What would you be willing to sacrifice in order to get all of the nutrition you need in one glass?
There are lots of options for healthy nutritional shakes and meal replacements. But while they may give you all the vitamins and nutrients you need for the day, they leave much to be desired in terms of taste.
Soylent’s website says that their inspiration was found in “recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money they spent creating nutritionally complete meals”. The website says that they want to provide a better alternative to the way we usually eat by giving us an alternative to food. An alternative that is convenient, affordable, sustainable and gives you a “balanced state of ideal nutrition”. The product supposedly allows you to take the time and effort you would normally spend prepping, eating and cleaning up after meals and engage in more productive endeavours. Or, as their slogan puts it, “Free your body”.
This last week Sofia Perpetua and Chris Cascarano from the New York Times came out with a very interesting video. They took four individuals with differing backgrounds and asked them to taste test Soylent. There was Faye Farrales (a personal trainer), Julia Moskin (a dining reporter), Dr. Ira Breite (a gastroenterologist) and Michael Madrigale (a sommelier).
- Breite said that the drink tasted like grit and that if you started drinking it on a consistent basis you would become extremely gassy from the oats. He suggests that if you are going to use it as the main source of nutrition in your diet that you should consult a physician. In the end he told the camera that he doesn’t think he could survive solely on this meal replacement – unless he was forced to.
- Moskin said that Soylent tasted gritty and that she could “feel” it. She told the camera that it would be boring to replace food with this and that while it’s an effective product, it would take away all the joy and excitement of food. She also brought up that Soylent could be beneficial in disaster relief where areas of need are lacking essential nutrition for people.
- Madrigale grimaced and said that the drink tasted very “healthy”. He said it smelled like cardboard and that no “normal person” would actually want to drink it. He even took it one step further and said that life wouldn’t be worth living if this was the only source of food on earth.
- Farrales said that the drink tastes like a protein shake with less flavour. She said that she wouldn’t use it as a meal replacement but might use it to supplement her diet only if they could improve on the taste.
It’s obvious that there are a few things Soylent got right. The supplement does maximize nutrition. For a relatively menial amount of calories you can get tons of nutrients! The product has a minimal environmental footprint, it takes a long time to go bad and it’s relatively easy to transport. However, not prioritizing taste and texture is their downfall. The assumption Soylent makes is that people eat food only to get their nutritional value filled for the day.
In a world where people actually enjoy preparing and eating food and have the means to do so, this sort of beverage just isn’t really a desirable option.