Soylent is a meal replacement beverage, advertised as a "staple meal", available in both liquid and powdered forms. Its creators state that Soylent meets all nutritional requirements for an average adult, but some critics claim otherwise. It was first created and tested by software engineer Rob Rhinehart as a self-experiment in nutrition. Subsequently, the powdered version of Soylent was developed into the first product line of the company Rosa Labs, which currently markets and sells the formulation.
Rosa Labs states that the current formulation is based on recommendations of the National Academy of Medicine and that Soylent meets the current Food and Drug Administration requirements to be sold as a food. Rosa Labs also states that Soylent includes all of the elements of a healthy diet, without excess amounts of sugars, saturated fats, or cholesterol.
On February 13, 2013, Rhinehart detailed his initial 30-day experiment in food replacement on his blog before later sharing the nutritional information and original formula for interested parties. Posts to his blog over the next two months detailed modifications to his personal formula.
These modifications led to a crowdfunding campaign on Tilt that raised over US$3 million aimed at moving the powdered drink from concept into production. As of 2016, this crowdfunding campaign remains the most funded food-related crowdfunding project ever accomplished. After the campaign, Soylent had venture capital financing for a seed round of $1.5 million to further develop proof of concept. Media reports have detailed how operations began for Rosa Labs in April 2014, using a relatively small US$500 system to ship the first US$2.6 million worth of product. In January 2015, Soylent received $20 million in Series A round funding, led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Prior to June 2015, Soylent was only available for purchase and shipment to those in the United States. On June 15, 2015, it was announced that Soylent would begin shipping to Canada at the same price in US dollars as for United States customers. Expansion to European countries is a stated future goal.
In the first week of May 2014, the first shipments of U.S. orders of Soylent 1.0 began. There have been subsequent changes, each called a new "version". Since Soylent 1.2 in November 2014, all versions have been vegan. Version 1.4, introduced in February 2015, used a carbohydrate/fat/protein ratios of 43/40/17, made so considering the advice of F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, M.D., a professor of medicine at Columbia University. Version 1.5, introduced in June 2015, further adjusted the ratios to 45/40/15, and has a glycemic index of 65 and a glycemic load of 35.
On August 3, 2015, the company announced "Soylent 2.0," which is the first ready-to-drink Soylent product introduced by the company. The pre-mixed product comes in a 400 calorie bottle and debuted on September 9, 2015.
|Soylent 1.0||First full version. Ingredients were finalized in January 2014, which use rice as the protein source and shipments began in April (vegan) and May (regular) of 2014.||Early 2014|
|Soylent 1.1||The sucralose was decreased, giving it a more neutral flavor, and new digestive enzymes were added.||October 2, 2014|
|Soylent 1.2||Omega-3 fatty acid from fish sources was replaced with omega-3 from algae, making the drink suitable for vegans and the enzymes added in Soylent 1.1 were removed.||November 10, 2014|
|Soylent 1.3||Dipotassium phosphate was added and shipping box sizes were reduced.||December 11, 2014|
|Soylent 1.4||Fats were incorporated into the powder that eliminated the need for the oil bottles, resulting in less packaging required in the shipping boxes. It used a carb/fat/protein ratios of 43/40/17, isomaltulose was added and gum acacia was removed.||February 25, 2015|
|Soylent 1.5||Improvements to texture from a reduction to oat flour and an addition of emulsifiers. Removal of powdered safflower and flaxseed oil which were both replaced by canola oil powder, supplementing the existing powdered high oleic sunflower oil and algal oil.||June 1, 2015|
|Soylent 1.6||Uses whole algal flour, high oleic algal oil and soy protein isolate, replacing the rice protein. Redesigned for "superior mouthfeel and taste". 45% lipids, 20% protein, and 35% low-glycemic carbohydrates, closer to Soylent 2.0 macronutrients. ||June 23, 2016|
|Soylent 2.0||First pre-mixed Soylent liquid product and it alters the carb/fat/protein ratios to 47/33/20; it has a glycemic index of 49.2 and a glycemic load of 16.7. About half of the lipid calories come from algal sources and it uses soy for its protein source.||September 9, 2015|
The product's name is based on its namesake foodstuff in Harry Harrison's 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!—named as a portmanteau of its main ingredients soya and lentils. The term is, however, most commonly associated with its 1973 film adaptation Soylent Green, in which the eponymous food supplement is made from human remains.
