The Former Drug Dealer Who Came Up with Europe’s Answer to Soylent Is Doing Just Fine
Joey van Koningsbruggen now has his own warehouse and seven full-time employees.
Last summer, I visited the bedroom of artist and former drug dealer Joey van Koningsbruggen in Amsterdam. It was filled to the brim with bags and boxes
of powders, like maltodextrin and soy flour. Joey had developed his own version of Soylent - a powdered drink that supposedly gives you all the nutrients and vitamins you need if you are one of those weirdos who don't enjoy eating food. Soylent is not available in Europe, but Joey wanted to try it. So he made his own version based on the online recipe, called it Joylent, vlogged about it and started building a steady customer base.
Soylent still doesn't export to Europe and so Joey has been selling insane amounts of Joylent to the Dutch. In the past four months, he has been interviewed by every major national news outlet and has essentially become a foodstuff mogul. Because I feel like our earlier interview played a major part in his success, I thought it would be fun to visit him again. Though this time it wasn't at his bedroom, but his office.
As I step into the warehouse that houses the Joylent operations, a bunch of people wearing Breaking Bad-style suits are scooping and weighing all kinds of powders. I walk upstairs to Joey's office and before I go in, a camera crew sets me up with a wire, like I'm about to snitch on a Sicilian family. Welcome to Joylent.
VICE: Is there a lot of pressure to perform when a camera crew is following you all day?
Joey van Koningsbruggen: Not really, man. They've been here for a month, I'm used to it by now.
This set-up is very different to the last time we spoke.
Yeah. I had everything stacked up in my bedroom and my flatmate was sleeping on the floor back then.
How big is your company now?
We make about 60.000 Euros [£47,0000] a month. I have three full-time employees in production and four people work in the office . We also have a web designer, an illustrator and a cleaner - but they work part-time.
So you're loaded now?
No. I only pay myself 1000 Euros [£780] a month. I like to invest everything back into the business.
Invest it in what? It's only powder.
Well, there's the down payment for this warehouse, the re-modelling and we had someone build a website for us too. Plus, I order a lot of powder. The CEO of the company that makes maltodextrin came by personally to congratulate me. He had noticed that in the first few weeks I only ordered about 25 kilos, but within a few months I went double.
Has the Food Standards Agency stopped by yet?
No. It seems like there are a lot of companies that make food; I think they're just too busy. They also didn't see any reason to inspect us after they had seen the item in Nieuwsuur- a national news show. You could see that everything was properly labelled and stored in our.
Do you still eat Joylent yourself?
Yes. And pizza.
Do you have any competition?
Yes, a couple of guys that ordered from me in the beginning copied my product exactly, right down to the slogan.
Are they stealing your clients?
Either the market is growing and there's room for other players, or they're not selling anything. They're just offering an alternative to our product. If people are unhappy with Joylent, they can buy from them I guess. But we were the first to do it, and we're on all the websites and the TV shows. One of those rip-offs did use Google ads to make sure that their site pops up when you search for Joylent. But so far I don't see them as a threat.
I heard that Joylent is also incredibly popular among preppers.
I set up a contest on one of those internet forums for people who are preparing for the end of the world. Joylent seemed like the perfect food for the bomb shelter. They all wrote reviews of our product - some of those were pretty funny.
What's with the camera crew following you around?
They're making a documentary. News crews have also visited, as well as a late-night news show.
When do you think the media attention will stop?
Well, right now it's like media inception. I mean, I'm being interviewed by VICE while these people are shooting a documentary about me, and the other day I was being filmed while appearing on another TV show. I think it's just a product that looks good on camera. As long as people keep buying it, the press will stay interested.
Do you ever worry that it's just hype?
That's possible, but it doesn't worry me. If that happens, I'll just go and do something else. Although it would ruin me financially. I'm personally responsible; the company's is not officially an LLC yet. But I'd rather be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company, than have millions in my own personal bank account.
What would you do if Joylent goes bankrupt?
And deal drugs?
No, I've given up on that particular career path.
So what is it that you do, exactly?
Business development. I spend the entire day talking to the press and customers. And dicking around on the internet.
What are you working on now?
We'll be getting strawberry-flavoured Joylent soon. And we're working on a wheat powder. With protein for athletes. And soon I've got a meeting soon with the former director of a large food manufacturer. He wants to end world hunger. Maybe we can figure out a way that Joylent can help with that.
I see. Good luck, Joey!