The Internet is currently abuzz about Soylent, Rob Rhinehart's nutritional concoction that he claims could mean that you'll never have to eat food again. It's a repulsive notion to some, but the extraordinarily successful Soylent crowdfunding campaign points to thousands of people who are fascinated by Rhinehart's brand of food hacking. But is Soylent really a viable replacement for real food?
Soylent first pinged our radar a few months back, when Rhinehart posted about his personal quest to create a nutritionally complete beverage that was inexpensive and eliminated the need for cooking and cleaning. It got us talking about single-source diets, and the possibility that some sort of "kibble for people" might be available in the future. Rhinehart decided he'd try to make that future now, however, assembling a startup team an launching a crowdfunding campaign to mass-produce Soylent. As of this posting, the Soylent campaign has attracted more than 3,400 backers for a total of more than $410,000. More than 1,000 backers have pledged $230 for a one-month supply of Soylent. Eighteen have pledged $680 apiece for a three-month supply. Other curious single-source foodies are trying to mix their own Soylent, sharing their formulas and experiences on the Soylent Discourse board or hanging out on the /r/soylent subreddit. Rhinehart stopped in at the Gawker offices to offer our sister blog a taste test.
Soylent is often talked about as a foodstuff created by and for the ramen-eating set, but Rhinehart doesn't see it that way. "As I walked around the city, I noticed a lot of people had trouble with their health and eating well," said Rhinehart, who lives in Brooklyn. "I lived in one of the poorer areas and people were clearly much less healthy than the ones in the more affluent areas, and I thought maybe there was a way that we could get healthy food to people in a more efficient way. I was a little frustrated because I was working on highly technical wireless networks and we were trying to make Internet access cheaper and faster but it seemed like people were really struggling with food."
While the cheeky name "Soylent" evokes a morbid laugh from folks who associate it with the film Soylent Green (which is to say, everyone), the goal of Soylent seems more in keeping with the substance from Harry Harrison's original novel that inspired the film, Make Room! Make Room! In the book, Soylent is simply a combination of soya and lentils used to cheaply feed the ever-growing population. Rhinehart's Soylent seems aimed at taking a shortcut through the food deserts and creating the ultimate convenience food—one that is cheap, easily prepared, and contains all the nutrients you need.