Soylent (meal replacement)

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Soylent Nutrition, Inc.
TypePrivately held company
IndustryMeal replacements
Founded2013; 9 years ago (2013)
FounderRob Rhinehart
Headquarters
Los Angeles, California[1]
,
Key people
Demir Vangelov (CEO)
ProductsSoylent
Websitesoylent.com

Soylent, produced by Soylent Nutrition, Inc., is an American company that produces meal replacement products in powder, shake, and bar forms. The company was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Originally sold exclusively online in the United States, Soylent has expanded distribution to stores, such as CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Kroger, Target, and Walmart, and is available in Canada.[2][3]

Soylent is named after a food in Make Room! Make Room!, a dystopian science fiction novel (which was the basis of the movie Soylent Green) that explores themes of population growth and limited resources. Founder Rob Rhinehart promoted the product as part of global food security and providing a cheap means to consume necessary calories.[citation needed]

The company developed a following initially in Silicon Valley and received early financial backing from GV, the investment arm of Alphabet, Inc., and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. In 2021, the company announced it had become profitable starting in 2020.[4]

History[edit]

A Soylent package, along with the powder and resulting drink

In January 2013, American software engineer Rob Rhinehart purchased 35 chemical ingredients—including potassium gluconate, calcium carbonate, monosodium phosphate, maltodextrin, olive oil—all of which he deemed to be necessary for survival, based on his readings of biochemistry textbooks and U.S. government websites.[5][6] Rhinehart used to view food as a time-consuming hassle and had resolved to treat it as an engineering problem. He blended the ingredients with water and consumed only this drink for the next thirty days. Over the course of the next two months, he adjusted the proportions of the ingredients to counter various health issues and further refined the formula.[5][7][8] Rhinehart claimed a host of health benefits from the drink and noted that it had greatly reduced his monthly food bill, which fell from about US$470 to $155, and the time spent behind the preparation and consumption of food while providing him greater control over his nutrition.[5]

Rhinehart's blog posts about his experiment attracted attention on Hacker News,[6][9] eventually leading to a crowdfunding campaign on Tilt that raised about $1.5 million in preorders[10][11] aimed at moving the powdered drink from concept into production. Media reports detailed how operations began for Soylent Nutrition, Inc. in April 2014, using a relatively small $500 system to ship the first $2.6 million worth of product.[12] In January 2015, Soylent received $20 million in Series A round funding, led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.[13]

Soylent is named after a food in Harry Harrison's 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room![14] In the novel, most types of soylent are made from soy and lentils, hence the name of the product, a combination of "soy" and "lent". The word also evokes the 1973 film adaptation Soylent Green, in which the eponymous food is made from human remains.[6] Rhinehart also says he chose the name, with its morbid associations, to pique curiosity and deeper investigation, since the name was clearly not chosen with a traditionally "flashy" marketing scheme in mind.[15]

Distribution[edit]

Soylent was only available for purchase and shipment within the United States until June 15, 2015, when the shipping to Canada began.[16] In October 2017, Canada disallowed further shipments of Soylent due to a failure to meet Canadian food regulations on meal replacements.[17] Shipments to Canada resumed in 2020.[citation needed]

In July 2017, Soylent was sold offline for the first time at 7-Eleven stores in and around Los Angeles.[18] By April 2018, Soylent was sold in over 8,000 U.S. 7-Elevens and was available at Walmart, Target, Kroger, and Meijer.[19][20]

Health effects[edit]

The makers of Soylent claim it contains the nutrients necessary for a healthy lifestyle.[21]

Some people have experienced gastrointestinal problems from consumption of Soylent, particularly flatulence.[22][23]

Lead and cadmium content[edit]

On August 13, 2015, As You Sow filed a notice of intent to pursue a lawsuit against the makers of Soylent, claiming that Soylent was in breach of California's Proposition 65 for not adequately labelling its product given the levels of lead and cadmium present in the drink.[citation needed] Although Soylent contains levels of lead and cadmium far below the national safety levels set by the FDA, it does contain 12 to 25 times the level of lead and 4 times the level of cadmium permitted in California without additional labeling.[24][25] A lawyer who has worked on settlements of Proposition 65 suits described the case as "alarmist", as the levels are well below FDA limits of what is allowed in food products.[26] However, as Soylent is marketed as a complete meal replacement, many customers consume the drinks three times a day, equating to 36 to 75 times the lead and 12 times the level of cadmium without the Prop 65 label.[27]

