Synthetic Food Takes the Hassle Out of Eating

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A tub of potassium gluconate is seen on a production table at the Soylent corporate office in Oakland, California on September 09, 2013. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty)

What if you didn’t have to ever eat to get all the nutrition you need? What if you never had to go to the grocery store and inspect produce, or deal with your order getting mangled at the bagel joint? What if sustaining your body was a simple as drinking a super-cocktail? Would you stop eating real food?

This dream of never having to deal with the "hassle" of food is what inspired Rob Rhinehart to create a grayish, macro-nutritious cocktail called Soylent which he concocts in an ex-garment factory outside Los Angeles.

Soylent is tasteless, odorless food replacement drink that comes in the form of a smoothie-like creation. It is made with rice protein and starch, among other ingredients, and contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

In the future, Rhinehart imagines we’ll all be eating it—with fine restaurants and home-cooking relegated to the status of hobbies. This isn’t just one man’s pipe-dream—about 20,000 customers have placed pre-orders of the stuff, totaling more than $2 million in orders to be shipped in early March.

He joins The Takeaway to discuss his product and why he wants to create a food alternative.

"It's not really a diet thing—I see it more as a life simplification tool," says Rhinehart. "Food is very complicated. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of thought trying to decide what to eat all the time—there's just so many options, there's so much complexity. I think it's a lot to worry about all the time and it'd just be really nice if there's this option where you just didn't have to be bothered."

Needless to say, Rhinehart is not a foodie—the entrepreneur says that he eats Soylent everyday of the week and views food and eating as a hobby.

But what about taste?

"It's ok, it's kind of bland—in fact I prefer it that way," says Rhinehart. "If you had something that was very sweet or very stimulating over and over again you would get really tired of it. This, you know, is not the tastiest thing you'll ever have but I think that's what makes it so compelling for me—I don't have to worry about how good it tastes, it just tastes kind of complete, it's good enough, it gets the job done and then I can get on with my day."

Watch a video about Soylent below.

Guests:

Rob Rhinehart

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

Grace from Seattle

Does anyone consider this as a real alternative to food? Maybe this is a good item to have on an emergency shelf next to a few 5 gallon containers of water, but that's about it. Real food (organic and wholesome)offers us nutrients and fiber not found in shakes. I agree with above posters. Eat simply and well. Plan ahead. Each meal doesn't need to be a flavor extravaganza!

Jan. 30 2014 04:24 PM
Kellie from Utah

You know, I heard this topic heading as up coming on the show but had an appt and could not listen. I decided to look this up on the site, as all day I was thinking about synthetic food .... I had no idea what this had been labeled, and I have to say "soylent - green, is people." I hope this guy payed some copyright fees,and for the rights to Chuck Heston's scarf.

Jan. 29 2014 10:37 PM
tom LI

A strictly liquid diet is not healthy for the digestive tract. Plus, after a quick preview of many of the DIY ingredients used like Protein powders, and Vitamins supplements in powder form - they are known to be notoriously inaccurate in their actual contents of the main ingredient!!! If it says 20gms of protein per serving say from four scoops of powder - you can guarantee its not that in actuality! Maybe 18, maybe as low as 12!

The supplement industry lacks production/manufacturing standards that would make sure each serving (powders or pill form) has what the label claims! Fish oils are big violators, as are protein powders, vitamin supplements, etc...!

What is really so hard about eating in the US? I'll tell you, its because eating has been turned into a form of entertainment! Where every meal is supposed to be a taste-bud festival that blows our palates away. Look at how food is advertized - be it junk, fast or a "home-made" one - everyone is laughing, the mom is dancing around the kitchen, the kids are waiting eagerly for that "Oh So Special Flavor Sensation" to be served. They're all having more fun than a barrel of stoned monkeys with a dozen pizzas would ever have...!

Keep your food intake simple, narrow it down to a few choices for the workaday week, prep what you can in advance, learn some healthy short-cuts for veggies, and schedule the cook time into your day - like you would exercise, etc...! Broil a few pieces of chicken, steam some veggies, add spices and such and enjoy the simplicity. On the weekends splurge a little. Do the better healthier take-outs, don't eat the whole thing in one sitting (leftovers!) and stop thinking that food is a form of entertainment and is there to sooth all your troubles. Eat for nutrition first, think about nutrition first - and chill out! Its not that hard!

Jan. 29 2014 04:25 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

I have in my mind a vivid image of Mr Rhinehart distributing his creation, free, from a truck parked in front of Chez Panisse.

A fitting marker for the grave of the American Left, it having tossed itself into the compost bin of impotent food fetishism.

Jan. 29 2014 03:58 PM
Jenna from UES

Um isn't eating the same thing everyday a gateway for cancer?

Jan. 29 2014 03:22 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Soylent" at my superbowl party?

I feel like I was pranked by Rhinehart and Hockenberry with a food called "Soylent."

"Cooking With Rhinehart" on the Food Network. I don't know.
The whole country is caught up with "Foodies," eating and taste and artisan this and unusual tasting that, and this guy comes up with a bland tasteless protein?

Jan. 29 2014 02:14 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Anybody remember who Rheinhart is from Ellison's "Invisible Man?"

Jan. 29 2014 02:08 PM

Yes, we all know how exhausting it is to eat food that tastes good on a daily basis. Rhinehart sounds like a barrel of laughs.

Jan. 29 2014 09:48 AM

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