Is food over? If Rob Rhinehart has anything to do with it, it's definitely on its way out. Rhinehart, a 25-year-old electrical engineer, has been working for the past several years to create a food substitute that provides all the nutrients the human body requires. The result: Soylent, a liquid "food product" that Rhinehart has been living off of - exclusively - for the past year.
As young entrepreneurs working in San Francisco, Rhinehart and his team grew frustrated with the amount of time and money they were spending on what they call "recreational food." Why bother going out to a nice lunch when you can just drink a chemical mixture at the comfort of your own desk?
Rhinehart set up a crowdfunding campaign in hopes of raising $100,000 in one month, for Soylent development costs. They reached the goal in two hours. They ended up raising more than $1 million in pre-orders and have since teamed up with venture capitalists for funding.
Shipments of "Soylent 1.0" are now being sent to eager customers around the world. Here's what you need to know:
What is Soylent?
From the official website: "Soylent is a food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by all adults."
A one-day supply of Soylent consists of a bag of powder that is mixed with water and oil and equals about 1,500 calories.
All images via Soylent's Facebook page
Why the name?
"Soylent" as a product name has proven divisive, according to a recent article in the New Yorker. Rhinehart's mother - along with several other people - advised him to change it, considering the fact that it is inspired by Soylent Green, the iconic 1973 sci-fi movie set in the year 2022. Spoiler alert: in the film, future humans live off wafers called Soylent Green. It's later revealed that "Soylent Green is made of people"! Not the best association.
What does it taste like?
Soylent tastes like…
"a vanilla milkshake that traveled through a wormhole and came out wrong." - The Atlantic
"a little sweet, a little savory" - Rob Rhinehart
What happens when you live on only Soylent?
Journalist Shane Snow was an early experimenter with Soylent; he documented his experience on Timothy Ferris' "Four Hour Workweek." Main takeaways:
He felt great. As the two week period progressed, Snow felt better with each passing day (with one exception, mentioned below). In fact, he felt so great that by the time his two-week supply was up, he wished he had more.
Important discovery: use a blender! This has to do with the Soylent chunks being broken down enough to provide nutrients; otherwise you get vertigo.
VICE also did an excellent documentary on what it's like to live on Soylent for a full month. Check it out here.
Will there be a day when drones can deliver a bottle of Soylent to your door?
What are some of the drawbacks?
You fart a lot.
You don’t have much to look forward to ever because you only drink Soylent. You might become ostracized from regular people.
You probably won’t leave your desk for lunch. Joining your coworkers for lunch when all you can have is yeasty goop is guaranteed to make your day worse. And as we now know, Sad Desk Lunch is a very real problem that will likely be exacerbated by the consumption of Soylent.
It’s super cheap; about $3 per meal.
It's FDA approved. And, as evidenced by the guys behind the product who are all quite healthy, is a viable option for long-term food replacement.
You don’t have to ever get up for lunch so you can work straight through the day! But, of course, many will surely consider this to fall under “drawbacks” (see above, re: Sad Desk Lunch).
It's sustainable. In the future, Rhinehart sees a Soylent-like product as the key to solving mankind’s hunger issues. Which, according to a new National Geographic feature, will be no easy task.
Can I make my own?
Yes. Rhinehart posted his formula on the Internet and encourages people to experiment with their own recipes. A burgeoning community of DIY Soylent-ers post their personalized formulas online and share experiences on diy.soylent.me.
Does Soylent have competition?
Ambronite is among the first - presumably of many - competitors in the liquid-meal-replacement game. The founders of Ambronite readily admit that they took inspiration from Rob Rhinehart and the Soylent team, but unlike Soylent, Ambronite is made from natural ingredients. While Soylent is made of chemicals and is affordable, Ambronite is organic and "premium."
The company has already earned $38,220 of their $50,000 goal thanks to their crowdfunding campaign, launched on May 4.
Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.