Results of the 2015 soylent Eaters Survey February 25, 2015 08:14
The 2016 followup to this research is here: https://www.ketosoy.com/blogs/news/results-of-the-2016-soylent-eaters-survey
The results are in
The goal of the survey was to gather data on how and why people are consuming soylent/powdered food. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic and public study on this topic.
To people within the powdered food community, the results won't be all that surprising. To people outside the powdered food community, based on the kinds of questions and comments we get at cocktail parties and the kind of headlines going around, some of the results may be surprising.
Data was gathered from 1/20/2015 thru 2/5/2015 via a voluntary online survey conducted using software from Instant.ly.
We gathered our responses from the following sources: Two calls for participants on discourse.soylent.me, one call for participants on discourse.powderedfoods.com, two calls for participants on reddit.com/r/soylent, and emails to the user lists of three soylent/powdered food producers: KetoSoy, CustomBodyFuel, and TheBairs.Net -- huge thanks to Axcho and Chris respectively for helping gather this data.
We ran the survey in two parts, the first two weeks we asked producers not to email their lists so we could get unbiased brand data. In the second two weeks we sent out requests to participate to our mailing lists. This biased the brand data, but gave us a larger sample of consumption data. Both data sets are available at the bottom of the survey. Brand data n=225, final n=594.
Not the end of food
To start, we can answer the oft-asked click-bait headline question "Is this the end of food?" with a summary and resounding, No. Only 4% of respondents reported eating nothing but soylent/powdered food in the past 2 weeks.
What we see from the data and responses of real users is that in the stark majority of cases soylent/powdered food is not being used as a complete food replacement. Powdered foods/soylents are engineered in such a way that you could theoretically stay happy and healthy eating nothing else, but that doesn't mean one has to. A full 47% of respondents ate 25% to 75% of their calories from soylent/powdered food, so for the average user soylent/powdered food is a major contributor of calories to their diet.
Digging a little deeper into this story, we specifically asked people who eat 50% or more of their calories from soylent/powdered food about how they handle social meals, their answer is largely: normally. (see the data at the bottom to read a near endless stream of "I eat normally" for yourself) One participant summed it up nicely by saying "Soylent is just an optional, not something I am required to do."
The story of giving up food entirely in favor of soylent/powdered food proves to be a straw man, easy to argue against, and great fodder for provocative headlines, but it is a story that isn't based in reality.
To coin a term to describe what's going on, soylent/powdered food is being used as a "nutritional base", the food people eat when they don't have a good reason to eat something else.
Gender gap. Why?
Perhaps the most interesting finding of this survey is that there is a rather large gender gap in consumers of soylent. Actually, rather large is an understatement. The gap between men and women in consumption of soylent/powdered food is huge. 14% of people consuming powdered food are female, vs 84% male. Even assuming that our data was biased by reddit's demographics (59% male), there's no reason to think that the responses would be so biased unless there was a true difference between the genders in their affinity to consume solyent.
Why aren't women consuming soylent? We don't know.
Losing weight, Gaining health.
We wanted to get a quantitative idea for how users were feeling and how soylent/powdered food was affecting their lives. So we asked about how they felt their health had changed and how their weight had changed since they started eating soylent/powdered food. Subjective health + weight together go a long way towards getting an idea of how consumers feel when consuming the products.
In future work it would be interesting to see how many people who started soylent/powdered food had weight loss as a goal, and what their short term and long term success rates are.
It can be argued whether the 44% who felt their health had improved were subject to a placebo effect or their health was actually improving, but in the net accounting it probably doesn't matter what mechanism caused the increased sense of health. 44% of people feel better. Feeling better, ceteris paribus, is an end in itself. Further research is needed to determine whether the self-reported increase in health is borne out by medical data.
Very high promoter rate
An overwhelming majority of respondents would recommend soylent/powdered food to a friend. 85% saying yes while only 3% said no, leading to a 28:1 ratio of promoters. See the links at the bottom to see what is written in for the Maybe responses.
If we interpret this as a net promoter rate, it gives soylent/powdered food a net promoter score of 82, on par with the best brands in the world (USAA banking at 83 was the highest in 2012, followed by Amazon.com at 76). This is obviously not a classic net promoter score, as a standard net promoter is calculated using a scale of 1-10. Further, this may well be the metric in the study most biased by our collection method. People who hate a product don't usually spend as much time in online forums dedicated to the product as people who like it. So, take this number with a grain of salt.
A growing ecosystem of producers
Unsurprisingly, Rosa Labs still leads the pack with 95% brand awareness, 75% trial, and 64% use. DIY is the second largest, with 71% awareness, 28% trial and, 14% use. But the ecosystem of other producers is growing and many already have substantial footholds.
How Soylent(tm) only has 96% brand recognition is another puzzling question.
An infant market already at $30mn/year
The brand data + some public numbers lets us calculate how big the market is. The consumption data + some other public numbers lets us calculate how big the market could reasonably get. So lets do some math.
If we take the numbers published after Rosa Labs' last funding round of >$1mn in monthly subscriptions, and assume subscriptions are 50% of their revenue (reasonable given non public data we have access to as a producer), we can estimate that Rosa Labs is doing on the order of $24 mn per year in sales which is equal to $167,000 per survey respondent who said Rosa Labs' Soylent was their primary product. Applying this to rate to the rest of the market (with DIY measured at 1/2 the value per user given the known price per day of the DIY recipies) yields at total market size of $33 mn per year. This is probably a reasonable estimate for the current market size in the US, but, with only 10 responses saying they primarily consumed any of the European distributions it is likely that the current global market is larger.
This is a tiny drop compared to the nearly $1.3 trillion per year US food market. But, the soylent/powdered food market is only a year and a half old. Assuming that 10% of US consumers are willing to eat soylent/powdered food, and that those who do will get 50% of their calories (which we know is reasonable given the SES 2015 data) would suggest a total steady state market size for soylent/powdered food of around $65 billion per year ($1,300 * .1 * .5). Even if this $65 billion estimate is off by 100 fold (we don't think it is), getting from the current $30mn to a steady state of $650mn per year means there will be acute growth in the soylent/powdered food market for many years. Expect to see multiple new distributions and tons of hockey-stick shaped charts in the coming years.
The Reports and Data
There are many further insights to be gleaned from this data, which is why we're releasing the data for everyone to analyze.
- The consumption data, Consumption Data Report
- 225 responses from before any producers reached out to their mailing lists: Brand Share Report
- Anonymized raw data download
Further conversation and insights
This space is for links to other people's reactions and interpretations of the data, if you write an article about this data, please send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to the general conversation.
- Reserved for links.
Resources for Journalists
If you're writing an article about soylent, we can run custom slices of the data for you. We also have explicit permission from 149 of the respondents to share their contact information with journalists, so we can help you find a source for your story. Email us at email@example.com if you're interested.