It's 2014 and we still have no idea what we should be eating. The food pyramid turned out to be a lie and the whole gluten debate continues to rile up anyone who chooses to get involved; while seeds have been lionised, cocoa solids could apparently save the world and you're now categorized as a fucking n00b if you have to ask someone what spelt is.
I'm guessing this neurosis about what we put in our mouths had something to do with Rob Rhinehart coming up with his food replacement drink, Soylent—the thought being that we can just shut up about food already, start subsisting on a liquefied regimen of nutrients and get on with our lives. Unfortunately, that remedy currently only works for Americans, as Soylent isn't yet shipped outside of the US.
However, for any Europeans who feel like trading in pizza, pasta and burritos for three daily doses of beige liquid, Dutch artist Joey van Koningsbruggen has taken it upon himself to help. Conveniently, Soylent list all of their ingredients on their website, so Joey just ordered each individual component and smashed them all together himself.
He wasn't planning on selling the stuff, but people began taking an interest as soon as he started blogging about his experiment. And after his first video was shared by a Dutch celebrity—the writer Ronald Giphart—Joey officially went into business. When I spoke to him he had 20 people drinking his powdered nutrient mix, which he's dubbed "Joylent."
“I'm trying to upscale it," he told me. "I have all these 25 kg bags of maltodextrin, soy flour, fine Scottish oats and shit like that in my bedroom.”
Nobody put a lot of faith in Rhinehart when he first started Soylent—probably because he used to be a software engineer and didn't really have any experience when it came to completely redesigning the way humans survive. However, everything began to change for him when he successfully survived on Soylent alone for an entire 30 days in a row and started blogging about it. He then crowd-funded millions of dollars and Soylent became a legitimate product that people trust.
Joey's story is a little different to Rob's. Before he started selling his food replacement powder he enjoyed a brief period of local fame after releasing a song about a man with a pink bag; ran a popular website dedicated to erotic literature; and successfully made the switch from drug dealer to full-time visual artist.
“I got robbed of £1,700 worth of cocaine," he told me. "I took a risk to make it back, but I got locked up, lost my house and support from my parents.”
After losing his house Joey slept rough for two weeks—not because he had nowhere to go, but because he "liked the drama" of sleeping on the street. After finding himself a new flat, his art—mostly portraits based on Facebook profile pictures – caught on, and before long he was making a living purely through painting.
His nickname on the Soylent forums is "Hosselman," which is Dutch for "hustle man."
Besides Joylent's banana flavor, there's really not a lot of difference between Joey's product and the original Soylent. But he's not afraid of a lawsuit. “That would be funny, actually," he said, chuckling at the idea of being sued. "I think our products are very much alike, but the difference is in the fun. I try to make it tasty. Maybe I'll add some color in the future. I'm just trying to have some fun with it.”
Rob Rhinehart once said that his vision was of a world in which every water tap has a Soylent tap next to; that way, he hopes, nobody should ever have to be hungry again. This grand vision is probably the only thing the two entrepreneurs have in common.
“I'd like to be a big multinational that's able to duck taxes and pay my own fictional taxes in the form of me giving Joylent to poor countries," Joey told me. "I fantasize about that sometimes.”
Topics: Joylent, Soylent, food, Rob Rhinehart, nutrition, Joey van Koningsbruggen, beige liquid, cut rate european versions of american things, the real thing, the soylent challenge, banana flavoring, meal replacements, gluten, drinking your meals, european soylent, how to not eat in europe, shipping issues, globalization