In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I review Soylent 1.3. I typically post the review text after an episode comes out, but as I did with the Kindle Voyage Review I’m going to post it ahead of time. Why? Well, during the show myself and the rest of the Bad Voltage team discuss the review and after reading this I hope you’re interested enough to listen in when the show comes out tomorrow. In the mean time, you can listen to our holiday episode (where we discuss how we got into technology, where we think tech will be in 2024 and review our 2014 predictions) here: A Hannu-pancha-festi-christ-wanzaa-newton-vent Story
For some, food and the act of eating are merely about sustenance. That mindset is antithetical to the way I approach gastronomy. That said, when Soylent hit the crowd funding scene, I was intrigued. And I wasn’t the only one. They had over $2M in pre-orders using Tilt and have since raised roughly 1.5M from venture capitalists.
So, what is Soylent? Unlike its eponymous plankton-colored movie nutrition source; it’s not people. It is a meal replacement drink that aims to be nutritionally complete, low cost, easy to prepare and flavor neutral. For those like Soylent’s creator who “resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming”, it can be used in lieu of food for all three meals. During the initial formulation of the product he even subsided on nothing but Soylent for 30 days and has been living on a 90% Soylent diet ever since. For those who actually enjoy eating, it can also be used to replace individual meals at your discretion. It has a 50/30/20 ratio of carbohydrates, fats and protein and a 3 serving pouch contains 2,010 calories if you include the optional oil mixture. A 7 pouch box is $85 as a one time purchase with the starter kit or $70 as a monthly subscription.
I placed my order on July 1st and received it on December 15th. That’s correct it took 5 1/2 months. Unfortunately, based on shipping estimates currently on the website, things haven’t improved much since I placed my order. Do note that reorders should ship in 1-2 weeks, which is much more reasonable.
So, now that I actually have Soylent, what do I think? I should note here that radically altering your diet in the way Soylent’s creator has could have potentially serious health ramifications. Before you consume nothing but a nutrient slurry you heard about on Bad Voltage, created by someone you don’t know on the Internet, you should definitely do a copious amount of research and probably speak with a medical professional. Realistically I don’t think we’ll know the true long term implications of something like this anytime soon. With that out of the way, let me say that as a tech guy, I really like what they are doing. While they’re happy to sell you the product, there is a huge portion of the site dedicated to DYI that allows you to access and tweak their recipe to your liking and make it at home. This is not your average company. Additionally, they actually version the product and are iterating on it fairly quickly. The shipment I received was Soylent 1.3, which replaced the primary source of potassium, tweaked the flavor and changed packaging. Soylent 1.2 replaced fish oil with algae oil to make the product animal free and removed the enzyme blend added in a previous version while Soylent 1.1 reduced the amount of sucralose, added the aforementioned enzyme blend to improve digestion and updated the packaging. I don’t know of any other food vendor that details the changes in their product in this manner, but it’s a trend I welcome.
On to the actual product. The taste has been described as purposefully bland and that’s not far off. Opinions seem to very widely, but to me it has a very mild vanilla flavor. I didn’t use a blender for my initial tests and the product is slightly gritty, but certainly tolerable to me. Others I had taste Soylent did not concur with my assessment. Leaving Soylent in the refrigerator overnight helped the consistency immensely. I had almost nothing but Soylent for breakfast and lunch over the last two days which resulted in me feeling sated and having normal energy levels. I ran three miles before dinner yesterday and can’t say I noticed any difference between how I felt during that and a normal run. I had none of the gastric distress, intestinal discomfort or soul-crushing flatulence that has been reported by some.
So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? I can’t imagine consuming nothing but Soylent for 3 meals a day every day. I just like food too much. Even if I didn’t, I think the impact of cooking, eating and sharing food have a profound impact on local culture. One I’d hate to see go away. But the openness and transparency of the company, their willingness to iterate and the nutritional completeness along with ease of preparation does mean I’ll likely use it to replace breakfast and lunch a couple times a week moving forward. Now, is Soylent right for you? That’s too dependent on your gastronomic proclivities and intestinal fortitude for me to say.
As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.