Starting a soylent shop?


#1

I’ve been thinking about the possibility of starting up a soylent shop. I could see a few advantages, for the local people, of having a soylent shop. An obvious one is the convenience of going to the store instead of ordering locally.

A further advantage is that it would be easy for the soylent shop to buy (or create) the powder mix, and then mix it into liquid on site. The reason soylent can’t come pre-mixed with water is that it would increase shipping costs dramatically and reduce the shelf life; but neither of those is a significant concern if it’s being mixed at a local shop. People could just drop in once a week and buy half a dozen cartons of liquid soylent.

I also think that a soylent shop would increase soylent’s exposure. I think there are a lot of people who want soylent but don’t realize it yet. Having a physical storefront for people to look at would raise awareness.

The soylent shop could be a social setting, like a coffee shop. It would be cool to see people coming in to do work or hang out over a glass of soylent.

I think there’s a lot to be done in terms of culinary innovation with soylent, and that’s something a soylent shop could work on. How many different appetizing forms can we put it into? For example, I’m a fan of Clif’s Builder Bars, and it would be cool to have soylent in a similar form. The Builder Bars are a two-layer thing, where the bottom is rolled oats and rice crisps bound together (I think by brown rice syrup), and then the top layer is a mixture involving a lot of soy protein isolate. Then the whole deal is covered in chocolate. Imitating that structure, but with a soylent mix, could give cool results. That’s just one idea.

I’m picturing the shop having a “soylent machine.” I recently made two months of soylent for @dunmatt by hand, and it was pretty time-consuming. It wouldn’t be practical to do this on a larger scale. It seems like it wouldn’t be extraordinarily difficult to build a machine which makes soylent, measuring out and mixing everything. With such a machine, it would be easy to take orders for custom recipes.

The shop could also sell raw ingredients for people who want to mix it themselves. The staff could serve as a source of knowledge for people trying to do DIY soylent. And also for more basic questions, the endless variations of “is this going to kill me?”

I’m considering the possibility of moving to a major city and trying to start one of these after I get out of grad school. I guess five years (the time I have in grad school) will be enough time to see how big soylent is going to get in the near future, and so it’d be late enough in the game then to guess whether a soylent shop would be profitable.


#2

Lol, spend 5 years in grad school… end up in food service. :wink:

Wasn’t there a post here really early on about a guy in Scandinavia who did exactly this with his own recipe? Does anyone remember the search terms?


#3

That is a great idea.

How would you go about to establish your minimum viable market? I could imagine that fitness centers and bodybuilder type of people are most open to this kind of new food. I’m seriously considering doing the same thing.

I wouldn’t have access to the startup capital needed for a storefront innitially. Signing people up and selling it to them would be ideal.


#4

Lol, spend 5 years in grad school… end up in food service. :wink:

I’m studying philosophy. :wink:

How would you go about to establish your minimum viable market? I could imagine that fitness centers and bodybuilder type of people are most open to this kind of new food.

This is a good question. There are a lot of people who would potentially be interested in soylent. Tech geeks, bachelors, poor people, insanely busy people, dieters, health nuts… The question is how to market to all of these people simultaneously; that’s a bit of a trick.

I’m seriously considering doing the same thing.

Cool! Out of curiosity, where are you located?

I wouldn’t have access to the startup capital needed for a storefront innitially. Signing people up and selling it to them would be ideal.

That would be a good way to start. It would be a challenge to compete with Soylent Corp., though. Here I think you just have to target whatever niche Soylent Corp. isn’t covering. E.g., they don’t do custom recipes? You do custom recipes. Something like that.

I guess in the case of opening a storefront right away, I was picturing having investors to pay the startup costs; I’m not sure if that’s how it typically works for local businesses, though.


#5

The question is how to market to all of these people simultaneously

Door to door marketing is indispensable in this case. Soylent is the kind of product that people talk about. It would sell itself after a short time. Some local marketing at Fitness centers, hackerspaces, student dormitories, etc could also do it.

Cool! Out of curiosity, where are you located?

Kosovo, hence the price point at which people would consider switching would be 150 Euro, or about 200 USD. That’s pretty much how much it costs people to eat low-nutrient food here and the rest of the “frontier economies” around ten world. I still don’t know how I could bring the price point down while still making a minimum 30% margin (without the storefront).

If anybody has a healthy recipe with about this price point, let me know! Initially buying in low quantities and then scaling up to bulk import would be ideal.

It would be a challenge to compete with Soylent Corp., though. Here I think you just have to target whatever niche Soylent Corp. isn’t covering.

Totally agree. Personalisation and pull marketing are key here.


#6

Well one starting point is the observation I made that bread plus some supplements is nutritionally complete, and ridiculously cheap (on this spreadsheet I have under $20/month, though cutting three well-defined corners):

http://makesoylent.com/recipes/51f7b15fb3701d0200000031

(Discussion here.) The insight here is that whole wheat is a magical substance which is ridiculously cheap and matches the human nutritional profile quite well. The gluten is sufficient protein (admittedly on the low side but nonetheless sufficient), the carbs are there, fiber is there, most of the minerals are there, and it’s pretty cheap to go the rest of the distance with supplements.

Getting this into the form of a shake, if so desired, would require some innovation. (I’m not sure there is any point to this exercise, because bread is perfectly delicious, but I continue nonetheless.) You need to cook the flour in water, or else do an equivalent process which makes the starch in the flour digestible. (To my understanding, the deal is that baking turns some of the starch into simpler carbohydrates which we can digest more easily, and it breaks down walls of cellulose that are holding the starch captive.)

So like, one simplistic idea is to make the bread (skip the yeast), shred the bread into powder, and dehydrate it so it keeps longer. Then you essentially have flour again, except now your flour has broken-down, digestible carbohydrates. Then you make the soylent powder. That’s probably a primitive and non-optimal idea; I bet there’s a chemical process to make the starches digestible which is better than this one. But it’s a start.


#7

[quote=“nwthomas, post:6, topic:4320”]
bread plus some supplements is nutritionally complete, and ridiculously cheap[/quote]

Wow, that really makes me feel better about eating bread/sandwiches!! I assume a non-shitty “brown” bread is the minimum requirement for this to be true?


#8

Yes. The primary difference is that whole wheat bread has lots of fiber, whereas white bread has very little. Also they have different balances of minerals. White bread may actually have more of some minerals, because it may be made with “enriched” flour, which has minerals added. But at least with the nutrition facts I played with, I found that (interestingly, perhaps) the mineral profile of wheat flour worked better with the RDAs than the mineral profile of enriched flour.