Still not the end of food June 20, 2016 04:29
Results of the 2016 soylent Eaters Survey
This survey, the follow up to our 2015 soylent Eaters Survey, looks at trends in the consumption of all nutritionally complete foods, termed future foods/soylent with a lower case s, not just with the product sold under the Soylent brand. We had 3,157 completed responses to the survey this year, up from 594 last.
- 71% of respondents report eating 1-2 meals a day from soylent/future food, only 2% completely replace all meals.
- Market has more than tripled in the past year, now a $80-100mn market serving an estimated 1 million people a year. Potential market estimated at over $7bn
- Ready to drink is in, Bars are on the way, powder mix is still going strong, and the one-day bag of powder is on its way out.
Not being used to replace all meals
Only 2% of respondents (67 out of over 3,000 people) reported that they eat only soylent/future food (down from 4% in last year's survey). We consider the narrative of soylent/future food being an end to food or a dystopian form of slavery to bland sustenance to be summarily disproven at this point.
The percent of people reporting eating 25-75% of their calories from a soylent/future-food was the same in both the 2015 and the 2016 surveys: 47%.
A full 71% of respondents reported consumption in line with 1-2 meals per day. This coupled with the answers given in open response suggests soylent/future-food is a replacement for quick meals, displacing breakfast cereal, bagels, burgers and fries - not plated dinners.
|Consistent with pattern||% of Responses 2016||% of Responses 2015|
|0 meals per day||17%||15%|
|1 meal per day||54%||45%|
|2 meals per day||17%||20%|
|More than 2 meals per day||12%||20%|
|1-2 meals per day||71%||65%|
Based on this we're revising down our estimate of the average calories displaced by soylent/future food among habitual consumers from 50% to 40%.
Probably sticking with it
One of the more important questions we've yet to be able to answer is: do people who consume soylent/future food stick with it, or do they get excited at first and wash out? The larger question being: is soylent/future-food a new category of staple food, or is this a fad? We can't definitively answer this question yet, but there is early evidence that people are sticking with it.
Over 21% of respondents this year said they had been consuming soylent/future-food for more than 12 months vs 4% in the 2015 survey, and a further 23% said they had been consuming soylent/future food for 6-12 months vs 12% in the 2015 survey.
We were able to match 102 responses between the 2015 and the 2016 report. Among those consumers, there was a slight trend towards lower consumption. 39% of matched respondents are now consuming less, 36% the same, and only 25% are now consuming more.
|Consuming Less||Consuming the Same||Consuming More|
In our 2015-2016 matched data set, 10% of matched responses went from consuming some soylent/future food to none, another 10% of matched responses went from consuming none to consuming some.
We had emails to invite just over 300 people to re-take the survey, so 100 responses is a pretty good rate. But, we don't know why the other 200 people didn't respond.
In the most pessimistic interpretation, if all 200 of them washed out and stopped consuming soylent/future-food then the story would be "most people try it for a while and then stop, but about 1/3 of people who try it integrate it into their diet long term."
Promoter rate continues to be high
As the products positionings have moved from food replacement to default food/nutritional base, trepidation about advocating for the products seems to have decreased as well.
In the 2015 survey we saw 85% saying yes and 3% saying no a 28:1 ratio of promotion. This year we see 88% saying yes and only 2% saying no a 44:1 ratio. We also see the maybe camp dropping from 13% to 9%.
Where are the women?
More women report consuming soylent/future-food this year than previous years. But women still only represent 18% of the respondents (vs 14% last year).
Such a wide skew is unlikely to be due to the demographics of reddit as our major sample source, as the Reddit audience is 47% female.
The most plausible answer we've heard for the gender disparity since first reporting this disparity last year is that the market for female meal replacement shakes is already well served by Slim Fast and the plethora of other diet shakes created in the past 20 years. In this interpretation, the soylent/future food trend can be categorized as "slim fast for men."
We think there are two important differences between future food and the diet shakes of the past. One, future foods could be consumed perpetually as a single source of nutrition, even if they aren't currently being used that way. And two, as we've seen in this years data, use of these products is consistent over time, not just during periods of dieting.
Losing weight, gaining health
Similar to what we saw last year, respondents report that their weight and health are moving in positive directions as a result of adding soylent/future-food to their diet. Nearly half of respondents report having lost weight (41%) and/or seeing improved health (45%)
What consumers care about
Unsurprisingly, nutrition is the first imperative for consumers of soylent/future food.
We looked at which factor had the most responses up to or above a given rank and used those numbers to come up with the following aggregate ranking of the attributes:
- Easy to Prepare
- Long Expiration
- Delivered Quickly - A full 46% of people rated it dead last.
