Wired – Premium Soylent rival fuels the food drink revolution
Originally written for Wired, find the original article here
“I’ve met Rob Rhinehart, we get on very well,” says Mikko Ikola, co-founder of Ambro — the second liquid-based food substitute set to make headlines this year. Ikola is talking about the creator of Soylent and makes no bones about being inspired by its mission to find a cheap, healthy solution to world hunger. But Ambro’s plans are different.
“Soylent’s goal is to be synthetic and affordable,” argues Ikola “Ambro is organic and premium”. This means dumping powers for actual recognisable ingredients such as nuts, brown full-grain rice, wild berries and cocoa. The core profile is as follows; fat comes from nuts (organic almond, organic pecan, organic, organic hazelnut, organic walnut); carbohydrates mainly from organic whole grain rice and quinoa; protein via whey protein; most vitamins and trace nutrients are supplied by the rest of the ingredients such as wild berries, spinach and spirulina.
Ambro is mixed one part to three parts water (or using any other ingredients you prefer). 144g of Ambro has 600 kcal, equivalent to a healthy meal.
The ingredient list means Ambro has a very different customer target to Soylent: the busy entrepreneur, the overworked employee, the constantly moving field rep and the conscious healthy eater. “It is about getting over hunger five minutes before your meeting, but doing it in a way which completes all your nutritional needs,” says Ikola.
Ambro is exhibiting at Slush in Helsinki. In some inspired guerrilla marketing its staff has been handing out samples to the conference’s lengthy food queues which can stretch over 100 metres. Ikola says responses have been predominantly positive.
Wired.co.uk’s own impressions: it doesn’t look overly appetising but the nuttiness comes through in both the taste and texture and the thickness makes it feel more substantial than a normal drink. I wasn’t particularly hungry when I tried my sample, but didn’t feel the need to eat for some time afterwards. I could certainly see myself using it when running short on time.
Unlike Soylent, Ikola isn’t pushing the potential to live purely off Ambro: “We are fans of good food and family dinners. Ambro is for the times food needs to work around you.” That said the company is currently conducting long term trials as it is aware some buyers will want to use it this way.
In fact some buyers may already be doing so. Unlike Soylent, which will go on sale early next year, Ambro has been shipping in limited runs to customers for the last few months. The “premium” tag still sees it remain relatively affordable at €49 (£41) (excluding shipping) for a 1.1kg bag that will provide 8 full meals. But it is clearly a food substitute rather than a budget option.
Once opened Ikola says Ambro will last two months, but the company is working to extend this “a lot longer” without artificial preservatives.
In early 2014 Ambro will kick off a crowdfunding round as part of a publicity drive and to provide better economy of scale. It may be the first commercial Soylent variant, but it is unlikely to be the last.
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