TIME Diet/Nutrition

Soylent Has Some Competition—And We Taste-Tested It

Ambronite

Drinkable meal replacements are becoming all the rage, so we tried the latest all-natural, organic version

If you’ve been following nutrition (or Silicon Valley) news, you’ve probably heard of Soylent, the milky meal replacement boasting all the nutrients you need—in portable, swiggable form. Soylent CEO and founder Rob Rhinehart, who I interviewed a year ago, created Soylent because he thinks eating is “inefficient” and because he’s just not that interested in food. Apparently he’s not alone: His drink has earned a fan following, with packs of Soylent selling on Ebay for $115. And it’s also earned some competition: Ambronite.

What makes Ambronite different: Soylent is made of powdered supplements whereas Ambronite is an all-natural, organic meal-drink that uses pulverized real-food ingredients, says co-founder Simo Suoheimo, who lives in Finland. Ambronite’s 20 blended ingredients include oats, walnuts, apple, spirulina, and seabuckthorn, and everything is organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and with no artificial ingredients. One serving has 500 calories (you can always use just half), only four grams of natural sugar, 50% of your daily total fiber needs, and over half of your protein intake.

Like the Soylent guys, Ambronite’s creators developed their product because they’re busy businessmen who were eating too much junk between meetings. “We wanted to make a product that has the best ingredients the planet has to offer,” says Suoheimo. Unlike Rhinehart, though, Suoheimo says he loves cooking and he loves food.

“This is not me giving you a multivitamin and saying you’re all set,” Suoheimo says. “I am giving you the best, real ingredients out there, based on what we know about nutrition now.” Instead of regularly replacing full meals with Ambronite, Suoheimo hopes his drink will replace things like protein bars, which are full of processed ingredients and sweeteners.

What it tastes like: Ambronite starts as a greenish powder, and it’s recommended you blend or shake it well. On my first try, I simply added the powder to a glass of water and attempted to blend it with a coffee stirrer. Bad idea. It was chunky, and tasted like nothing other than a hint of fishy spirulina. The second time, my editor brought me a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice. I poured in the green powder and shook it until it looked like a smoothie. This time, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was really pretty good—though still a bit chewy.

Alexandra Sifferlin
Alexandra Sifferlin

I had some colleagues try it too. “It tastes like a smoothie I made myself,” said my coworker Kelly Conniff, commenting on the texture. Another coworker was truly surprised it didn’t taste terrible.

“This is not a chocolate smoothie,” says Suoheimo. “We are really proud of these ingredients and we want you to taste them.”

Although I enjoyed it mixed in with orange juice, the sugar from juice kind of defeat the purpose of drinking something so healthy. Blending it with a frozen banana and some water might be better. Suoheimo says some customers use the powder in their baking or mixed into their curry.

Where it’s available: Ambronite is still crowdfunding, although they reached their goal of $50,000 in less than a week. People pre-ordering online can get 10 meals of Ambronite for $89, which includes shipping to the United States.

The bottom line: Though I am forever an advocate for eating whole, real food, I’m not turning my nose up at Ambronite just yet. Real ingredients over supplements is always the way to go, so I’m glad they’ve ditched the fake stuff. The team also relies on nutrition experts from the University of Helsinki, an institution known for it’s dedication to food science. Still, there are no studies that show drinking your daily nutrients leads to better health, and there are other reasons for sitting down and sharing a meal that matter beyond your nutritional intake. I’ll probably be sticking to food that doesn’t come in a pouch, but if you want to try Ambronite for yourself, go for it. Just make sure you blend it really well.

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