In April 2013, Rhinehart said he was spending US$154.62 per month on Soylent, yielding a diet of 11,000 kilojoules (2,600 kcal) per day while a diet of medical food such as Jevity would cost US$456 per month for 8,400 kilojoules (2,000 kcal).
Soylent 1.0, which began shipping commercially in May 2014, was supplied in quantities of 7, 14, or 28 bags, with one bag providing "3+" meals. As of July 2015 Soylent version 1.5 powder was available in the US and Canada for US$85 for 7 bags, with a reduced price for larger quantities or having a monthly subscription. The lowest cost-per-meal option is the monthly subscription at a cost of US$280 for 28 bags, which calculates to US$10 per day, US$2.50 per meal (at recommended serving size of 4 meals/day), or $3.33 (3 meals/day). The tag line on Soylent's main website states "A full day of balanced nutrition made in 3 minutes for $3/meal."
On August 31, 2015, the price of powdered Soylent version 1.5 dropped 23% of its price both subscription and one-time payments to US$54 and $64 for 7 bags respectively. This means the subscription costs US$7.71 per day. The subscription to liquid Soylent version 2.0 costs US$29 for twelve 400 kcal bottles, which works out to US$12.1 per day on a 2000 calorie diet.
Powdered Version (1.6)
The following summarizes the nutrition facts and ingredients for Soylent 1.6 (powdered version). The nutrition facts are based on one serving of 115 grams (4.1 oz). Each Soylent pouch contains four servings.
|Serving Size 115g||Servings per Container: 4|
|Calories from fat||225|
|Amount per Serving||% Daily Value*|
|% Daily Value|
Ready-to-Drink Version (2.0)
The following summarizes the nutrition facts and ingredients for Soylent 2.0 (drink version). The nutrition facts are based on one bottle (414 ml).
|Serving Size 1 bottle Soylent (414 mL)||Servings per Container: 1|
|Calories from fat||190|
|Amount per Serving||% Daily Value*|
|% Daily Value|
Soylent contains soy lecithin and sucralose as masking flavors and to adjust appearance, texture and smell. Rhinehart calls the flavor "minimal", "broad" and "nonspecific". Before version 1.4, vanillin was included as an ingredient for flavoring.
Reviews on the taste of powdered Soylent vary widely. Positive reviewers were "pleasantly surprised" with the "rich, creamy, and strangely satisfying" flavor, or likened it to that of a vanilla milkshake with the texture of pancake batter. Negative reviewers have called it a "punishingly boring, joyless product", "like someone wrung out a dishtowel into a glass", "purposefully bland", "vile" and made the taster "gag" and compared the taste to "homemade nontoxic Play-Doh". It has been compared to Slim Fast.
Due to the way in which both powdered and liquid varieties of Soylent are released by version, slight taste variances are introduced in every subsequent version that lead to changes in flavor.
The makers of Soylent claim it contains all the nutritional requirements necessary for a healthy lifestyle, and this claim has been tested and verified independently. There may be social drawbacks of living on a Soylent only diet.
Proposed Proposition 65 lawsuit
On August 13, 2015, non-profit environmental and corporate social responsibility watchdog As You Sow filed a notice of intent to pursue a lawsuit against the makers of Soylent, claiming that Soylent did not adequately label its product given the levels of lead and cadmium present in the drink. The basis for the lawsuit lies in California's Proposition 65, a law that requires additional labeling for food products containing trace amounts of certain substances. 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 allowable in a product without additional labeling as specified by Proposition 65. A lawyer who has worked on settlements of Proposition 65 suits described the case as "alarmist" as the levels are well below FDA limits. Soylent's website currently displays the required Proposition 65 warning. As You Sow proposes that, since Soylent is marketed as a complete replacement for all other meals, these levels may be harmful. The claim is of levels allowable concerning reproductive toxicity, which are considerably lower than levels allowable concerning poisoning or carcinogenicity.