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 executed 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.
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. Soylent alternatives are much more rare in the US, basically.
It Is Always Sunny in Philadelphia
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.
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. These are three of the best meal replacement brands available in the UK.
Huel is a company that has sold over 50M 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.
There is time, winter can be defeated, but it will cost Soylent much of his food reserves.
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.
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 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). Some of the best RTDs available in the UK:
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.
|Ships to||USA & UK||EU & US*|
The ultimate addition from the market referece, Huel. This is also the first ready-to-drink for vegans that contains no soy. It is the cheapest in the UK and perhaps the best option in terms of nutrition.
It comes in Vanilla and Berry flavours.
|Ships to||USA & UK||EU & US|
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.
|Ships to||USA & UK||EU|
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.
|Ships to||USA & UK||EU|
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.
|Ships to||USA & UK||World|
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.
|Ships to||USA & UK||EU|
Other RTD brands in Europe include: Mana Drink; Trinkkost and Your PopUp Meal and soon the likes of Huel and Queal.
Soylent Offers Nothing New
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?
- 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.
- Ingredients? Nothing new there, a formula that is seen in many other shakes, including Saturo.
- Packaging? Is Soylent bringing a new fully recyclable RTD? A revolutionary meal size? An option never seen before? No.
- Availability in Amazon? No, since Saturo, Yfood, Huel, Nutberg… already sell their products in Amazon.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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. Click on the names to go to specific product reviews.
Thus, 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.