Silicon Valley types have long bemoaned the need to spend time eating. "If there was a way that I couldn’t eat so I could work more, I would not eat," Tesla's Elon Musk once said. And that's why "food replacement" products are catching on so quickly among the techie set: “I think engineers are ready to throw in the towel on the illusion that we’re having this family dinner," one startup founder explains to the New York Times. "Let’s do away with all the marketing facade and get the calories as quickly as we can." Food replacement products like Soylent, Schmoylent, Schmilk, and People Chow are protein powders (that also include other nutrients) that can be mixed with water or milk and, creators say, used as a complete diet. Thus, by mixing up a batch each night and sipping throughout the day, one software developer explains, he doesn't need to think about food until 7pm.
But, as the Times notes, the powdered drinks "typically taste like bland, gritty pancake batter," and even some devotees admit they get tired of the taste. (A writer who lived on Soylent for 30 days in 2013 notes that some have compared it to semen; his own comparison is baby formula.) But that hasn't stopped the drinks' wild success: Investors are heaping money on the companies, some would-be drinkers are waiting as long as six months to get their first orders, and the powders are even being served at Silicon Valley events. (At one dinner party, a software engineer served a side dish of peanut-butter-enhanced Soylent alongside pad thai.) Also appealing: A week's worth of the drinks costs about $85, while eating a meal at a Silicon Valley restaurant will run you about $50—or more. But some who've tried Soylent say it's still too much work to prepare—or it's just plain joyless. (Read more Silicon Valley stories.)