Soylent: can it replace regular food?

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Having recently been given the opportunity to try it out, here's a newcomer's review of Soylent, the meal replacement product with a name reminiscent of the 1974 film, Soylent Green, which has existed for a few years now. No, Soylent is not made of people or overused referential jokes. Rather, it is made for people who are interested in an efficient and filling meal replacement that fulfills much of their daily diet requirements while not being an utterly terrible experience. In regards to the latter part of that statement, well, a terrible or not terrible experience is subjective. In my case, despite not being a huge fan of meal replacements, I'm a fan of Soylent.

So what is Soylent made of, you might ask? According to their website, Soylent contains soy protein, sunflower oil, Isomaltulose, and 20% of your daily essential micronutrients, which is to say: not too many highly processed things. One serving is about 400 calories, so if you operate on a 2000 calorie per day diet, then you would be consuming about five servings a day if you were to replace your entire diet with Soylent. In my case, I have only ever had Soylent for one meal in a given day, so I cannot attest to how it would be to base my entire diet off of it. That said, it has been nice and filling for the meals I’ve had it for. More information on the makeup of Soylent and nutrition facts can be found online at the company’s website.

As of now, I have been able to try three out of a total four Soylent flavor variants: Original, Nectar, and Coffiest, with Cacao being the one I have yet to try. Here's the breakdown of my thoughts on the flavors I have tried: Original, admittedly, does not have a strong flavor, but I have heard it compared to that of pancake batter. With hindsight of having heard this before, I am inclined to agree with that assessment. Nectar, on the other hand, is a different story. It of course has the base Soylent flavor, but with what I would call the essence of the cereal Froot Loops added in, producing a sweet yet odd flavor that I can neither recommend nor not recommend. The last variant I tried, Coffiest, tastes how you would expect, mixing the pancake batter-like flavor with a coffee flavor. In addition to flavor variants, Soylent can be bought in powdered form. The main difference with the powder is that you can prepare as large or as small an amount as you want at once, and flavor it as you like while preparing it. However, as I’ve learned, bottled is generally less work, as to truly get a good experience out of the powder you need a food processor or other way to stir it aside from simply shaking with water. There is also a Soylent Bar, but it was out of stock at the time of writing and I have not tried it.

To give an idea of what others think of Soylent, I gathered a couple testimonials from other students at Illinois Tech. When asked to provide his thoughts on Soylent, Kaushik Suryanarayanan, who graciously provided me with Soylent powder to try, had this to say: "Soylent is a product whose versatility is very useful at almost anytime. Whether you use it as a snack or a meal, it’s an efficient product that lets you grab a meal on the go. Additionally, Soylent allows one to flavor it as you wish (peanut butter and maple syrup is a personal fave) and I recommend it to anyone who needs an efficient and nutritious meal."

The other student I spoke with, Dev Bharel (who sold me individual bottles of Soylent for my consumption and testing) could not fully provide a testimonial, but has replaced most if not all of his meals with Soylent and insists that “if you roll up a newspaper you can put a Soylent inside.” Clearly Soylent is also versatile in container function, when in bottled form.

Now for the most important question to interested parties: how much does this cost? Soylent operates on a monthly subscription basis or as a one-time bulk order, requiring a base order of 12 bottles. As of writing, the cost without a subscription for 12 bottles of Original is $34, with a breakdown of about $2.83 per bottle. 12 bottles of Cacao, Nectar, or Coffiest runs you $39, with a breakdown of $3.25 per bottle. If you subscribe to receiving Soylent bottled, you save 5% off the order. The powdered form requires a 35 meal minimum order, separated into seven bags, which can be broken down as your daily calorie intake requires. One 35 meal / 7 bag order runs you $64, with a breakdown of $1.83 per 400 calories, which is about a dollar saved per meal vs the Original flavor in bottled form. You save 16% if you subscribe. Depending on whether you plan to replace your entire diet with Soylent or just make it part of some part of your daily diet, you may end up ordering more or less of it.

So, some final thoughts: my first experience with Soylent was with the powdered form, which was a trial and error process for me in terms of preparation, but was an overall decent experience. At first I was not sure how much I liked the flavor, but I found that adding things like my morning coffee or strawberry Nesquik made it a better experience. The bottled form left nothing to be desired in terms of preparation, of course, but it made me realize, at least when trying the Original flavor, that I had been adding just a bit too much water when using the powder. I would probably say my favorite flavor of what I tried turned out to be Original in the end, with its neutral, pancake batter-like flavor, with Coffiest being a close second. However, Cacao, if I had gotten to try it before writing, would probably have ended up my favorite in the end. Overall, my experience with Soylent has not disappointed. All said, can I personally recommend Soylent to people? Wholeheartedly, from someone who has never been into meal replacements, it’s a resounding yes. Don’t be surprised if you see me sporting a Soylent for lunch in the near future.