Is Soylent's price too low?


#1

I keep hearing reasons why Rosa can’t ship Soylent as fast as many would like. Either they have enough money to fix those problems by buying more supplies, starting more production lines, hiring more operations experts, etc. as necessary, or they don’t have enough money to do those things. If they can’t afford it now, why would the math start working out in the future, if prices stay unchanged? Perhaps the business model simply isn’t sustainable at current prices.


#2

Price isn’t the issue, most likely supply issues that have nothing to do with lack of money they are venture backed so getting a loan would be easy in a high demand situation. It could be from lack of good forecasting and order lead times killing them.


#3

What’s to say those issues will improve in the future?


#4

Well only if they don’t fix the issues then they will be replaced by a company that knows how to fix them. They are an inexperienced group so they may be suffering during the learning cycle but they will eventually figure it out.


#5

The brown rice protein comes from one exclusive supplier (and isn’t available from anyone else). If the BRP supply is the cause of the delays then no amount of money will be able to speed things up. Keep in mind that Soylent/Rosa Labs is just the brains behind this whole thing. Everything else is done by outside contractors so it’s not simply a matter of them increasing production or hiring more people. The will have to re-negotiate contacts with their supplyers/co-packers/fulfillment partners, all of which have clients other than Soylent that they also have to please.


#6

For resilience to supply interruptions, they’ve got to find (and I do believe they are looking for) an alternative to the single-source patented BRP. Maybe more money would let them iterate new recipe samples faster, I don’t know.


#7

You need mass adoption to change the supply dynamics of the industry. You don’t get mass adoption by pricing yourself into a niche.

I live in Canada and $300 a month is more than I spend on food per month (not including eating out a few times a week, which hasn’t changed and will not). We have three members in our household and spend about $500 a month on groceries. If we were to go all on Soylent, and assume that we continue eating out 7 days a month, the cost of Soylent for three would be $738 for 23 days. That is $238 more than we would spend without Soylent for healthy nutritious food.

The lie that Soylent is cheaper than regular food really needs to stop, and I am certain price increases would diminish the already small market for the product.


#8

“Lie” is a strong word and I don’t think it applies here. The founders are young, busy Silicon Valley-type professionals, and having once been part of that demographic I can vouch that it’s common for such people to eat out for every meal. If you’re eating out for every meal, yes, Soylent will be cheaper.

Part of the original vision for the product was that over time, with efficiencies of scale, the price would drop by half or more and become a viable subsistence food. So even if it’s not cheaper than eating at home yet, that’s the ultimate goal.

I recall reading in an interview, Rob said he wanted Soylent to become so ubiquitous that it would come out of a tap, like water. Just because Soylent doesn’t come out of a tap yet doesn’t mean he was lying.


#9

I take your point and will concede “lie” was far too strongly worded.

My point wasn’t necessarily directed to the Soylent folks themselves who I feel have focused more on the fact that is about $3 - $3.50 a meal. It was more directed to the numerous posters who have suggested that it is cheaper than regular food. Though, as you rightly point out its coming from a place where all meals are outside the home.

It is the idea of a price increase that irks me.


#10

To be sure, I don’t want the price to increase; that would make it difficult for me to afford.


#11

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/foodplans/2011/costoffoodmay2011.pdf

*Note the values are calculated for individuals in a family of four, check the bottom notes for the calculation for other family sizes.

For a 30 year old male living alone the “moderate cost plan” is $339/month, the “low cost plan” $273/month and the “thrifty plan” $211.44.

I find these values accurate for where I live in southern California. I have to avoid certain foods due to a health issue which makes creating a balanced diet somewhat difficult. For a diet with sufficient macro nutrients I spend about $200-$225/month, without any thought towards micronutrients.

With a monthly subscription the cost of soylent is $255/month. While this is more expensive, it is more convenient and far more balanced. So for someone with a restrictive diet it is worthwhile, not to mention I hate and am terrible at cooking :wink:


#12

If they increased the price significantly they would lose customers (at least me).


#13

Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist but those numbers seem a little silly to me (not judging your own situation), but the US numbers, not sure what their agenda is, but those numbers are high. I think it is widely acknowledged that Canada is more expensive for pretty much everything than the US. Many Canadians go to the US to buy groceries, specifically dairy products.

