All quite true. And based on a lot of observation of how things function in our modern economic milieu, I’m guessing that although the raw materials almost certainly will reduce dramatically in price with improved scale and mass production, the price of the finished product will not. Soylent will be competing with some very upscale products in markets characterised by high disposable income. The two largest identifiable customer groups for meal replacement drinks and dietary supplement drinks would appear to be slimmers and bodybuilders. (People who are living on a shoestring are usually neither concerned with losing weight nor with bulking up.) So there will be little incentive to cut the price dramatically. And the extras you mention – particularly “insurance, taxes, legal fees, marketing” – are ever-growing factors these days. And they operate somewhat like friction in a physical system – enough of them and everything grinds to a halt. That’s a large part of why the USA is in such economic trouble. The factors you mention have created great inefficiency in American industrial production, with the result that production has migrated to other (more efficient even though arguably more primitive) countries. The “friction” has brought quite a few American assembly lines to a standstill.
I doubt that Soylent will fulfill very many of Rob’s early promises. It isn’t going to be cheap. It isn’t going to feed the world. And it isn’t going to revolutionise the food industry or anything else. For awhile it will be a geek and techie toy, a cool curiosity item; then it will either fail, or else take its place alongside scores if not hundreds of other nutritional shakes and drinks – if and only if it can carve out a niche market for itself. Which market might not be geeks and techies, because when the novelty wears off most of them will probably move on to newer cool toys.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m far too pessimistic. But pessimism is all to often the most realistic stance these days.