Will Soylent's 100-calorie snack bars be successful?

By Jessi Devenyns


Dive Brief:


  • Soylent is moving from meal replacements to the snack sector with the release of 100-calorie bars called Soylent Squared, according to its website.


  • Available in Chocolate Brownie, Salted Caramel and Citrus Berry, the bars contain five grams of plant proteins and 36 different types of nutrients and probiotics for digestive health. Currently, they are only available for purchase online and sell for $30 for a 30-pack.


  • Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley told FoodBev Media that one to two bars is the equivalent of a snack, and three to four can replace a complete meal.



Dive Insight:


Despite the fact that Soylent made its name with meal-replacement drinks, the company has shown this year that it is interested in branching out and tapping into the mainstream snacking market.


In January, the Los Angeles-based company released their Soylent Bridge drink which is intended to fill the snack gap between meals. Though this product still has a clear line to the original Soylent drink, Soylent Squared brings chewable fare back to its product portfolio. The idea is to broaden Soylent's appeal beyond hardcore consumers and reach a different group of people who are more interested in mainstream snacks. By reaching into the snack sector, Soylent is looking to attract hungry, on-the-go consumers, as convenience and healthy fare continue to be growing trends.


For many consumers, snack time is meal time. Datassential estimates that consumers eat about four to five snack foods a day instead of three sit down meals. As a result, the snack market — worth $89 billion in 2018 — is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 6.83% between 2017 and 2021, according to Research and Markets.


However, Soylent Squared is entering into an already crowded market with a myriad of choices for all manner of tastes. Keeping with the company's core principles, Soylent is marketing the bars as a sustainable choice because the protein and nutrients are genetically modified. This could turn off some consumers, since a recent study says shoppers are still "grossed out" and skeptical of GMO food.


This isn't the first time Soylent has created a bar product. It launched a 250-calorie snack bar in 2016 but complaints of sickness prompted the company to quickly pull the bar from shelves. Soylent blamed the illness on an algae ingredient — which ingredients manufacturer TerraVia stopped supplying to Soylent.


It's not known whether the ingredient, now owned by Corbion, actually caused the problems. There were also similar complaints associated with their protein powder leading to nausea around the same period, CNN reported. The company has retooled its formula. According to what appears to be a label from a Soylent Squared bar posted on Reddit, there is no algal flour in the snack bar, but it does contain probiotics.


At this point, the company is only producing three sweet flavors that look like waxy protein bars. Crowley told CNN Business that the company is working to improve the product and wants to develop a savory version. While there seem to be countless new protein bars on shelves today, something savory that isn't a jerky meat snack could stand out and be memorable to consumers.


Regardless, Soylent has a steep hill to climb. With competition ranging from Epic meat snacks to Kind bars, there is a lot of choice for consumers when it comes to on-the-go snacking. If Soylent doesn’t find a tasty way to differentiate itself, it is not likely to move past its hyperfocused core market.