Forget Silicon Valley: Soylent may eventually launch a 'one-for-one' program for its meal replacement drink in developing countries

On Monday, red-hot startup Soylent launched its 2.0 product, a ready-to-drink shake packed with enough nutrients to replace a well-balanced meal.

When it debuted in powdered form a year ago, the beige-coloured beverage found a cult following among Silicon Valley insiders.

But ultimately, techies are not among CEO and cofounder Rob Rhinehart’s target customers.

In an interview with Tech Insider late last week, Rhinehart hinted at his vision to make Soylent available to the mass market and affect “what is a very big and very complicated problem”: world hunger.

When asked if he and his cofounders have considered adopting a TOMS or Warby Parker-like, one-for-one donation model in low-income countries, Rhinehart said, “absolutely.”

Soylent 2.0 could theoretically render solid food obsolete, though the long-term health research is inconclusive at best. Each nutritionally complete bottle supposedly fulfils one-fifth of your daily needs for all essential vitamins and minerals, and costs about $US2.50. It can keep for up to a year unrefrigerated.

“From the very genesis of this project, I saw that this development path could lead us to have an enormous impact on food insecurity,” Rhinehart told us. “We have already been focusing on it internally. It’s not going to be as simple as ‘buy a bottle, give a bottle,’ but I think there’s a lot we can do.”

The first step in Rhinehart’s plan is to make Soylent 2.0 affordable for just about anyone.

Rhinehart told The Atlantic in 2014 that he’d like to get the cost down to $US5 a day, which “would cover someone on food stamps.” According to SNAP, the US government’s leading food-stamp program, the average participant receives $US4.17 a day.

At $US29 for a 12-pack, or $US2.42 per bottle, Soylent 2.0 has a ways to go. If you drink Soylent five times a day, satisfying 100% of your nutritional needs, you end up spending a little over $US12.

For now, the mission to end world hunger is on hold.

“What we need to be focusing on right now is building this sustainable business and growing it,” Rhinehart said.

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