With obesity on the up, escalating food prices and less time than ever to whip up that omega rich supper, has food as we know it simply become too inefficient a fuel?
Proponents of a rather new fonder in the form of liquid nutrition certainly seem to think so. An influx of drinkable meal alternatives have hit the market with quite some gusto. Yet a far away cry from yesteryears ‘slim-fast solutions’ these new age elixirs proclaim to solve a food ‘problem’ dichotomized by the trade off between convenience and nutrition. However whether these fluid solutions will simply satiate Gen Y’s vitamin junkies, or rather find a socially sustainable sweet spot remains to be seen.
Liquid Meal Time
While munching through a carrot may not be everyone’s cup of tea for that daily dose of vitamin C; the promise of a nutrient laden drinkable solution, Soylent, has deemed chewing altogether rather redundant. It’s certainly no feast for the senses, but Rob Rhinehart’s ‘default meal’ option has not only crowd sourced over $1M in pre-orders but has secured over $1.5M VC backing to bring the masses a cheap, healthy and convenient meal alternative. Soylent itself is manufactured liquid nutrition,comprised from water amalgamated with starch, rice protein powder, olive oil and a colorful list of nutrient additives – probably more extensive than you’re going to find on the back of a multivitamin pack. Rob claims its got everything the body needs, is “Certainly less risky than the typical western diet” while seeks to address a rather more pertinent issue of food waste. “We’re trying to solve hunger. This is not just a developing world problem. Millions of people in the United States are living off food stamps, eating poorly due to lack of time and money, or skipping meals altogether. We’re trying to make food better.”
If Soylent is able to remedy food waste, it just may have some legs. Roughly one third of food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tones, gets lots or wasted, while in the USA alone $48.3 billion worth of food is thrown away each year. Refining food choices in order to reduce personal and global inefficiency could just be the way to go. With Stateside obesity hitting 1 in 3, mixing up a few Soylent shakes could just carve us out into leaner meaner machines too. The question is if Soylent will succeed in nurturing a consistent enough change in peoples natural desire to gnaw, chomp and crunch or rather be merrily consumed as the latest dietary fad. The latter notoriously having limited shelf life. Rhinehart stresses that Soylent has greater longevity: “Soylent is not meant to replace all meals, merely the ones where cost and convenience are desirable. My hope is this time and money saving will allow people to enjoy the pleasure and experience of eating well with other people more often.”
While Soylent seeks to reduce the cost of good nutrition for the average Joe, at the other end of the spectrum an insurgence of premium brands are offering vitality potions for an ever increasing sample of aficionados.
Nutrients On Demand
While juice detoxes may not be a new concept, followers of these high-end fluid cleanses are extending far beyond brides-to-be. Orders are on the up for the likes of an algae green kale cold pressed nectar, complete with a side ‘mood balancing, brain rejuvenating’ spike. Food is getting functional.
Urban Remedy, a nutritional delivery service based in California received $1M in funding last year from LA-based accelerator Science to get more people on board the vegan vitality bandwagon. The services meal replacement shakes, such as its masala chai, ginger, date and maca solution, pledge to fight hunger, deliver fiber, energize and even boost your libido. All for just $7.99 and “One twist of a cap!” Founder, Neka Pasquale expressed that her meal solutions are a “Great alternative to other grab ‘n’ go food options” enjoyed by everyone from moms to kids. While the stress is certainly on providing 100% organic convenient nutrition, a few swigs of these new super food cocktails do not come cheap. Rather than aiding mass adoption of a healthier lifestyle for the masses, these companies have found their sweet spot in marketing to foody fashionistas who will pay a premium for their potions.
Yet demand is ever rising, Geeta Sidhu Robb, who pioneered HPP (High Pressure Processed) juices on UK shelves, has seen her business Nosh Detox, double in growth every year since 2007. “Once you get to a place where you look, feel good and perform well, you want to say there and you want convenience. My job is to create nutrients which are solutions.” Geeta, who sees herself in the ‘nutrient business’ further advocates that we’re going to see a seismic type of shift in health where there will be a focus more on wellness rather than just illness. Convenient nutrient absorption may indeed be a viable solution to wellness.
For that to truly be the case, the upward trajectory of super food or rather super drink adoption will certainly have to continue, with these companies claims of a healthier mind and body bearing fruit. However, while it is arguably undisputed that drinking a few power juices or shakes could improve your health during the period of consumption, at current price points, such high-end meal replacements are not exactly viable long run solutions for the average person.
Live to eat or eat to live?
Could we really be entering an age where, to enhance our health, we substitute a meal for a shake? With a proliferating desire for speed and convenience in every aspect of life, it may indeed make sense to segment out the function of eating, adopting drinking for efficient nutrition and eating for recreational pleasure. Ardent cooks and Italians would be horrified. However if the likes of Soylent can provide an experience that evokes a change in attitude to food that is enough to make us substitute our sandwich on a consistent basis, then maybe this doesn’t sound so crazy. As of now, the proof is in the pudding. It remains to be seen how much more radiant these drinkable nutrient concoctions can really make us in the long run.
About our contributor // Rajdeep Gahir is a London-based innovation aficionado who enjoys dabbling with words while sipping chai lattes. She particularly digs entrepreneurial folk and start-ups with social impact. Follow her @ladygahir.