By: Demir Vangelov, CEO
When I became CEO a little over a year and a half ago, it’s not an exaggeration to say Soylent needed a reboot—as so many start-ups do, we had lost our way. We had to change things.
Today, however, I am proud to say that Soylent is on the upswing and continues to improve. We know so many people have been along with us on this journey and we are so grateful to have the most loyal and dedicated consumers who have stuck with us through it all. Because of our incredible consumers and dedicated team, I can share that we are continuing to grow and expand into new channels. We don’t take this lightly because, in a time where many brands are struggling with year-over-year sales, our retail footprint is growing by double digits. That’s immensely gratifying.
At Soylent, our mission is to make complete, sustainable nutrition accessible, appealing and affordable to all. By focusing on this goal, we’ve been able to make a number of tough decisions and strategic moves, and our success over the past year is a direct result of our commitment to this vision. We are now available at more retailers than ever before.
As we look to the future, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the strategies and key decisions that helped us get things on the right track.
A bias toward action
It takes a lot of hard work to make a nutritious, affordable plant-based product that tastes really good—it’s a technological challenge, a scientific feat, a logistical puzzle. A lot of companies can get hung up doing extensive consumer testing and analysis, but that can lead to paralysis.
At Soylent, we don’t overthink things. Of course, we look at data and crunch numbers. But we also have the experience to know when it’s time to stop asking questions and just try something. That’s allowed us to be more nimble, to experiment, to discover new ways of doing things.
Sometimes we’ll try something, and it won’t work—that’s ok. Part of our value system is to change our minds and shift direction quickly when necessary. We’re comfortable with that. And we needed to be because the status quo when I came on board as CEO wasn’t sustainable.
One of the key early decisions I made last year was to dramatically overhaul our marketing. We went from a massive focus on acquisition to retention and brand building. That was a bold move. Acquisition marketing is a central strategy for many brands, and deprioritizing it is pretty unusual. Instead, we decided to re-engage with our core audience first, the people that helped build the brand, and make sure that Soylent meets their needs before we reached out aggressively to new consumers.
A renewed commitment to our core customers
Soylent’s core customers are unique: they’re tech-savvy Gen Z-ers and Millennials who want healthy alternatives to fast food at an affordable price. We want to make sure that we’re giving them the best possible products we can.
To do that, one of the big things we did over the past year was to reformulate our beverage products to improve their taste, while also lowering the amount of sugar in each serving. Our ready-to-drink products are now naturally flavoured, better tasting and have only 1g of added sugar, and the fact that our sales have climbed since is a testament to how much people love them.
We also took steps to lower the price of our powder, making it even more affordable for value-conscious consumers who want to be able to customize their own smoothies and shakes at home.
We also launched a line of new products that were designed to meet the needs of more consumers by giving them options that included more protein, fewer carbs and adding an energy boost. These products were well received and are now going to be available in select retailers in addition to our online channels. We are also seeing our competitors copying our new products, which continues to reinforce Soylent's position as a leader in the functional plant-based space.
Customers who like our ready-to-drink beverages and those who prefer our powder are distinct segments of our customer base, and they engage with Soylent in different ways. But at the end of the day, they have the same goals: they all care about their personal health and the health of the planet.
Focusing on these types of customers has allowed us to take bold actions and expand our reach even further.
Bringing complete nutrition to people everywhere
Soylent, as the original food tech company, has been known as a direct-to-consumer brand, selling products to customers over the internet. But the continued success of our e-commerce business has also allowed us to expand into brick-and-mortar retail. This is an area of huge growth for us.
We began selling our products in 7-Eleven in 2017, in just 17 stores in California. The next year we launched a small pilot with Walmart in a handful of stores across the country. Today, we are truly part of the national retail landscape—our products are available nationwide in Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Wegmans, HEB and more.
And the list is growing. In the coming weeks, Soylent products are debuting at all 2,450 Rite Aid stores across the United States, engaging a new wave of customers.
All told, our products will be available in more than 28,000 stores across the country by the end of this year. This robust brick-and-mortar presence means that today, Soylent is no longer a niche brand. We’ve now positioned ourselves as part of the mainstream, allowing us to bring complete nutrition to a far wider audience.
The future is democratized nutrition and sustainability
This growth is organic—consumers are looking for healthy, plant-based alternatives that meet their needs. The simple truth is that sales are increasing because more people are enjoying our products, and we’re very happy to be able to provide more choices in more formats and more locations than ever before.
Selling more products is not our ultimate purpose, however. We want to make sure everyone has access to proper nutrition. The coronavirus pandemic in particular has highlighted the need for healthy, sustainable options, which has made our donation program even more pertinent.
To date, Soylent has donated nearly 5 million meals, including 2.5 million meals since the beginning of 2020.
Looking ahead, we are fine-tuning our omnichannel presence, and we see a future where you can find Soylent wherever you are. You’ll be able to walk into your local grocery store and find a complete nutrition option in any format that is convenient for you.
That’s an incredibly exciting idea because the more people are able to enjoy Soylent, the more they will be educated about good nutrition and a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
Great products and giving consumers more healthy options are the foundation that guides us. But we don’t just stop there - we are also fiercely dedicated to a sustainable future. From supporting sustainable agriculture to achieving the lowest possible overall impact on the environment, we are constantly looking for ways to minimize the impact our products and manufacturing have on the environment.
When companies grow and evolve, they can often lose sight of their core values. With Soylent, the opposite is true—our renewed commitment to our customers and our mission are at the center of everything we do. Indeed, it’s the reason for our healthy trajectory.