Look for providers to add slower cheaper shipping options in the near future, and more differentiation based on taste.
When asked "Why do you consume soylent/future food?" respondents cite nutrition, convenience, and simplicity.
- "It's low-effort, doesn't take up any time, cheaper than most other options, and more nutritious than food I'd make myself."
- "Ease of getting essential nutrients without the hassle of hours of food prep and meal planning."
- "For convenience, as well as health. It's nice to know if I'm running low on time I can grab a bottle and be set to have a quick but also very cheap and very healthy meal."
- "I was eating garbage. I wanted to eat better, but shopping/cooking/cleaning wasn't realistically an every day option."
- "I really love knowing that I'm getting as close to 100% of my daily nutritional needs covered in a really easy to obtain format. I'm extremely busy with work and family and future food allows me to continue to take care of myself while I spend the rest of my time taking care of life."
- "I can control exactly how much I eat...Prep time is short and I can achieve my fitness goals with breaking the bank."
- "Quick, nutritious meal replacement for when plans fall through or time doesn't allow for adequate meal preparation."
- "It's the easiest way to make sure I'm getting full nutrition within my allotted calories. I don't have to think, I just drink."
Trends in the business of future food
Need for new form factors
It turns out, the "one day size" packaging that the industry centered around in 2014 and 2015 is close to the worst possible form factor. This form factor was based on the initial premise of total food replacement -- it is a convenient form factor if you are replacing 3 meals a day and mixing your shakes in a 2 liter pitcher. However, that usage pattern is the exception, not the norm. Only 2% respondents in this year's survey reported consuming soylent/future food for 100% of their meals. For people consuming single meals out of blender bottles, one day packages are inconvenient and expensive (packaging and filling costs are very high compared to bulk packaging and not much lower than single servings). This matches the behavior KetoSoy has seen in our own customers, when we introduced bulk packaging as an option it became 60% of our sales within 2 months.
Look for the market to split towards single-serving and bulk packaging in the future.
Powdered Mix is a well desired form factor, and unsurprisingly so is ready to drink. Surprisingly, however, is that energy bar style is almost as desired and is as-yet without a major player in the US market. Joylent in the EU has just released their "Twenybars" product. Rosa Labs has said they're working on one. KetoSoy is working on a solid product as well.
Look for this gap to be filled in the coming 18 months.
Wide demand for different dietary and nutritional blends
There appears to be substantial demand for nutritional and dietary offerings beyond the standard diet.
Some of these are already well met: Organic by 100% food, Vegan by Rosa Labs, Low Carb/Ketogenic by KetoSoy, Ketochow, Ketolent, 100% food and Super Body Fuel, hypoallergenic by Super Body Fuel. Paleo by Primalkind in Australia and now Ample in the US.
Non GMO, Muscle-Building, Minimum Cost, and Low Calorie seem to be gaps in the market. Vegan also seems to be a gap in the market even though Rosa Labs' product is now vegan. We believe there is a market for a specifically vegan targeted offering. We expect these consumer desires to get integrated into offerings in the next year or two. Rosa Labs has shown little desire to offer additional dietary versions in the near term, which we believe to be a good strategic move on their part as simplicity is a huge part of their value proposition.
Somewhat surprising, there is little demand for a low-fat offering, which may explain why there is not a distribution promoting itself as low-fat yet.
Brand awareness and Competitive Environment
Brand awareness shows a decided lead for Rosa Labs, but wide awareness of non-Rosa Labs distributions.
New offerings are entering the market at a much slower rate, with the only notable US entrant so far in 2016 being Ample, a paleo targeted offering with a very high level of initial polish compared to entrants in 2014 and 2015.
Some consolidation has happened over the past year as the market has become more competitive. The company behind KetoSoy acquired two other small producers PowderChow and Ketolent in early 2016. Powderedfoods.com, a marketplace play, went out of business in end of October 2015.
As the concept of "replacement for food" has evolved into "default food" or "nutritional base" the number of substitutes that need to be considered increases. It is clear from looking at amazon search results for the term soylent that consumers consider a wide range of shakes of varying levels of nutritional completeness from pure protein shakes to green food shakes to be substitutes. 5 of the items on the page are from Rosa Labs (and re-sellers), 3 are from KetoSoy, 1 from 100% Food, and 4 are traditional protein or green foods shakes, 1 is a blender bottle, and there's also the eponymous Soylent Green DVD. The amazon search engine is particularly good at identifying substitutes because it is a ruthlessly profit maximizing algorithm, it displays items based in descending order of someone's likelihood to buy that item given a search term.
Market now $80-110mn per year, over 3x what it was last year
Extrapolating from order numbers of four producers, our own internal data for KetoSoy, Ketolent, Powderchow, and the market shares from the survey, we estimate the total market to be between $82 and $109 million per year. In the 2015 report we estimated the market to be $30mn.
