Soylent UK is a dead’s man tale, not a story of success

With the winter coming, Soylent's expansion to the EU is destined to fail, because they bring nothing new.

Soylent UK, a business venture destined to fail

So, it has finally happened. The long awaited launch of Soylent on the other side of the Atlantic was ejecuted on Thursday 20th of September, as summer days reach to an end. Soylent, who has for few years dominated the American meal replacement market, using their early bird advantage, offered his RTD products on the UK Amazon marketplace. YAY! GREAT! AWESOME! However, with the start of autumn means that winter is coming, and just like Napoleon and Hitler with the Russian winter, I think Soylent will be defeated by the European winter. Here is why.

The context

Home Sweet Home Alabama

When the founder fathers declared independence from the British overlords in Philladelphia, they created one of the most powerful countries to exist, the USA. Based on their constitution and their American dreams, they have built a country that its control area expands beyond its natural borders.

While Americans may believe their system is perfect (hyperbole), it simply does not work on other parts of the world. Europe, for instance, sees flaws (private health care system, disastrous public transport, gun control laws…) in many of the American laws and habits. Rules and system that work at one side of the pond, do not work in the old continent.

Why all this gibberish you may think? It is just to prove a point, that while we are very similar, the US and EU citizen have some core differences. Thus, while the US is always going to be home turf for Soylent, Europe is going to be hostile territory.

It is always sunny in Philladelphia

As previously mentioned, Soylent has one big advantage in the US over any of its competitors; the early bird advantage (in fact, this advantage extends even further). Soylent was created in 2013 by Rob Rhinehart and in the first 30 days they raised $800,000. It was clear they have found a need in the market. In 2014 April, Soylent v1.0 was at the customers’ doors.

Since, the Soylent has released 10 powder versions, launched their best selling RTD Soylent Drink, and the caffeinated version, Soylent Cafe. They are available in multiple stores, including 7-Eleven, Target or Kroger; via the website and also Amazon. Buying Soylent in the US is easier than ever.

On top of that, they have crushed all the competition under the weight of their brand and their popularity. In comparison, Europe has around 33 meal replacement brands, while there is only 13 in the US. In the RTD market, they truly have no competition (except Ample, but targets a different audience).

Thus, the sun is “always” shinning for Soylent in the US. For now…

Winter is coming

Or at least the sun was always shining. The entrance of Huel, Queal, Jimmyjoy(three big European names, particularly, Huel), poses a threat to Soylent’s “tyranny” in the market.

Huel is a company that has sold over 20M meals and this numbers only keeps growing. Jimmyjoy is the king of budget meal replacements, and no one can compete with their prices (Soylent does not). Queal offers a balance between price, taste and flavour options. They are serious menaces that have affected the Soylent Powder sales.

However, Soylent does still have their ace in the hole, Soylent Drink. No other US based RTDs come close to compete with it. Together with Soylent Cafe is the driving force of the company. But winter is coming, European RTD manufacturer Saturo has recently announced that they are coming to the US. Plenny Drink was just launched by Jimmyjoy in Europe and I do not think it will be long before it comes to the US at a cheaper price point than Soylent Drink. Plus, Huel is already developing an RTD product.

There is time, winter can be defeated, but it will cost Soylent much of his food reserves.

The Move

Best defence is a good offence

I am sure the main reason is not to counter attack the European invasion, but it was something long due. Soylent’s fame will only carry him while the brand’s name and reputation is on the top. While they have their huge American fanbase untouched.

Thus, it is about time to tap into the European meal replacement market, but the competition is plentyful. Soylent it is not going to be neither the early bird, nor the second mouse; but will have the support of recent financial backing and big experience in the US market.

Good morning Vietnam!

Much like the set back the US recieved in Vietnam, Soylent’s conquer of the Canadian market was halted by the ever so stubborn Canadian Authorities; whom they have proven to be a tough nut to crack. This must have served as experience to launch the operation EU and learn from their mistakes. For instance, BBC reported that they had to change the recipe slightly to adjust to European regulations (just what is keeping Soylent off Canada).

I hope they are ready like they were in D-day, because this is going to be costly.

The execution

Therefore, Soylent finally launched yesterday in UK Amazon, after being delayed from Tuesday. Certainly a good day at Soylent with Soylent Drink Vanilla also arriving yesterday to the first customers.

Soylent at Amazon UK
Currently only shipping to the UK.

Soylent released three products (variants):

  • Soylent Cafe Mocha
  • Soylent Cacao
  • Soylent Original

All come in 12 bottle packs that will cost £39.99 or £3.33 for each 400kcal bottle (€3.73/meal or $4.4/meal). They are currently only available to the UK customers and there is not set date for the rest of Europe. The reason for this it might be that they have not adquire a UK warehose, but instead ship the products to Amazon and let them distribute it.

