Soylent, the meal replacement drink that's been called both "the future of food" in breathless headlines and "the end of food" by the New Yorker, can no longer be sold in Canada due to a failure to meet federal food regulations.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it advised Soylent earlier this month that the company's drinks do not meet the compositional requirements for meal replacement products, and that imports would have to be halted unless regulations were met.
But the agency is not recalling Soylent products as there's no health risk to consumers.
In a statement posted on Soylent's website, CEO Rob Rhinehart says the company intends to comply with CFIA regulations, even though the company "feel(s) strongly that these requirements do not reflect the current understanding of human nutritional needs."
He goes on to say that he doesn't know how long it will take for Soylent to adapt to CFIA's requirements, and that the company can't yet estimate when their products will be available to Canadians.
The company did not provide a spokesperson to comment, but said in a statement that they are "working hard to resolve the categorization issue."
Soylent, which offers meal replacement drinks both in bottles and in powder form, started when Rhinehart was working in Silicon Valley in 2013.
The product is built around the idea that home cooking is unnecessarily time-consuming for busy people in a work-obsessed culture, and is often more expensive and less healthy than it could be.
"It turns a full meal into a one-step process. It makes things a lot less complicated. And when you're busy, it takes eating off your plate," reads Soylent's website.
The product – which is meant to eliminate the need for other food altogether by delivering a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and protein – is sold less as a drink and more as a lifestyle.
The company's branding and packaging similarly embrace efficiency over esthetics with stark labelling.
Soylent offers users a subscription service and bottles purchased on its website aren't offered in units smaller than 12. Soylent is not available in Canadian stores.
The company launched with a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013, raising over US$700,000, and the brand grew quickly. The company has been selling in Canada since 2015.
This isn't Soylent's first run-in with food inspection agencies. Last October, parent company Rosa Foods recalled Soylent's utilitarian-sounding "food bars" along with an earlier version of their food powder after customers complained about suffering gastrointestinal illness.
"Fitting with our desire to err on the side of caution, we are reformulating Bar and Powder 1.6 to remove the likely ingredients. Turnaround should be fairly quick," Soylent posted on its website at the time. The food bar has not yet returned to Soylent's roster of products.
Soylent's website specifies that the company wasn't named after the food-replacement wafers that famously turned out to be made of human flesh in the 1973 movie "Soylent Green," but for its tamer counterpoint in the book that inspired the movie. In the 1966 science fiction novel "Make Room! Make Room!", soylent is a harmless combination of soy and lentils.