Soylent's website displays the Proposition 65 warning required by California.[26] Soylent Nutrition, Inc. published the position that the levels of heavy metal content in Soylent "are in no way toxic, and Soylent remains completely safe and nutritious".[28] Soylent Nutrition, Inc. also published an infographic and spreadsheet based on an FDA study of heavy metal content in common foods, comparing two selected example meals to servings of Soylent with a similar amount of caloric intake. Both of the company's chosen comparison meals include high levels of cadmium and arsenic, along with levels of lead similar to those of Soylent; although one of them includes tuna and the other includes salmon, providing over 97% of the arsenic in each proposed meal, with spinach providing 74% of the cadmium in the higher-cadmium meal and fruit cocktail providing 71% of the lead in the higher-lead meal.[citation needed]

Product recalls[edit]

In 2016, the company announced it would halt sales of the Soylent Bar due to reports of gastrointestinal illness, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.[29] The company asked customers to discard any unconsumed bars and said it would offer full refunds.[30] On October 21, 2016, the company triggered a product recall.

On October 27, 2016, the company also halted sales of Soylent Powder.[31] The company said tests on the bar had not shown contamination[clarification needed] but also said that some powder users had reported stomach-related symptoms from consuming the powder.[32][33]

The company initially suspected soy or sucralose intolerance.[34] However, on November 7, 2016, Soylent instead blamed algal flour for making people sick and said it planned to remove algal flour from future formulations of the powders and bars,[35][36] which it did in the next formulation version 1.7 introduced on December 15, 2016.[37][38] The drink-based products use algal oil, not algal flour, so were deemed to be safe for users.

Reviews[edit]

Soylent has gone through multiple iterations since its release, which have significantly changed the flavor, texture, and nutritional ingredients.

Rhinehart called the flavor of the original versions "minimal", "broad" and "nonspecific".[39] Soylent 1.0 contains soy lecithin and sucralose as masking flavors and to adjust appearance, texture and smell.[40] Before version 1.4, vanillin was included as an ingredient for flavoring.[41]

Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post noted in 2013 that Soylent fulfills a similar need as medical foods like Abbott Laboratories' Jevity but at a much lower cost.[42]

Reviews on the taste of powdered Soylent vary. Writing for The Verge, Chris Ziegler said he was "pleasantly surprised" with the "rich, creamy, and strangely satisfying" flavor,[23] and a reviewer for Business Insider likened it to a vanilla milkshake with the texture of pancake batter,[43] while a writer for The Guardian wrote that it was "purposefully bland", "vile" and made the taster "gag".[44]

Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times said he "found Soylent to be a punishingly boring, joyless product".[22] Chris Ziegler of The Verge, who experimented with subsisting only on Soylent for almost a month, said that although he liked and "never really tired of the flavor", he still concluded that "Soylent isn't living, it's merely surviving", and described the apple he ate at the end of that period as "my first meal back from the abyss" and the best he'd ever had in his life.[23] A writer for Gawker said he "was having trouble getting it down", and eventually "dumped the whole thing in the sink".[45]

Both Manjoo and Ziegler said they had experienced some gastrointestinal problems from drinking it.[23][22] Lee Hutchinson of Ars Technica also reported a brief period of "adaptation gas" at the beginning of a four-day experiment.[15]

