When the Zeitgeist gets hungry:
Drinkable Meals

That people have been ingesting food in liquid form for years – smoothies, protein shakes, diet juices – ought to be present in the collective food consciousness by now. Changing one’s diet to drinkable meals entirely, however, is a notion ever increasing in popularity and jibes unsettlingly well with the image of the modern, globalized (over)achiever. The American Soylent and the Finnish Ambronite intend to revolutionize human eating habits in the immediate future with their “drinkable meals,” yet they’re pursuing two utterly different approaches.

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If Soylent rings a bell, you’ve probably seen the dystopian sci-fi flick, Soylent Green from 1973. In contrast to the movie, the drink, invented by the American software developer, Rob Rhinehart, doesn’t consist of people. Nonetheless, the concept might seem dystopian to the average foodie, for the idea was born from Rhinehart’s frustration with the effort it takes to prepare food. Too complicated, too expensive, too time-consuming, in other words: He didn’t want to have to eat anymore.

This led to the thought that eating is simply a method for getting at the real stuff: the substance, that is, vitamins, calcium, protein, etc. – in Rhinehart’s eyes an inefficient method. So he started an intensive investigation into the biochemical composition of an ideal diet. He came up with a list of 35 substances the human body needs to survive. All he needed to do was order them online, mix them together, add water and voilá: it’s lunch. The thick, beige mixture that resulted is essentially the commercial product available for ordering on its creator’s website as of May 2014. Over the course of a year Rhinehart tested the shake on himself and noticed that he felt more healthy and had lost weight. And at a monthly cost of around € 100, it amounted to considerably less than an average monthly grocery bill.

Soylent 1.0 comes in one-, two- and four-week packages, where one bag of Soylent powder is equivalent to around three meals. Preparing it couldn’t be easier: you put the powder in a pitcher, fill it to the top with water, add the special oil (included in delivery), shake, and drink. The shake contains everything your body would absorb thanks to the time-consuming effort of eating: carbohydrates, proteins, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, B6, C, D, E, K, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and much more.

Although this idea of nutrition has gained a lot of followers, the thought of nourishing oneself with a chemical cocktail still strikes most of us as downright creepy. Ambronite, a start-up run by Finns, has tried to counter the American competition with its “organic, real food drinkable meal,” a more healthy-sounding alternative. Their drink uses real food, though it, too, is delivered in the form of powder.

In the bag that yields one meal, there are various nuts and berries, grains, spinach and even apples. As reported by the company, financed by crowdfunding, an Ambronite meal contains vitamins A, D, E, K, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, B7, B5 and all 14 essential minerals. It’s vegan and gluten free to boot and contains no additives whatsoever. The concept seems to have struck a chord. In just one week, Ambronite reached its projected goal of $ 50,000 on the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo. At $102,000, it is currently the most successful crowdfunding project in the food category. Their first shipments are planned for September 2014.

Visiting the websites of both drinkable meals reveals a common central theme despite their opposing approaches. Beneath the question, “Why Soylent?” there are three subcategories: time, money and nutrition. On Ambronite’s website, the drink is presented as such: “Ambronite goes where you do; Home, office, in your bag and on your travels and outdoor adventures.” Both products are obviously targeted at the overworked, stressed urbanite who can’t even find time to eat. That food in this form satisfies hunger isn’t mentioned anywhere.

“Free your body,” Soylent’s official slogan, might come across as cynical given the fact that it’s meant to free your body from eating, one of the most sensuous experiences there is. Here the shake is fully in line with its dystopian originator: efficiency over pleasure, time management over comfort, calculation over conviviality. There’s not enough time for a decent burger.

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Text: Marlon Schröder 
Images: Commonsctvnewswomenshealth, baby.at

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