Soylent is the meal replacement beverage with a cult-like following thanks to the Silicon Valley crowd. First hitting the market in 2014, last year 2500 7-Eleven stores began carrying the drink. Now it has now been introduced into 450 Walmart stores in hopes of expanding its market share in the tough to crack health food market.
Soylent markets itself as an alternative to eating. That's right, eating. In the Silicon Valley food is expensive, so users typically drink one of the 14-ounce bottles in place of a normal solid food meal. The company also makes a powdered form of the beverage and offers Soylent bars for those on the go.
But it's priced at $3.50 a bottle and one must wonder if it really is all it claims to be. Soylents' biggest fans claim they save significant money on their food budgets, allowing them to spend the money on other things. San Francisco resident Sebastian Fung said he often found himself spending as much as $15 per day on healthy lunches at work because of San Francisco’s high prices. He now estimates that the meal replacement saves him roughly $3,000 a year. Brian Dightman, co-founder of Dightman Capital Group, spends around $20 to $25 a week on Soylent and frozen dinners for his in-office meals instead of the $40 to $50 a week he spent before. “It’s $100 a month that I can do something else with.”
Obviously, the food savings is market dependent: those who live in less expensive areas will probably not save anything. Soup or a sandwich from home is cheaper, which means the drinks may not go over so well in Walmart's biggest base - middle America.
Dietitians have argued that consumers looking to save on food costs should consider other alternatives. It just doesn't seem like a healthy eating plan. Each bottle contains roughly 400 calories and getting your energy requirements in a bottle may exacerbate bad eating habits. Abbey Sharp, a registered dietitian, says “Eating healthy goes beyond buying these drinks” ... “It is teaching people to listen to their body and find what works for them. These drinks can’t do that and may even make the problem worse because it is distancing ourselves from food.”
Our own Brooke Bailey chimed in to say "Soylent makes sense if your other option is McDonald's but after looking at the label, I think health conscious people can find a better meal replacement. This just sounds like a new version of Weight Watchers and people who follow those fads usually end up gaining weight because the diet is too boring and restrictive. I would rather see one of my clients make a smoothie with some fresh vegetables, fruits, and healthy fat"