Why the Death Star will be blown, once again

The Rebellion, an introduction

Allow me to introduce you the members of the resistance; those in charge to make Soylent’s expansion plans fail (or just harder):

Saturo

I named Saturo the European Soylent. That is because they use very very similar ingredients and have a very similar nutritional profile. They are both soy based (soy protein isolate) products; that use high oleic sunflower oil as main fat source (with a high omega-6 to -3 ratio); and have maltodextrin and isomaltulose as main carb sources.

Saturo Chai

Soylent Saturo
From USA AUS
Ships to USA & UK EU & US*
$/400kcal $$$$ $$
C/P/F 38/19/43 35/20/44
Allergen Soy Soy
kCal/meal 400 500
Serv/day 5 4
Suitable Vegan Vegan
Flavours 3 8
Products 2 3

 

Yfood

YFood offers different RTDs. YFood’s products are non-GMO, as opposed to Soylent; but do not contain any lactose or gluten, like Soylent. The main difference is the use of skimmed milk and milk based proteins, that give a better (more milkshake like) taste to YFood. The whey protein is also superior to Soylent’s soy isolate protein.Yfood Review

Soylent YFood
From USA GER
Ships to USA & UK EU
$/400kcal $$$$ $$$
C/P/F 38/19/43 31/28/41
Allergen Soy Milk*
kCal/meal 400 500
Serv/day 5 4
Suitable Vegan Vegetarian
Flavours 3 4
Products 2 2

 

Feed.

The French brand offers almost infinite amount of flavours and products. Their RTDs are very similar to Soylent’s with isolated soy protein, maltodextrin and sunflower oil as primary ingredients. However, Feed.’s products have a 1/3 omega-3/6 ratio, and almost double the fiber Soylent Drink does. On top of that, they have a pre-bottled powder version, that includes organic shakes.Feed. RTD Vanilla

Soylent Feed.
From USA FRA
Ships to USA & UK EU
$/400kcal $$$$ $$$
C/P/F 38/19/43 52/15/33
Allergen Soy Soy*
kCal/meal 400 650
Serv/day 5 3
Suitable Vegan Vegan
Flavours 3 3*
Products 2 6

 

Plenny Drink

Jimmyjoy’s newest product is pretty much identical to their worldwide success Plenny Shake (powder). It comes with less protein than Soylent, more carbs and less fat. However, Jimmyjoy’s strenght has always been the price, and this is no exception, the final product being about €1.5 cheaper.Plenny Drink Review

Jimmyjoy
Soylent
From NED USA
Ships to World USA & UK
$/400kcal $$ $$$$
C/P/F 54/13/33 38/19/43
Allergen Soy, Gluten Soy
kCal/meal 400 400
Serv/day 5 5
Suitable Vegan Vegan
Flavours 1 3
Products 5 2
Mana Drink

Mana is one of the oldest ‘lents in Europe. They offer a soy based vegan RTD very similar to Soylent. It also contains, maltodextrin, isomaltulose and canola oil. Another direct competitor, both nutrition and taste wise.Mana drink

Mana
Soylent
From CZE USA
Ships to EU USA & UK
$/400kcal $$$ $$$$
C/P/F 35/20/44 38/19/43
Allergen Soy, Gluten Soy
kCal/meal 400 400
Serv/day 5 5
Suitable Vegan Vegan
Flavours 1 3
Products 2 2

Other RTD brands in Europe include: Mana Drink; Trinkkost and Your PopUp Meal and soon the likes of Huel and Queal.

Soylent does not have a value proposition

The main problem with this move is that Soylent does not bringing anything new to the table. When the Soylent CEO, Brian Cowley, was asked about the competition he said that there was not much to worry about since “we have the advantage that we are the original”. This is not good enough. European customers will not care if you are the original, if they can buy local, superior, cheaper products. Yes, there will be curiosity at the start, but once that fades, what is going to be there to support the sales?

The only new thing Soylent offers is their pro-GMO stance; which in Europe is a 50/50 topic with most brands opting for bragging about non-GMO products.

