The idea is not new and has been around for awhile now. You see it in hospitals, nursing homes, and now startups, dorms and those busy studying STEM courses in school. This product was created out of a need to do away with having to worry about eating all the time. If you think about it, our days consist of having to stop from what we are doing and make a meal three times a day. That time used to think about what you want to eat, then make it, and then eat it requires time. What if you could consume a product that eliminates all that and still allow you to get everything you need?
I will not shy away from the idea that I do get annoyed sometimes when I am working and I have to stop because I have to go eat. That causes me to step out of my flow and focus on my attention on something else making it harder to get back into my routine for work again. There are many who agree that eating does offset productivity and causes us to lose time in our work. Then of course there are the workhorses of the industry who can go all day working and then eat a big meal for dinner thinking they can just add in what they missed at lunch. The science of eating doesn’t work that way because your body works on signals food brings to your body.
The Social Behavior of Food
Food is what connects us to other people and cultures. This is why dates include going out to eat and getting to know someone. It provides you with something pleasurable to do while also sharing an interest in what the other person is eating. TV shows like Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods and Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown bring to life foods in other cultures. It connects people based on an interest that people share with one another through similar tastes. This is why food cook offs are so big with people because it connects them together who share similar interests. Food Connects People.
If you look at the social structure in which food plays a role in our lives you will see that it brings people into our lives three (or four or more for social butterflys) different times of the day. People have morning powertalks over breakfast or catch up on ideas over coffee before work. If you are a freelancer or true entrepreneur you know that your day usually starts with meeting someone for breakfast or coffee at a cafe or restaurant. Then you know from reading your Never Eat Alone book on the power of networking that every meal you have should be with someone. This helps expand, or update, your network of contacts. Food gives a reason to bring people together. Just try meeting someone just to talk and you will see how much harder it is versus meeting for lunch or dinner.
Food is also designed to create a moment for you to reflect on your day whether you live alone or have a family. Families that raise successful children have a habit of everyone sitting down at the dinner table together to talk about their day and to engage in conversation. Food builds social and communication skills for children. If you live alone then you understand it gives you a chance to reflect on your day while enjoying a delicious meal but if you have a family then it gives reason for everyone to sit down together and talk. Parents set the model of proper dinner behavior and get their children to talk about their day. Children that don’t eat together as a family do not have the same communication skills as that of children who do.
When you change the eating habits of food you change the way people connect with one another. Talking with people over food no longer becomes an enjoyable process if the only purpose is to exchange straight-forward information without any food there. Food adds the bumps and ebbs in conversation that people need between one another. It’s how we discover new things around us by what other people are doing. Without that communication between people conversation becomes utilitarian, which would give people reason to leave a conversation quicker if they have what they need.
Food reflects people’s personalities and lifestyles. One who is only interested in personal matters might find this drink to be a great solution to life’s hassle of figuring out what to eat all the time. They no longer have to worry about where to eat or stopping to cook a meal or meet up with someone, they can now just focus on themselves and getting what they want done. But after your work is over, then what? A typical engineer will say that their work is never finished. But guess what? Work is a forever thing and when you pass on someone will keep doing their own thing too, so what difference does it make how many hours you spend working?
Changing Eating Habits
A product that has been around and, unfortunately, herald by some as changing how we eat while getting the same nutritional supplements our bodies need is called Soylent. A liquid-based meal that gives the body everything it needs. This product was created by an engineer, Robert Rhinehart, over the frustrating task of having to worry about food every so often throughout his day. In an interview he did on the Colbert Report you can see his adroit responses to how his product works. There is no color or pleasure from such a product that promises to free up your day because it is about giving the body what it needs without worrying about meals in between while you are able to continue working.
If you look at a typical day you will see how that might benefit some people, mostly engineers and those of the natural science backgrounds. Soylent comes in a bottle that you carry around with you and sip on throughout the day leaving your body to feel content. The color, texture, and even temperature reflect the type of lifestyle one is supposed to live with such a product; plain, basic, cold, and utilitarian. Normal foods have different flavors, smells, temperatures, and texture. Your body needs solid foods in order to digest food and your teeth need solid food in order to stay healthy otherwise what is the point of teeth on an all liquid diet?
In an article written about Soylent from the New Yorker, it was striking to find that engineering students at Caltech find the drink to be very useful in getting their work done. They don’t have to worry about eating with other students they can just focus on their school work and take a drink whenever they get hungry. Students who like the drink have contributed to the science behind the drink giving their own feedback about how to make it better or add flavor. Rheinhart says that he is very involved in the online discussions about different ways to make the drink. In fact he put out the entire list of ingredients for his drink online which some say is a brilliant marketing plan. Brilliant in the sense that it lets others add their two cents to it and change the ingredients a bit but not in the design of the product. This helps spread the idea further, infact another company decided to do that recently with their car design.
This strategy changes how businesses work today. In the age of Coke keeping it’s recipe a secret it was common for other businesses to do the same. Now instead of hiding it companies are sharing with others how they created their product. The public can now become part of the discussion and strategy for the company. People have even gotten hired because they contributed so much to the discussion in the company’s online forums. [No secret here, if you want to get noticed, you need to participate] Companies look for people that know how to apply what they learned in school and use it in ways that can benefit the company but everyone else. This is how a shared economy is developed.
Now that companies are giving away their secrets other companies are popping up that supply the just the parts. Online stores like iHerb.com and Ingredient Stop allow anyone to be able to purchase individual ingredients and create their own products at home. In this case, people can now go and see the full listing of ingredients to make Soylent and order the stuff online and make their own. Websites like DIY Soylent have been created to help make different forms of Soylent so that people can add some texture and flavor to it or get different recipes.
Creating More Meatless Products
The one up side this product helps with is not relying on animal products. As anyone knows who understands nutrition, animal products are what contribute to heart disease conditions. Soylent has none of the bad stuff so you can still get your daily nutritional needs met and not worry about killing any animals. More and more companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek where they use no animal products are becoming popular among consumers and vegans and health consumers because they provide the same flavor (sometimes better) while also providing the same texture that most are used to when eating animal products.
The industry is filled with many drink products that promise to provide the daily nutritional needs for our body and so there is nothing new about Soylent making it’s way into the liquid meal replacement game. The only thing that is different is the need for people to say that such a product is needed because they are so busy. Getting your daily nutritional needs met is very important for your body and price wise such a product can save you money but the opportunity cost to using such a product is that you lose out on all the social interactivity that eating regular food brings.
If you are a engineer, you still need to mingle with people, which is very hard for introverted engineers to understand. Yes your homework or work is important but nothing is more important than making connections, expanding your network, and eating food because when you hit middle age and old age, what kind of life will you have lived if all you did was work and drink a space aged drink?