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An Engineered Food For More Than Engineers

By Brad Cohen | Posted on March 19, 2014

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Every day at Janrain we’re helping people create relevant, personalized messages and deliver them to an appropriate target group. The other day I heard an interview about a food replacement called Soylent, and I immediately thought two things:

  1. I am not the right target for this. Why would I ever want to replace food with… not food?
  2. Who is the right target for this?

It’s a product engineered by an engineer to replace food, and engineers are often typecast as super-left-brained, extremely pragmatic, and short on time. So should it be targeted at them? Who better to ask than our own beloved engineers here at Janrain who live in a town known for amazing food. I have personally seen many of them consume food, so it seemed like a good test group. I set up a survey about Soylent and mailed it to the whole company to see how things netted out. You may expect that the engineers were way more interested than the non-engineers, but the results might surprise you! Here’s the full infographic followed by additional insights and breakdowns of the results. Don’t miss the best comments submitted by survey takers at the bottom!


Soylent final

No Engineers Went Die-Hard


When asked how they felt after listening to this story, one of the options was “I’m never chewing again. Chewing is for suckers. I’ve got stuff to do.” No engineers chose this option, but 3.6% of non-engineers did, revealing a stronger incidence of extreme positive affinity in non-engineers. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Engineers Are More Likely To Try


Engineers reported interest in trying Soylent just to see what it’s like by a margin of 17%, indicating a higher level of tentative interest in the product, but 11% of non-engineers were very excited to try it. Both groups had a fair number who were completely uninterested, with only slightly fewer non-engineers disavowing Soylent forever.

Engineers Have Better Potlucks


If there are two competing potlucks you have to go to, pick the one with more engineers. When asked about the experience of eating, 23% more non-engineers reported that they “value the time spent eating with others. But we can just suck down our Soylent bags together.”

Non-Engineers And The Creep Factor


While the vast majority of both groups agreed that the name choice for soylent was both awesome and creepy, 28% of non-engineers thought it was just plain creepy compared to 0% of engineers.

Comment Highlights From Across Janrain

“I think it is an interesting concept. I do think we indulge in the idea of needing too many options for food rather than sticking to consistent meals for a more nutrition focus. I am skeptical of a “manufactured” product that claims to contain all the nutrition I need to fuel my body. In my opinion nothing replaces naturally grown food. But I’m game.”

“It’s a solid idea of you can keep one in your desk drawer for those days you can’t eat out or if don’t want to brave the rain. But anyone with taste buds would get sick of a bag of goo after a few weeks tops.”

”I think he is taking a risk with his life and his organs… a fisherman just survived 18 months adrift in the ocean eating sea turtles, he is still alive but there are serious concerns about the health of his organs.”

“Typical bad engineer – designing a product by the technical specs without bothering to check if it will actually achieve the desired outcome. This concoction is actually quite terrible for most people. Cool story, bro.”

“Very interesting, and has the potential to solve a lot of problems (the most efficient MRE? Yes please). However, any product riding the campaign that it’s the “only food you’ll ever need” is dangerous.”

“Where can I sign up? Totally beats ‘slim-fast’ like diet aids, and protein powder drinks full of sugar, preservatives, sodium etc. I would probably drink this in the morning and at lunch and for dinner 3, 4 times a week, and regular dinner eating out the other 3, 4 times a week.”

“It’s an interesting idea and I’d like to find out if it’s healthy for long-term use.”

“I kind of dislike taking a neat cultural reference and turning it into a product.”

“Until really long term proper testing is done, I won’t believe it. That said, I’ll slurp some up for a while and I’m not afraid to participate in testing.”

“Could easily mistake this for an Onion article…”

“I thought the original story was a great example of applying a hacker ethos to a non-tech problem. I liked watching the discussions and experiments unfold around it. As a consumer product, though, I think its an awful idea.”

“It sounds neat. I would like to try it.”

“I would try this to say I did but my first thought was WTF?!?”

“Dude is creepy — his flat affect and lack of comprehension of the emotional and aesthetic aspects of eating make me think that if he turned around you would see that he is actually under the control of a super advanced alien parasite that has attached itself to his spine.”

“Sounds like he’s trying to make the world a more sustainable place.”

“He’s onto something.”

“This is so Jetsons.”

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About the author

Brad Cohen

Brad Cohen

Director of Communications

Brad is Director of Marketing Communications at Janrain. Brad has experience across the digital landscape, including SEO, content strategy, content creation, development and creative direction, and installation projects for brands like Google, Nike, Intel, Nestle, Adobe, Verizon, AT&T, Oracle, and more. Brad enjoys driving discourse around marketing strategy, technology, and infrastructure.

View all posts by Brad Cohen