An analysis of meal replacements in Canada
The story about how Canadian citizens are kept away from the popular meal replacement brands
The story of Canada and meal replacement is in many ways reminiscent of Game of Thrones. It is a struggle between the big corporations like Huel and Soylent trying to sell their meal replacements in Canada, but being thrown away by the Canadian government and the strict rules on food. In fact, both brands have stopped selling their products in Canada, and those companies who try to import are heavilly taxed on the borders or charge exorbitant amounts for the shipping. The losers of this story? The common folk, the Canadian citizens that wonder when they will be able to buy their favourite brands without hassle.
So let me tell you about the hardship of the North, the story about the wall and the free folk.
- The Wall. The Canadian border.
- The Free Folk. Canadian citizens.
- The Others. Canadian Authorities.
- Valyria. Europe.
- South of the Wall. USA.
The Canadian Issue; the North does not forgive
Most meal replacements from outside Canada are unable to sell their products there or they get heavily taxed on the border; thus making consuming complete foods from foreign brands a really hard task. This issue has many layers to it; a lot of the problems come because the products are classified as meal replacements instead of food.
For instance, Huel is unable to sell in Canada (even if they have their North American manufacturing process there) due to the strict regulations applied to products classified as meal replacements. According to Huel staff TimOfficialHuel:
For example, the minimum amount of Vitamin D per serving in a meal replacement is 1.25mcg and the maximum is 2.5mcg. Huel contains, 5mcg per serving. So we do not meet the classification of a meal replacement, and thus would not be able to sell in Canada.
This is not the only point where we would be held up, but it is one of the most stark. […]
We are exploring different options to try and allow Huel to be sold in Canada, but these take a significant amount of time, and potentially product re-formulations. Concurrently, we are always reviewing our formula and trying to optimise Huel. Any change would reset the process.
The harsh rules of the North
Selling meal replacements in Canada is harder than in any other Wester country, not because of logistical issues, but due to the strict requirements of the Canadian government and their loyal subjects of the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
Any product that is sold under the “meal replacement” label will have to following rules:
- Minimum food energy value of 225 Calories per serving.
- A specified amount and quality of protein.
- Not more than 35% of the total energy from fats.
- A specified amount of various vitamins and mineral nutrients.
- If milk needs to be added, they will carry a statement establishing the need to do so.
Plus, the labelling will have to be:
- Showing the energy in both Calories and kilojoules.
- Protein, fat, linoleic acid, n-3 linolenic acid (omega-3), saturatedd fatty acid and carbohydrate content in grams.
- The amount of the following vitamins and minerals expressed in % of daily values: vit A, vit D, vit C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, pantothenic acid; calcium, phospohorus, iron, iodide, magnesium and zic.
- On top of that, copper, potassium, sodum and manganese quantities will have to be expressed in grams; adn biotin, selenium, chromium and molybdenum in micrograms.
As if these were not enough any meal replacement that wants to advertise itself as replacement for all meals, will have to reduce the maximum energy from fat to 30% and no more than 10% from saturated fats; with an energy intake of at least 900kcal a day.
If you fail to do so you will be chased and kicked out by the Others.
Winter is coming: The legend of Soylent Stark
Huel is not the only adventurer that has gone to the other side of the wall and tried to survive in the North. Once upon a time, young Soylent was able to briefly sell their meal replacements in Canada. From June 2015 until late 2017, young Soylent was able to cross the Wall and trade their products with the Free Folk. All until, winter finally arrived and the Others (CFIA) chased Soylent out of the North.
There were many reasons for the Others to dislike Soylent, including: the amount of fats (the regulations state less than 35% of the energy needs to come from fats); lack of bilingual labelling; the presence of sucralose; vitamins not meeting the required values by the FDR…
At the time Soylent leader, Rob Rhinehart, had to walk back with the tail between his legs; only leaving a dire message behind:
Dear Canadian Soylent customers,
Since June 2015, Soylent has been proud to sell and locally distribute our products in Canada. We are fortunate to have so many loyal customers who have supported our brand and community, even before we were officially available in the market. It’s been quite the journey we’ve taken together through some proud successes and startup growing pains, and today I need to share an unfortunate situation impacting our Canadian business.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently informed us that our products do not meet a select few of the CFIA requirements for a “meal replacement.” Although we feel strongly that these requirements do not reflect the current understanding of human nutritional needs, we respect the CFIA’s regulations and will fully comply with any regulatory action they deem appropriate. Unfortunately, this means we are unable to ship any additional product to our Canadian warehouses or sell Soylent to our Canadian customers until this is resolved.
