Venture-backed food replacement drink maker Soylent – yes, named after the movie where people unknowingly were sustained by eating other people – is out today with its newest product. The company this morning introduced “Soylent 2.0” (still not people), which is actually a vegan, soy-based nutritional drink that’s now shipping in a ready-to-drink package. Previously, Soylent sold its $3-per-meal shake in the form of a powder that shipped with a free mixer and scoop.
The outside investment helped bring the cost down to $2 for 400 kcal of Soylent (or $70/mo), which itself is a mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins and dozens of other vitamins.
The startup built a lot of buzz, especially among the highly driven tech community and college student crowd, who would down Soylent instead of meals when they were too busy coding or cramming to take time out to eat.
But the company’s product was only well-known among a fairly niche crowd of early adopters, due not only to its newness, or the inconvenience of having to make your own shakes, but also because of the way the startup marketed Soylent – as something that’s meant to “disrupt food.” Founder Rob Rhinehart even lived exclusively off Soylent for a month, before adding back “recreational eating” (aka eating food) into his diet. To date, the company reached 50,000+ customers, it says, including both subscriptions and one-time orders.
But with the addition of a ready-made blend, which the company describes as being designed from the “ground-up” with a combination of the vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and protein that the body needs, Soylent is targeting a slightly different demographic. As noted in a company blog post, Soylent 2.0 customers can use the new product to help them avoid convenience food like fast food, or to fill up mid-morning after inadequate breakfasts.
In other words, Soylent 2.0 is looking to gain traction among those who already buy meal replacement drinks. That’s a wider market where there are a number of competitors, like Ensure, Boost; diet shake makers such as Slimfast, Atkins, Special K, Nutrisystem, and others; as well as makers of protein drinks or other beverages aimed at athletes, those on special diets, and more.
Soylent 2.0 is described as a vegan drink with its fat energy coming from farm-free algae sources, and a low glycemic index thanks to 47 percent of its energy coming from healthy fats. Another 33 percent comes from slow digesting carbohydrates and 20 percent comes from protein. The idea, with this formula, is to provide an even and sustained release of energy, instead of offering spikes and crashes.
Each bottle of Soylent 2.0 also has 20 percent of daily values for all essential vitamins and minerals, the company says, and has an unrefrigerated shelf life of one year.
Until the product reaches customers’ hands, however, it’s unclear how the new, algae-reliant formula will affect the taste. The company has been iterating on taste since its debut, improving on the chalky silt-like nature of earlier drinks, while changing the formula a bit, too. Previous testers gave Soylent’s taste mixed reviews. Stephen Colbert once tried it and then immediately added chocolate syrup. The New Yorker, on the other hand, dubbed Soylent the “end of food.”
The new product is sold at $29 for a 12-pack (~$2.42 per bottle), with shipping starting October 15th. That makes it still pricier than competitors — for example, a 16-pack of Ensure is just $20 on Walmart.com. But the company would argue that it’s more nutritious than its often sugar-loaded competitors, which also don’t have its same mix of essentials.
The question now is if Soylent will be able to convince current meal replacement drink customers to switch to its product – or at least give it a try.