Written by: Demir Vangelov - CEO, Soylent Nutrition, Inc.
Last week, we marked Earth Day here at Soylent by sharing some details about an independent analysis we ran to find out more about the environmental impact of our bottled shakes. We were excited to see new data on the progress we’ve made in making our products as sustainable as possible — like how soy helps us use less farmland per gram of protein than other plant-based alternatives — and to learn about how we can keep pushing forward.
A few days earlier, as I try to do most weekends, I took my two kids out to our favourite trail around Descanso Gardens, a 150-acre public oasis just north of downtown Los Angeles. When we get to the hilltop and if we are lucky with clear skies, we can see the twenty-odd miles to the Pacific ocean. But on a bad day, the notorious LA smog means we can hardly see much, except to have a clear visual of how many people in LA are impacted by pollution.
For our family, this depiction is a lesson to show us the personal, real-world impact of environmental stewardship: cleaner air is healthier for us, but it feels good, too. I hope that every little act of sustainability we do at home means one more clear day on our favourite trail, and one less smog-alert day for LA.
At Soylent, we also believe in the power of incremental improvement. Running a sustainable company isn’t about “saving the planet” in one fell swoop on Earth Day alone, or trying to convince millions of consumers to change their habits overnight.
We don’t think we’ll get very far telling consumers what they should be eating (it doesn’t work with my 9-year-old either). No one wants to change their entire way of life or eating overnight, but almost everyone wants to do better for themselves and for the earth, so it is our job to make it easy. By making products that are good for people, good for the planet, and taste great, no one has to take drastic steps to have a big impact, and this is a big win for us. We believe that this is a food company’s duty: make it easy for people to do the right thing.
So we’ve invested a considerable amount of research into delivering everything the body needs while using the cleanest possible ingredients that still taste great. We strive to give consumers a healthy choice in their overall diet over the course of a day or a week. It’s one that’s both good for them and for the planet, yet if they don’t love it, we haven’t done our job.
The incredible pace of innovation and advanced technology in the food industry gives me hope.
Companies across the country and globe are making sustainable products taste better than ever before, and consumers are using them more than ever before, which is having a huge impact. The space is moving so fast that, as a consumer, even if you don’t love a new plant-based alternative now on the shelf, you might love the version that’s out in six months.
At Soylent, we’re constantly trying out new things — looking at every aspect of our products we might tweak or improve to take another step toward better health, better taste, and a better Earth. It’s in our DNA. Our founders wanted to reduce trade-offs in nutrition, taste, cost and sustainability. They believed there was a way to have it all, and these ideas continue to be at our core. However, we don’t believe it is all or nothing. We make it easier for people to take the first step toward change.
I’ve taken a similar approach in my own career, too. Long before I joined Soylent, I ran a company that was the first to make meat snacks using more sustainable and healthy ingredients. They were still animal-based, but it fueled a growing passion for creating products that were better for consumers’ health. At my next career stop, we turned plant-based milks from something that was “good for you” into something that tasted great, too, and helped launch a movement.
And I’ve done the same in my own diet. Over the past 15 years, I have gradually moved towards a flexitarian lifestyle, replacing most of my animal proteins with plant-based sources.
If you didn’t wake up after Earth Day and stop using animal products or start biking to work, you’re not alone. The truth is that taking care of the Earth isn’t all or nothing: it doesn’t come down to a single big change but to our daily choices.
Our approach at Soylent is to constantly get better at creating products that are both good for the planet and tasty enough to keep our customers happy. With each step forward, we think we can help bring another clear day to our families, our communities, and our planet.