I want to reiterate that we are absolutely committed to working with Health Canada and the CFIA to resolve this as quickly as possible, but we don’t have enough information at this time to share any timing. In order to keep all of you fully up to speed on our progress, we will be sending out regular updates. In the meantime, we have posted a detailed FAQ to share all the information we have at our disposal. We sincerely apologize for this product disruption, and we hope to be back selling in our favorite country to the North soon.
We want to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us anytime with questions, concerns and suggestions at [email protected] Thank you for your continued support.
– Rob Rhinehart
Founder & CEO, Rosa Foods, Inc.
However, the fear on the people of the South side of the wall has stopped them from doing any trades with the Free Folk. The only way to get any goods from Soylent for the Canadians is to cross the wall themselves and to try to smuggle Soylent. In fact, the brand is “working hard to get Soylent back into Canada as quickly as possible”; but currently do not ship there.
The brive to the Night’s Watch if you want to cross
Free Folk pay the brive
Even after the failure of Soylent and Huel, and the legends of the Others spreading fear like wildfire among meal replacement merchats; there are still some adventurers from lands afar across the ocean that arrive to Canadian ports and try to trade with the Free Folk.
One of such adventurous merchants is Queal from a landmass call Europe. They sell exotic meal replacements of many colours and types. While this dazzling jewels are expensive to ship, that is not the only problem they encounter.
The Night’s Watch (Canadian border control) is a brotherhood that protects the Wall and stops silly traders from freely moving accross it. Therefore, in order to be able to enjoy the goods that Queal offers, the Free Folk need to brive the brothers of the Night’s Watch (Canadian import taxes). The Free Folk end up paying 5-20% of the value of the goods to the Night’s Watch in order to enjoy the items.
The merchant pays the brive, the shipping cost increases
Queal is not the only European merchant that is hindered by the import taxes. Jimmyjoy, king of budget meal replacements, had to up their shipping cost to Canada (to absurd values) because they were getting taxed upfront. This is, they were paying the import taxes instead of the customers. As such, shipment costs went from 45 CAD to 178 CAD.
As Sir Otto Jimmyjoy shared, changes in the shipping couriers were the cause of this increase. Even if they tried shipping from LA to Canada, the same problems persisted, according to Jimmyjoy.
Are the Free Folk out of hope?
No, there are signs of hope and meal replacement products that they can consume. For instance, not all complete foods need to be imported, there are Free Folk who manufacture meal replacements, which are compliant with the Canadian regulation.
The lents of the north
Tudo is a Free Folk from New Brunswick, a place close to the wall, and among the most habitable in the North. They import the main ingredients from far away lands (US, Australia and UK) and mix them with local goods. The result is a powder based meal replacement that is available in two flavours: Raspberry and Vanilla.
Each Tudo meal will give you 500kcal with a energy split of 39C/28P/33F. It is a vegan meal replacement, thus the protein will come from brown rice protein. The main fat sources are high oleic sunflower oil powder and flaxseed. Brown rice milk powder is the main source of carbohydrates, but it also includes brown rice sugar (10g per serving).
Hol Food is another brand from the Eastern side of the Wall. Manufactured in Toronto, they have been around for a while; but they limit their trade to North America (remarks the small nature of these Free Folk enterprises). They only produce a single powder meal replacement in two flavours: Chocolate and Vanilla (not sure about availability).
Hol Food offers 400kcal per serving, which 45% come from carbs, 36% from protein and 19% from fats. Hol Food is not a vegan shake, since most of the protein comes from whey. Fat sources include whole milk powder and canola oil; whereas carbs come from rice flour and organic cane sugar, mainly. According to some Hol Food reviews, the new formula highly improves the texture and the flavour over the previous one; and it is highly though of among the Free Folk.
Each 400kcal meal will cost you 2.96 CAD, but this will include free shipping. Hol Food also ships to the US, but not overseas.
Biolent is another Canadian meal replacement manufacturer. Unlike the other 2, they offer a wider array of powder meal replacements: Biolent Original, Biolent Flex (double the protein) and Biolent Keto. However, all three options only come in a single flavour: Vanilla.
All Biolent shakes are vegan. The ingredients are a mix of imported and local ingredients. Each shake offers 500kcal and the macronutrient distribution depends on the product. Biolent Original is 53C/15P/32F; whereas Biolent Flex is 36C/31P/33F; and Biolent Keto 16C/23P/61F.
Prices vary depending the product, Original costing 2.86CAD/400kcal; Flex costing 3.14CAD/400kcal; and Keto 3CAD/400kcal. Shipping is free within Canada for order above 90CAD.
Vitalhouse is the last Canadian brand on the list (currently). They offer a sport oriented powder meal replacement, Athlete Fuel, in pouches and already bottled formats. The flavour range, similarly to the other brands, is limited to Vanilla and Chocolate.