The mocha-flavored version has been described as similar to a "caffeinated Nesquik drink".[46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Soylent Offices - Los Angeles". 20 May 2019.
  2. ^ Sifferlin, Alexandra (June 10, 2013). "Soylent: Is the 'Food of the Future' Really a Nutrition Solution?". Time. Archived from the original on May 11, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2022 – via healthland.time.com.
  3. ^ Elkins, Kathleen (October 27, 2017). "Why I'm living on Soylent for a month, even though it's now banned in Canada". CNBC. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  4. ^ "Soylent, once the beverage of tech bros, finds a new audience". finance.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 2022-03-12. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  5. ^ a b c "How I Stopped Eating Food". Rob Rhinehart personal blog. February 13, 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-05-14. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
  6. ^ a b c "The End of Food". The New Yorker. May 12, 2014. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
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  8. ^ Hannan, Caleb (July 18, 2013). "Could This Liquid Replace Food?". Popular Science. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  9. ^ Johnson, Theresa Christine (March 14, 2017). "The Fascinating Start to Future Food Brand Soylent". The Dieline. Archived from the original on February 10, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
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  11. ^ Crowdfunding Darling Soylent Nets $1.5 Million In VC Funding Archived 2017-08-23 at the Wayback Machine. October 22, 2013
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  14. ^ Varughese, Ansa (March 15, 2013). "Rob Rhinehart, 24, Creates Soylent: Why You Never Have To Eat Food Again". Medical Daily. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
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  21. ^ Hutchinson, Lee (January 29, 2014). "Soylent gets tested, scores a surprisingly wholesome nutritional label". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 2015-06-13. Retrieved 2015-06-11. However, nutrition testing done to gain the label established that Soylent meets the Food and Drug Administration's standards for a whole raft of healthy claims: 'Everything from reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers to absence of tooth decay', said Rhinehart. Based on the testing, he explained, Soylent can make many of the health and nutrient claims that the FDA tracks.
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  23. ^ a b c d Ziegler, Chris (17 July 2014). "Soylent survivor: one month living on lab-made liquid nourishment". The Verge. Archived from the original on 20 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016. Each box contains seven packets of powder – one per day – paired with seven bottles of a fish oil / canola oil blend.
  24. ^ Houck, Brenna (August 16, 2015). "Soylent Under Fire For Allegedly Failing to Provide Adequate Warnings On Its Labels". Eater. Archived from the original on August 17, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
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  27. ^ Westervelt, Amy (August 18, 2015). "Heavy metals prove all too common in meal replacement products, says watchdog group". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on October 26, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  28. ^ "Soylent FAQ: California Proposition 65". Archived from the original on 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  29. ^ Mole, Beth (October 12, 2016). "Soylent halts sale of bars; investigation into illnesses continues". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  30. ^ Lomas, Natasha (October 13, 2016). "Soylent Bars recalled after some customers get sick". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  31. ^ "Soylent Thinks It Found What Was Making People Sick: Algae". Bloomberg.com. November 7, 2016. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  32. ^ Soylent pulls Powder as part of probe into customer sickness Archived 2016-10-28 at the Wayback Machine Techcrunch, October 28, 2016
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  34. ^ Mole, Beth (October 12, 2016). "People get "violently ill" from Soylent bars; company stumped". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on October 12, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  35. ^ Filloon, Whitney (2016-11-07). "Soylent Blames Algae for Making Customers Violently Ill". Eater. Retrieved 2022-07-28.
  36. ^ Mole, Beth (November 8, 2016). "Solved: Algal flour was causing violent illnesses, Soylent says". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  37. ^ Soylent blames algal flour for consumer complaints Archived 2017-10-25 at the Wayback Machine November 7, 2016. The Verge Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  38. ^ "Powder 1.7 Now Shipping". Soylent Nutrition, Inc. December 15, 2016. Archived from the original on December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  39. ^ "Stephen Colbert Taste Tests Soylent... And Finds It Delicious?", Inc., June 13, 2014, archived from the original on November 9, 2017, retrieved February 11, 2018, Rhinehart described the 'minimal flavor' as 'broad' and 'nonspecific'
  40. ^ "Soylent: There is more to food than nutrition. Even a..." soylent.me. January 13, 2014. Archived from the original on September 13, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  41. ^ Soylent 1.4 begins shipping today., February 25, 2015, archived from the original on February 27, 2015, retrieved March 20, 2015
  42. ^ Matthews, Dylan (March 14, 2013). "Rob Rhinehart has a crazy plan to let you go without food forever. It just might work". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  43. ^ Love, Dylan (July 14, 2014), "Soylent Review", Business Insider, archived from the original on May 23, 2016, retrieved August 15, 2014
  44. ^ Mahdawi, Arwa (8 February 2016), "Mansplain it to Me: inside the Stupid Hackathon for extremely stupid ideas", The Guardian, archived from the original on 8 February 2016, retrieved 8 February 2016
  45. ^ "We Drank Soylent, The Weird Food of the Future", Gawker, May 19, 2013, archived from the original on 2014-10-05, retrieved 2017-02-05
  46. ^ Robinson, Melia. "I gave up breakfast for a week and drank this caffeinated meal-replacement shake instead". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2020-11-05. Retrieved 2022-03-21.

External links[edit]