the company wants to quantify the health benefits of its bars and so is liaising with a University specialised in food intervention studies to plan a two-year clinical trial, set to start next year. The company wants to reinvest 50% of its profits into R&D projects like this, he said.

The intervention study, he said, will monitor around 200 people on key health diagnostics like strength, wellbeing and cognitive ability, before and after introducing Human Food bars into the diet. Results from the trial, he said, will then give Human Food the option to apply for health claims and also provide solid material to publish for those interested in learning more.

At time of publishing Human Food had generated nearly €87,500 – around 95% of its target – with funding set to close Friday 27th April. Shortly after publication of this article on 26th April Human Food reached its funding target. 

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