Athlete Fuel is a vegan shake that contains no soy, no GMO ingredients and no gluten. They also use many organic fruit and vegetable powders to add antioxidants and other phytonutrients to the shake. Each meal provides 400kcal with a energy split of 40C/29P/31F.
They offer free shipping in orders above 70 CAD and they also ship to the US. The pouches cost 5.21CAD/400kcal and the bottles 6.25CAD/400kcal.
The shortcomings of the local goods and why lent’s from far away lands seem so tempting.
Even a onlooker or a newbie would identify some of the limitations of the local brands and why the products that the Free Folk put in the markets are not as appealing as the exotic brands’.
- Lack of flavour diversity. There is 3 different flavour options among all three brands: Vanilla, Chocolate and Raspberry. Even Soylent alone offers more different flavours in a single product than that.
- Lack of nutritional differentiation. Most meal replacements offered in Canada are high in protein (which I like), but there are not many meals high in fats (like Soylent, Saturo, Jakefood). This is maily due to the legislation. Only Biolent offers nutritionally different products.
- There is only one type of meal replacement: powder-based. “Is there any ready-to-drink complete food in Canada?” is a question that often pops up in the online community. The truth is that no local brands have developed one, yet.
- All companies are small enterprises. There is nothing wrong with this, but the meal replacement companies in Canada are small and not very business/corporation like (to the likes of Huel, Soylent, Jimmyjoy). This creates the limitations mentioned above, as well as, restrictions in customer service, delivery speed, product R&D…
Thus, while the Free Folk creating this product have good intentions cannot fully satisfy the demand for organic meal replacements, bars, RTDs, flavours, other nutritonal needs…
Meal replacements from other lands
Old Valyria, also known as Europe.
Therefore, they are enamoured and mistified with tales of the Dragon Queen and the far-away lands of Valyria. Lands were meal replacements are abundant, come in many different formats and prices, and the choices are infinite. Also known as Europe, the Eden of the meal replacement enthusiasts.
Meal replacement companies that currently ship to Canada include:
- Ambronite. An organic, real food based premium shakes.
- Queal. The Dutch company that offers a wide array of products (4 shakes, a bar and a nootropic supplement).
- Jimmyjoy. Plenny Shake might be the cheapest meal replacement, with little to no sacrifices in nutrition and taste.
- Pulve. A vegan meal replacement very similar to Huel, that is one of the best meal replacements in the market. Also offers free worldwide shipping in orders above 72 meals (197CAD).
- Getlently. From the Netherlands to the world, they offer good tasting shakes (powder), but the shipping will be expensive.
- Shake2day. Another Dutch manufacturer that offers 3 different powder meal replacement and a bar. Once again, the shipping will cost you as much as the order itself.
- Jake. One more company from the Netherlands that offers a light, a standard and a sport meal replacement, as well as a bar. While they classify it as free shipping, the costs, a 10.5% import duties, plus a brokerage fee (C$10-26) , plus the HST/GST/PST will be included. Thus a product that costs 175CAD in Europe will cost you 214CAD. Not the worst.
- Vitaminfood. Once again a Dutch company that offers a meal replacemt powder in 4 different flavours. The shipping costs are 20CAD which seem to include taxes.
The South of the Wall, US
The southern lands of the Wall are pretty prolific, too. Particularly, Soylent, who sits in the iron throne, is desired by the Free Folk. Canadians have been waiting for the return of Soylent to become the King of the North, once again. However, the issue with Soylent and the Canadian authorities does not seem to be one that will be easily solved. The only updates we currently have are “soon”.
Other brands that also venture to the North:
- Superbodyfuel. They subsidise orders outside the US, so your shipping will not be much of a problem. They offer powder meal replacements that then you need to add oil or milk to (depending the product).
- Sated. A brand focused on keto meal replacements, they currently only offer a powder based product, but the RTD is coming on February 2019. The shipping costs start at 45CAD.
Solutions to survive the Winter and believe in spring
There are temporary fixes that Canadian meal replacement enthusiast can do:
- If you are lucky enough to live close to the Wall, you can cross it and purchase your goods in the US. The Night’s Watch should not put you any trouble when crossing the Wall back to the North (according to most reports). You will just have to declare it, but you should not be taxed. Nyaddress is a company that might help you getting you a place to ships your orders to, if needed.
- Befriend someone that is willing to reship the products to you (extra cost).
- Order from European companies that are willing to ship to Canada (Queal, Jimmyjoy, Pulve…) and pay the import duties upfront (Jimmyjoy) or risk to have to pay them later. According to Queal, only 10-30% of their Canadian customers report that their goods have been taxed.
- Use reshipping companies (not recommended).
- Consume local brands to increase demand and promote the proliferation of new businesses.
- Cry. Just kidding. There is always hope.