Where does Soylent have the edge?
  1. Nutrition? Saturo is basically Soylent nutrition wise and has a much lower price tag, a bigger history in the European market and already sells in shops in central Europe.
  2. Ingredients? Nothing new there, a formula that is seen in many other shakes, including Saturo.
  3. Packaging? Is Soylent bringing a new fully recyclable RTD? A revolutionary meal size? An option never seen before? No.
  4. Availability in Amazon? No, since Saturo, Yfood, Huel, Nutberg… already sell their products in Amazon.
  5. Taste? I am yet to taste the EU Soylent (only tried it while in LA), but it should not be any different. You know which brand tastes almost identical to Soylent? Saturo, you guessed right. They have the same soy background, but Saturo actually offers more flavours (up to 8).
  6. The company and their marketing? Since they are not going to be moving to an UK warehouse or make an EU team, I do not see their customer service, shipping terms or overall customer attention being better than any of the competitions.
  7. Their Name? Yes, there will be fanboys everywhere, but once the initial craze dies down, I think people will realize there are better brands out there. European complete food consumers are aware that there are more opportunities and tend to spread out more (as seen by the sheer numbers of companies).
Show me the money

Or at least that might be what Soylent was thinking when they decided the price. £3.33 per meal is ridiculously expensive. Yes, the UK has a high living standard and products are usually not cheap in the islands. If we take that price tag to Europe it would mean €3.73/meal! or in the States $4.4/meal (currently Soylent Drink costs $3.25!!!!!!!).

This is not due to the fact that meal replacements are more expensive in the EU. Soylent at that price tag is one of the most expensive RTDs (and overall 400kcal) you can buy.

Prices based on no subscription.

£/400kcal
£/Day
Soylent Drink
3.33 16.65
Saturo 2.14 10.75
YFood 2.49 12.45
Plenny Drink
2.23 11.15
Mana Drink 2.3 12.5
Feed. 2.69 13.45
Feed. Organic
4.34 21.7
Trinkkost 4.74 23.7
Huel (powder) 1.61 8.05

 

The Aftermath

Soylent UK FailThus, I expect Soylent to lose this fight. To have to retreat like the had to take the bars out of the market, or retreat from Canadian soil or remove the algae from the formula. No hard feelings, but I just, as a consumer, do not see what Soylent is offering me over the other European brands.

A product that is more expensive, it is pro-GMO, soy based, not manufactured in Europe, nutritionally inferior (in my opinion) and with an alright but not great taste. Sorry, Soylent. It is not good enough.

I believe that in order to succeed, they need to move operations to the EU (local manufacturing). Furthermore, they will have to offer a different product and reduce the price tag. The product can be another RTD or their powder version, but either way they will have a lot of competition.

Besides this, they will have to keep a close eye on their own soils, since the European invasion just keeps coming, and besides some set backs, brands are coming to stay.

I hope we are watching Rocky 2…

… when the American underdog beats the Russian monster against all odds. With sheer power of will, hardcore trainning and a little bit of American spirit. I hope that Soylent UK succeeds and as such, we can enjoy another alternative in Europe. Because Soylent has the money, the fanbase and the experience to do better and do more.

And I want to experience that.Soylent UK success

You might also like
2 Comments
  1. Dave Cortesi says

    Important to realize that complete foods are still a niche product. The great majority of the customer base of 2024 have not even heard of these products today. Future growth, not present positioning, will determine the winner. That said, I have little faith in Rosa Foods’ ability to market to these new customers. Their advertising efforts so far in the USA have been IMO pathetic, even embarrassing (Trish! enough said) although I note they recently hired a new director of marketing. I think JJ with their quirky art and humorous copy have an edge there, while Saturo has backing from the Austrian government and can presumably get more financing as needed. But how to advertise in the EU with its multiple languages and multiple social environments, in such a way as to collect new users? I’ve no idea, but I doubt Rosa Foods has either. (That new marketing director is an American with only US experience.) I can see Soylent making new fans in the Berlin tech scene and similar nerd havens, but as a product sold to the general population of white-collar workers? Huel’s ads show how, and they are actually making good progress, see http://futurefood.hellobox.co/2090219/forbes-lauds-huel-and-founder-julian-hearne for their startling growth rate.

    Retail penetration in the US will not translate to the EU; the chains that control the shelf space are completely different and fragmented across national boundaries. Look at Appetit, a retail success far ahead of any competitor, they are all over Belgium, but nowhere else.

    1. enaut says

      Very insightful comment and a great point. It is true that this market is still a “small” niche. I do belief there is market space for everyone; just, as you mention, I do not think Soylent will do a great job at it. From my point of view, they have failed to do much with their absolute control in the US. They do not have much diversity, they product seems to be stuck at a certain point and the bar never came back (among other things). I expect them to do more with what they have.
      Another very good point is that retail penetration in the US does not equate to the same happening in Europe. The borders, the cultural diversity and the importance of food in the society are very big challenges that none of the European brands have mastered, yet.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.