The shipment date for Soylent, a food replacement formula invented by a Silicon Valley software engineer and financed through a Crowdtilt crowdfunding campaign, has been pushed back again. This latest delay, according to the company’s blog, is due to one of their suppliers. The company is waiting on the delivery of 28 tons of special rice protein, said to be of “the highest mesh size on the market.” The choice to use the highest mesh size, which equates to the smallest particle size, was an important formula modification made when beta testers complained that the drink had a gritty, chalky mouth-feel.
Soylent is a beige, odorless, powder food substitute designed to supply all the nutrients needed by the body without the effort, time, and money that goes into preparing traditional food. Soylent’s ingredients are rice protein, oat flour, maltodextrin, fish oil, canola oil, and raw chemical powders. It is mixed with water into a smoothie-like consistency. One of the benefits of Soylent is the absence of toxins and carcinogenic elements often found in processed foods. Each three-serving bag of Soylent contains 2,010 calories, and each serving costs $3.10. Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart had no background in nutrition or chemistry and read scientific journals, textbooks, and websites to develop the formula. He named it after a fictional food in the novel Make Room! Make Room.
Despite Soylent’s shipment date being pushed back yet again, its overall progress has been relatively swift. The formula was locked down in December, and by the end of January, Soylent had its nutrition label. Though the results of the nutrition testing allow Soylent to tout any number of health and medical benefits, Rhinehart says the company is not “making any medical claims.” Specifically, no claim will be made about being able to live exclusively on the formula forever because it “would imply it will make you live forever.”
Rhinehard believes that Soylent could potentially change the world’s relationship to food. On Sunday, he moderated a panel at SXSW titled The Future of Food Processing with three other food-tech CEOs. Soylent could be used to address the obesity that results when people eat the food that is unhealthiest because it the cheapest, most convenient, and most available to them. Rhinehard says that developing countries can produce Soylent from the products of local agriculture. Also, because it can be shipped so easily, Soylent can be used in emergencies to aid starving and malnourished people. Additionally, the food replacement reduces bowel movements, which would benefit those areas where adequate sanitation is a prevalent source of disease.
Though Soylent’s ship date has been delayed yet again, several pallets of the rice protein have been ordered as a stopgap so original crowdfunding backers can get started. Rhinehart originally wanted the initial shipment of Soylent to occur only after there was a sufficient quantity for re-orders. The Soylent campaign brought in over $2 million and venture capitalists provided another $1.5 million to help bring a commercial version of it to market. A post on Soylent’s blog says that the first shipments should be heading out to supporters around April 25.
By Donna Westlund