Regarding to some more permanent fixes, the solutions are more complex. It is clear that the more the companies inquire (Soylent, Huel, Jimmyjoy…) due to internal and external (consumers) pressure, the more the awareness is going to spread. As a single individual, you could also inquire the Canadian government about it (via your representative); or promote social campaings, in Change.org or similar, adquiring signatures for the cause. The cause being a change in the legislation about meal replacements.
What Meal Replacements are available in Canada?
List of available meal replacements in Canada
|Vitalhouse||P||5.21||Free||V, GF, S,SF, NG|
|Ambronite||P||7.94||Free||V, NG, SF|
Price based on their standard version without subscription. The threshold for free shipping in each Canadian brand varies.
- *Means that one of the product is but not all are.
- **Shipping is without import taxes and values are in CAD.
- ***Jake offers free shipping but the total price of the product will increase, because you will have to pay for taxes and brokerage fees.
- ****Free above C$200.
- Varies: It will depend on the size of the order. A good rule of thumb is at least half of the cost of the products.
- V: Vegan.
- S: Sport.
- NG: Non-GMO.
- GF: Gluten-free.
- SF: Soy-free
- P: Powder meal replacement.
- B: Meal replacement bar.
- D: Ready to drink.
Are there any RTDs available in Canada?
The short answer is no. None of the major brands that produce RTD products (Saturo, Soylent, YFood, Mana) and even give the opportunity to to buy in the US (Saturo and Soylent) ship to Canada. The only exceptions is Jimmyjoy’s Plenny Drink, for which you will have to pay very high shipping costs (because the shipping price varies according to the weight).
The only solution would be to either cross the border and collect them from a postal service, like the aforementioned NYaddress, or to buy Soylent directly from the shops. Alternatively, you can ask a friend to buy either Saturo or Soylent Drink and ship them to you, but because they are going to be heavy, it will end up being very expensive.
Why do Soylent or Huel not ship to Canada, while other brands do?
I have no concrete answers but expeculations.
First and foremost, they may not feel the need to do so. This does not mean they do not want to, but that they have a lot of demand that they need to satisfy and shipping to Canada just requires extra effort that it is not worth it.
Secondly, this are huge international brands that they want to do things right (not that others do not); and they want to offer an equal experience for the Canadian buyers. They could not offer a service without making the customer paying an extra that seems unfair.
Thirdly, they want to get fully integrated to the Canadian laws and market. They probably do not want to have any setbacks again, like Soylent did in 2017; so once they are established, they arrive to Canada to stay. Furthermore, risking fines and future bans may not seem worth it to them.
My guess that it is a combination of these, and likely more complex reasons, why Huel and Soylent do not ship to Canada (as well as many other brands).
You have an insight? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Latestfuels recommendations: What is the best meal replacement in Canada?
First of all, I would recommend to go local. Not only because you will avoid any unpleasant surprises (extra payments), but because you will force the local industry to grow. I would personally go for Hol Food (taste) or Biolent (if you are looking for slightly different needs).
If you are decided you will import, the best meal replacement for Canada is Pulve. Not only offers free shipping in orders above 72 meals, but it is also nutritionally very very well round up. Personally, I loved the strong vanilla taste, while I admit it may get boring after a while. You will have to get creative.
If you are looking for more variety I would recommend you Queal. They have light, standard, sport and vegan powder based meal replacement, as well as, the best meal replacement bar, GO Bar. Their flavours are really good, even if all are sweet. My personal favourite is Chocolate Hazelnut Happiness, but they also have Awesome Apple Pie, Banana Mania, Super Strawberry… GO bar is a highly proteic solid meal replacement available in Dark Chocolate and Nuts & Seasalt (my favourite).
If you are looking for a vegan option and multiple flavour then Jimmyjoy is probably your best chance. Plenny Shake is one of the most liked vegan shakes and it is really cheap; so cheap that even after paying for the shipping, a 400kcal meal will cost you 3.65CAD. They also offer a sport iteration (Plenny Active) and a version with caffeine (Plenny Wake Up). On top of that, they have Twennybar and Plenny Drink, all which are very affordable ways to get a healthy nutrition.
1. Reddit thread about why Soylent is still banned. Many people discuss about the reasons why Soylent is banned in Canada and give different arguments than the ones that appear here. If you type “canada” in r/soylent you will get multiple threads discussing the topic.
2. Soylent’s FAQ about why is banned in Canada.
4. Labelling laws in Canada. An in-depth powerpoint on how to label products in Canada.
5. Rules that a meal replacement product needs to comply in order to be legal in Canada.
6. Canadian import rules in goods received by mail or courier.
7. More on Soylent and CFIA interactions. Check page 15 and 16.
8. Excel sheet with most of the brands that sell in Canada and the cost.