A product that blends essential vitamins and minerals claims it can replace food
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Image: Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

It's a sad day when tens of thousands of people around the world are so busy they want to give up on eating, but that's exactly what seems to be happening if the early success of new product Soylent is anything to go by.

Developed by entrepreneur Rob Rhinehart - who was broke in 2012 and sick of spending money on cheap junk food - the blend of carbohydrates, amino acids, lipids, vitamins and minerals aims to be a purer form of nourishment than food. 

Rhinehart believes the powder, which simply needs to be added to water, is also cheaper, healthier, and more convenient than eating three times a day. In fact, it's so efficient that some media has heralded the development as the "end of food".

And yes, the name harks back to the 1973 science-fiction film Soylent Green, which was set in a dystopian, overpopulated and polluted future where people lived on mysterious wafers called Soylent Green. Spoiler alert: the wafers turned out to be made from human flesh.

For the past year and a half Rhinehart has been drinking his non-person based Soylent for 90% of his meals - which is applaudable, seeing as the taste has been described as something like "my grandpa's Metamucil" and Cream of Wheat, Lizzie Widdicombe reports in her fantastic piece on Soylent for The New Yorker.

But even though he feels great, his aim isn't to replace food altogether, but simply avoid those time-consuming meals we eat mindlessly most days. In the future, Rhinehart tells The New Yorker, he believes "we’ll see a separation between our meals for utility and function, and our meals for experience and socialisation".

And it's this "lifehacking" aspect of the product that has seen it go so viral online.

When Rhinehart set up a crowd-funding campaign to raise capital for Soylent, he hoped to receive $100,000 within a month. Within a mind-blowing two hours he'd already hit his goal, with thousands of people purchasing a week's supply of Soylent for $65.

This month, the first 30,000 units of commercially made Soylent were shipped to customers in the US, and the company is now taking $10,000 worth of new orders everyday. 

The doctors that Lizzie Widdicombe spoke to for her piece all generally agreed that you technically could live on Soylent. But there was also the argument that it's presumptuous to think we fully understand how our bodies use chemicals and what we need to eat to thrive, not just survive.

Rhinehart doesn't agree, and refers to how austere the human diet must have been before the time of farming.

And he has a point. There's no doubt Soylent is efficiently tempting - who doesn't want that extra hour plus of their day spent cooking back. Not to mention the incredible benefits there could be for the environment and the possibilities for ending world hunger (if someone was so inclined to do so). 

Even on an individual level, the potentials of a product like this are overwhelming to contemplate - could this be a preventative for lifestyle diseases and obesity? The ideal food for apocalypse preppers? Could I used the money saved on Soylent to buy more champagne?

For me there's something slightly sad about boiling our lives down to nothing more than a chemical reaction the way the product does. But perhaps that's the kind of nostalgic thinking that got us into this mess where our population has spilled over seven billion, with almost one in seven people around the planet malnourished.

After all, a balanced diet is a luxury that most species, and many people, on the planet will never have - what makes us so special?

Source: The New Yorker (seriously, read it. It's amazing)