Working backward from the dollar value of the market, factoring the consumption trends we see in this survey, we estimate that there are on the order of 200,000 people consuming future-food on a regular basis, and that it has been tried in some form or another by another 600,000-1,000,000 people in the past year.
We are unable to publicly share the exact calculations behind this as it contains substantial amounts of our own non-public data, but the methodology is: Calculate orders per day from order numbers we gather periodically*, factor by average order size, factor by share from the survey (once using the Rosa Labs biased data set, once using the other data set), average the results from each data set. We assume average orders of between $55 and $110 based on cost per calorie as well as public and non public order size data (KetoSoy, Powderchow, Ketolent, Amazon.com orders for Soylent, and 100% food affiliate program).
*For distributions using woo-commerce as a shopping cart, factor down order numbers to account for woo-commerce's item counting vs other cart's order counting (our own Ketolent and Powderchow distributions use woo commerce so we have a good idea of how much we need to adjust to get from woo commerce numbers to order counts).
Potential market over $7 billion
Integrating the data from this year we can come up with another potential future market size. Last year we estimated 10% of people eating 50% of their calories to get to a potential market of $65 billion. This year we're adding a few more variables to the calculation and revising down that estimate, but the order of magnitude stays the same.
In the pessimistic scenario: 10% of people try soylent/future-food, 30% of those stick with it and eat 40% of their calories from soylent/future-food with soylent/future-food costing 1/2 of what would otherwise be spent of a $1.3 trillion market we get: $7.8 Billion.
In the optimistic scenario: 30% of people try soylent/future-food, 50% stick with it and eat 40% of their calories with soylent/future-food costing 1/2 of what would otherwise be spent we get: $42.9 Billion.
Willingness to try and stickiness are the two least good numbers in these equations. We're going to be looking to find better data on those assumptions in future years.
It bears mentioning that a potential market size of $X to $XX billion is consistent with a the growth from $30mn to $80mn we've seen in the past 18 months if soylent/future-food follows a standard diffusion of innovations model. If this is the case, we've likely passed the Innovators phase and are now in the Early Adoption phase https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations
If the market follows a diffusion of innovations s-curve, and reaches $7.8 billion maturity in year 10, future growth might look something like this:
A growing industry, a movement without a name
We believe the conflation of soylent as a category (a nutritionally complete food designed to be consumed as a default or base) and Soylent as a brand is causing confusion and increasing Rosa Labs' lead. Various alternate names have been proposed: Powdered Food, Future Food, Nutritional Base, Complete Foods, *lent (star-lent), etc. But so far the rest of the industry's inability to find a name that doesn't reference the lead player is limiting the ability to communicate with the public and further cementing Rosa Labs' lead.
It can be argued that Rosa Labs' trademark is a generic a la Xerox or Kleenex, as they've promoted the generic of their own word in blog posts and on the diy.soylent site. But, while they own the soylent.com domain and the public's perception, fighting to get that word as a generic is a losing battle. Coke being used as a generic for sweetened soda in the US southern states does nothing to help sales of Pepsi Cola.
The industry needs to find a name for itself.
Methodology and Data
Data was gathered from 04/04/2016 thru 05/02/2016 via a voluntary online survey conducted using software from Instant.ly.
From 04/04 thru 05/02 we gathered sample from calls for participation from discourse.soylent.me and reddit.com/r/soylent and a non-branded email to participants in the 2015 survey sent 04/04. The week of 04/18 participating producers sent calls to our email lists asking for participants.
We had 3,157 complete the survey, 1,636 appear to have come from reddit.com/r/soylent and discourse.soylent.me and 1,471 appear to have come from participating producer calls to our email lists.
This year we had 9 brands/distros participating in the survey.
- Chris Bair's KetoChow
- Super Body Fuel
- 100% Food
- Queal (EU)
- Hol Food (Canada)
- Rosa Labs' Soylent
Brands/distibutions included in awareness and trial questions were taken from the reddit.com/r/soylent community wiki. Looking at the write-in responses from last year there were no obvious gaps in this as a list of the major producers.
Opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the KetoSoy team, and do not represent the opinions of the other producers.
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 data from the above three links, and this document itself, is released under open source license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Please link to this page or www.ketosoy.com for attribution.
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.
- Queal's analysis of the survey
- Reserved for others
Resources for Journalists
If you're writing an article about soylent/future food, we can run custom slices of the data for you. We also have explicit permission from almost 900 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.
To all of the respondents, producers, and moderators of reddit's /r/soylent community: Thank you! This was a huge undertaking and we couldn't have done it without your help.