Five months ago, I ordered a week's supply of the future of food. It finally came: two snow-white boxes stamped "Soylent." One box contains the pitcher for mixing your liquid meal. The other says "powdered food."
I haven’t opened them yet, because I don’t want this anymore. I bought my Soylent on May 12, in some weird moment. I was working at The Verge, where an editor was preparing a story about subsisting on Soylent for a month (yeah, the story Motherboard’s Brian Merchant did a year ago).
The author's Soylent. Image: Sam Thonis
Our office was in Midtown, where everything is stressful and every transaction is a battle, and I was sick of fording Broadway so I could wait in line for 20 minutes for something bad and overpriced to eat. I had hacked breakfast with bulk Amazon orders of oatmeal. I would hack lunch with Soylent.
If I had been dependent on Soylent as my primary food source, I would have died waiting for it
This is the prime Soylent victim: someone overwhelmed by the process of finding food. "What if you never had to worry about food again?" the company's website asks, as if food were as difficult to come by as money or health, which it is for some people, but not really for Soylent's target demographic of r/technology.
Their demographic is large enough, however, that Soylent is on backorder. The company told me my Soylent would take 10 to 12 weeks to arrive. It took 20. If I had been dependent on Soylent as my primary food source, I would have died waiting for it.
Soylent fans are apoplectic about the delays. One user posting on the Soylent forums threatened to burn the founder’s house down if the shipment were delayed again, writing, "I am extremely serious." Delays are the most-commonly discussed topic on the forums, aside from complaints and solutions for Soylent-induced flatulence.
I figured these delays meant it would be easy to unload my Soylent. I posted an ad on Craigslist, offering my supply at cost, and waited for the offers to roll in.
Unfortunately, there's already a lot of Soylent on Craigslist.
Kansas City, selling a 25-day supply for $150: “I tried it for 3 days and it's not for me.”
Salt Lake City, selling a month’s worth for $300: "While I love Soylent I haven't been needing to eat all of what I get each month and as such I have a whole months extra not being used."
Dallas, in the free section: "I did not care for it, so I'm giving away my one-month supply of the stuff."
There are even more listings over on eBay, where the sellers seem to be more savvy about arbitrage. "You want it, I have it," one guy wrote. Another seller is hoping to get $150 for the box he got for $65.
Some of this may be due to the Great Soylent Disillusionment; the slow realization that what was sold as a life-changing, potentially world-changing substance is really nothing more than Ensure with different marketing.
"I have to say it was not life changing as many have suggested," one user wrote. There were none of the miraculous effects people have described, such as greater energy and clear skin. It didn’t save much time, because it took longer to drink than it would have taken to prepare and eat breakfast or lunch. The only noticeable benefit was having fewer dirty dishes to clean. "To those people pining for their first shipment of Soylent, I say temper your expectations."
For some, Soylent is working as advertised. I responded to one New Yorker who was selling his excess supply. “I use it for 95 percent [of meals] but only eat between 1,000-1,500 calories a day. This leaves me with 1-2 weeks extra a month,” he wrote back.
When I responded that that doesn’t seem like enough calories, he e-laughed. “Haha well I'm losing weight plus I work in an office 9 hours a day so I don't need that much to begin with. I ramp it up when I go hiking or to the gym.” What an intense person!
Since no one has responded to my ad, I’ve become a Soylent pitchwoman. I think I found a friend who is willing to take it off my hands for a cut rate. He’s curious to see how the promise of ultimate nutrition with minimal hassle pans out.
I actually drank Soylent for a while, mixed with coffee, back when the company was mailing it to journalists in ZipLoc bags. It tasted like cake mix and was not any obviously more satiating than any other breakfast (the oatmeal beats it by a mile).
I'm clearly not as hardcore as the true Soylenters. Neither, apparently, is Merchant, who still has a bag of 11-month-old Soylent sitting on his desk. Wonder how much that would go for?
UPDATE: Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart has issued the following response:
"Soylent has clearly struck a chord with people looking for an easy way to eat a healthy meal. The response has been overwhelming, but has created production delays. Once we ramp up to meet demand the practice of reselling will become unnecessary. In the meantime we thank our customers for their patience."