Soylent’s Secret Ingredient Isn’t People—It’s Excuses

You’ve made a huge mistake …

… is what people usually say whenever I tell them I’ve ordered the would-be food substitute Soylent.

I’m starting to believe them, because an order I placed last November has yet to show up, despite promises from the company that makes it. And I’m not the only one complaining about missing Soylent.

Soylent Unseen

The smoothie-like nutritional drink made waves last year when its founder claimed the vitamin-rich potion could replace eating by providing powdered versions of the nutrients their body needs to survive. That’s why I decided to give it a try last fall.

Soylent has since become an object of fascination among the tech community, with reviews of the substance ranging from semen-like to a “great reminder of why food is awesome.”

If you believe its most fervent proponents, it’s supposed to change the world, too. For instance, it can give people more time to work instead of thinking about pesky things like lunch and dinner. Some claim it might also provide an inexpensive way to reduce world hunger.

I want to try it because some people claim that Soylent’s benefits include healthy weight loss and clearer skin. (Admittedly, part of the reason I bought it is because my boyfriend did, and he’s the one who usually cooks.) Since ordering a month’s supply last November, however, I have yet to try it.

According to the Soylent website, new orders ship in 10-12 weeks, and reorders in 1-2 weeks. I have a hard time believing that, considering my boyfriend and I haven’t received ours after almost eight months. And neither have a number of people on Twitter:

Soylent Has My Green, But I Have No Soylent

When I first ordered Soylent on November 9, the company took my money and told me to expect my order in January. A follow-up email in January that said that quality wasn’t up to snuff in December, the company had to fix the flavor and texture, and that shipping would resume in February.

Then in May, I received another email that said the company is shipping orders for 9-12 weeks worth of product, and promised that Soylent would be “much more deliberate in our distribution of internal operations information and our all of our shipping-related announcements will be based on fact rather than projection.”

Four days ago, I received the most recent update, along with some information I found discomforting. Without telling anyone who’d been waiting for months for their weird nutritional smoothies, Soylent had put a hold on shipping in early July. Apparently, people were going on Soylent-based diets and getting sick:

Early recipients of Soylent 1.0 indicated they were quite happy with the taste, texture, and ease of Soylent, but some experienced side effects including flatulence and headaches.

Wait, you mean people were replacing their meals with Soylent in exactly the manner the company encouraged, and their bodies didn’t like it?

Instead of telling people this could be a problem, the company stopped shipping until they could soften the blow by creating directions that tell people how to Soylent:

To mitigate potential digestive concerns:

1. Do not consume Soylent as your predominant source of food without easing into it slowly to allow your body and gut bacteria time to adjust. This should take at least 3-5 days and in some cases longer.

2. If you experience digestive issues, try drinking Soylent more slowly and over a longer period of time during each meal.

Over-the-counter digestive enzymes (Beano) and simethicone (Gas-X) can help reduce these issues.

Concerning possible hyponatremia (low sodium) or dehydration:

1. Soylent provides slightly less sodium per day than necessary. If you experience headaches or tiredness we recommend adding ¼ teaspoon table salt per pouch of Soylent.

2. The IOM recommends 2.7-3.7L+ of water per day depending on build and activity level. Soylent provides 1.6L meaning you must consume a significant amount of water in addition to Soylent.

The company claims it’s begun shipping again, but I still haven’t received a shipping notification. 

A couple of weeks before I received the email about Soylent pausing shipping, I received this tweet from the company, which claimed that it was working through one-month orders like mine at the time.

If I do eventually get it, I’m going to take Soylent’s suggestions seriously—otherwise, my boyfriend and I will be going through flatulence and dehydration together. Romantic, isn’t it?

Time To Give Up?

I know that once I start using Soylent, my body will need to adjust. I’m just not sure how yet, especially since the reviews I’ve seen for the month-long Soylent experiments have been written by men. I was looking forward to seeing how it affects me as a woman, considering the difference in nutrients men and women need.

But this back and forth with a company that requests in its emails not to contact them or ask about shipping information, and that even halts shipping while informing people after the fact, is frustrating. Not to mention the company promoting 10-12 week shipping times for new orders when paid customers haven’t received their orders from 2013.

Instead, my boyfriend and I decided to try “DIY Soylent.” We purchased a bunch of vitamins, minerals, health powder, and oils to make our own nutrient smoothies. Soylent “open sources” recipes on its website, but there are other companies that are selling their own Soylent-like substances, and you can purchase all the ingredients in health food stores and on Amazon. Of course, Soylent isn’t thrilled with them.

I’m still waiting on a few, final ingredients before I can start mixing up my own version of mineral, hunger-suppressing smoothies. Maybe the other people in my position will do the same.

The Soylent Craze

Soylent isn’t really unique. Though the company picked up $3 million in crowdfunding last year, it’s far from the only nutritional drink that aims to give people a way to manage their health and diet.

It’s really just a startup that’s trying to disrupt Ensure.

@nikkigoody has the fridge of a true #soylentpioneer

A photo posted by Soylent (@soylent) on

Though my friends keep making fun of me for putting my money and trust in a company that wants humans to choose a smoothie over a hamburger, I’m still interested. Given all the diets we put our bodies through, pumping it full of vitamins and minerals isn’t the craziest idea.

At least Soylent replied to me. Other people on Twitter who’ve also been waiting a long time for their orders have never gotten a response.

If nothing else, I’ve learned my lesson about buying things from startups that claim big ideas but don’t deliver—except, of course, to the tech reporters who write about them. I’m still looking forward to trying Soylent—even my own month-long experiment—but at this point, I won’t hold my breath.

Maybe Mellow, the pre-ordered sous-vide machine that connects to your smartphone and is set to arrive in early 2015, will be delivered before my Soylent, and I’ll be too busy eating perfectly-cooked chicken to worry about it.

Okay, maybe I haven’t learned a lesson after all. 

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