Yet we have three adults in our household and prior to Soylent we were eating very well and nutritiously for $500 a month.

I cannot imagine a family of 4 spending $1,000 a month on groceries on a ‘moderate-cost plan.’ I lived in Canada’s high arctic before and even there the three of us spent $1,000 on food per month, in a place where one apple is $4.

Just looked through the guide (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlans2007AdminReport.pdf) it is nutty. 4.6 pounds of soda a week, 11 pounds of dairy per week. Way too much food, and the wrong kinds too.


#14

Yeah, some of the USDA recommendations are loopy, folks should take them with a grain of salt (or a whole teaspoonful :wink:).

The USDA is in bed with Big Ag, they want people to buy lots of food. And we do. It’s shameful the amount of food many Americans waste, too.


#15

shrug I consume 2400 calories (maintenance) and the price reflects the prices in my area (southern California) and I don’t buy junk food or sodas. I’m also not even remotely overweight and don’t horde food. Perhaps I need to move? :smile:

Perhaps I need to be more creative in finding a 50/30/20 balanced meal for less than $3/meal? As mentioned I spend $6.67-$7.50/day, $2.22-$2.50/meal. Albeit these numbers are based on a period where I was trying to gain weight.

Edit: and I didn’t take into consideration Soylent is only 2000 calories/day for the price discussed. :blush:

Edit 2: and I have a food allergy which raises the cost, so I do agree the USDA link I posted is bullshit.


#16

Yah I totally get that ha ha. I think I didn’t emphasize, but I should have, that I think eating for one person is expensive, but there are, I believe vast economies of scale for cooking for more than one. Especially as far as spoilage goes.


#17

This is true. I waste a lot of food because the units I can buy them in are larger than I can use, and my use is infrequent enough that I often waste a lot. Oftentimes, the price for a meal is simply the sum price of buying each ingredient, which can be quite pricey. Doing this also results in the same meal every day for a week, which isn’t very good for a non-soylent meal. Plus, the time investment is pretty constant regardless of the number of people, at least at family-scales, so I have to spend the same amount of time preparing meals that I would if I was cooking for a family, esp if I don’t make leftovers, and if i do then I have to put up with leftovers. Its expensive and not all that enjoyable, which makes getting frozen, microwavable junk food even more appealing. Getting easy, cheap, tasty nutrition for $3 a meal sounds like a bargain to me.


#18

Or maybe it just doesn’t make business sense to do so. They are trying to catch up on a whole year of preorders all at once, it’s expected that supply/demand will be out of whack for a while. They wouldn’t want to overshoot and be stuck with a lot of idle production lines once they’ve pushed through the first wave of orders.

On price - it’s already too expensive as it is (to me). Soylent is twice my usual food budget, making it more of a novelty item. I’ll still try it, just out of curiosity, but I have serious doubts about using it as a sustainable food replacement.


#19

They have something like 23000 orders to fill. And its the first time they have ever done something like this. If in the future they have a back order of 23000 people that means soylent is very very successful and works as advertised.


#20

I would be cautious with that statement. While I cant speak with any official authority, I think it would be an accurate statement that food in different places of the US has wildly different costs. I live in Oregon. Groceries have a different cost for me than if I lived in California (generally known for a higher cost of living average) or in Washington (sales tax). Going from that, I’m sure costs are different over in New York, or in the midwest.

Is Soylent cheaper than going out for groceries where Rob lived when he made it? Well, he’s in California, so I could believe that yes, it really is. @melcron has confirmed that the USDA values feel accurate for at least one data point in that area. Maybe those USDA figures are based on an average, and there are going to be some places that they’re not accurate. Maybe it would be more effective to release a per-state breakdown (if anyone already knows of one of these, that would be even better).

Either way, this is my default explanation when I’m asked about Soylent’s cost: “Well, it’s $255 a month. So, a ways cheaper than going out to eat a lot, and somewhat more expensive than if you’re especially good at groceries.” I could probably spend closer to $200/mo on groceries, but I don’t think it would be as healthy, or as convenient. The price is, as of now, kind of borderline worth it for me too, but I think it still falls on the near side of that line. Thing is, until any change goes on, “worth it” is going to be an entirely subjective thing decided by each individual customer :smiley: