When large companies name new products, they often go through an agonizing process of brainstorming, research and focus groups before deciding on the name the CEO likes.
Decades ago, Ford was coming out with a new sports car, and among the many names they were considering was Probe. Participants in focus groups were almost universally in agreement about their distaste for the moniker, sometimes offering the inevitable references to various medical devices or alien abductions.
Small companies, on the other hand, don’t rely as much on research. They fly by the seats of their pants, going on gut, relying on instinct.
I believe that’s the only possible explanation for a product called…
…well, I’ll get to the name in a moment.
First, let me tell you what it is. It’s a powder. You mix it with water. You drink it. You can consume it in place of a meal, in place of a snack, or in place of anything that could reasonably use “edible” as an adjective. You know you’re in trouble when a product’s website feels the need to mention that the Food & Drug Administration has approved it as a food. I mean, if that was ever in doubt, do you really want to ingest it?
According to the manufacturer, it…
“…includes protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. It includes all of the elements of a healthy diet, without excess amounts of sugars, saturated fats, or cholesterol.”
That’s fine, I guess. But it also includes all of the following:
High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Rice Protein, Oat Flour, Isomaltulose, Vitamin and Mineral Blend [Potassium (as Potassium Gluconate), Calcium (as Calcium Carbonate), Choline Bitartrate, Magnesium (as Magnesium Oxide), Vitamin C (as Ascorbic Acid), Zinc (as Zinc Sulfate), Vitamin E (as dl-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate), Vitamin B3(as Niacinamide), Copper (as Copper Gluconate), Vitamin B5 (as Calcium d-Pantothenate), Manganese (as Manganese Sulfate), Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxine HCl), Vitamin B2 (as Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (as Thiamin HCl), Vitamin A (as Palmitate), Chromium (as Chromium Chloride), Folic Acid, Biotin, Iodine (as Potassium Iodide), Molybdenum (as Sodium Molybdate), Selenium (as Sodium Selenite), Vitamin K1 (as Phytonadione), Vitamin D2 (as Ergocalciferol), Vitamin B12 (as Cyanocobalamin)], Rice Starch, Modified Food Starch, Soy Lecithin, Cellulose, Salt, Flaxseed and Safflower Oil Powder, life’sDHA™ Oil Powder (Docosahexaenoic Acid from Algal Oil), Xanthan Gum, Sucralose.
Mmm. Just like mom used to make. If mom was a chemist.
This is the first product from a company called Rosa Labs, which describes itself as a “Research & Development Driven Nutritional Science Firm,” thus telegraphing the idea that any item they sell is bound to be yummy.
But, okay. They’ve got a product that’s cheap ($3 a meal, they say), convenient and nutritious. Just the thing for today’s young go-getters who prefer to drink their meals because they only have one free hand.* I have no problem with any of that.
My problem is with the product’s name, which, you may remember, I haven’t yet mentioned.
If you don’t find that just a tad disturbing, then you may not be aware of a movie released in 1973 called Soylent Green. It’s a pretty famous film, at least among science fiction fans. It starred Charleton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his last role). Here’s one of the plot summaries from IMDB.com:
A tale of Earth in despair in 2022. Natural food like fruits, vegetables, and meat among others are now extinct. Earth is overpopulated and New York City has 40 million starving, poverty stricken people. The only way they survive is with water rations and eating a mysterious food called Soylent.
Well, okay, you might say, so Rosa Labs has invented Soylent seven years early and named its product after the substance that fed the human race in a classic sci-fi film. Except for the punchline, which you already know if you’ve ever seen the movie, or possibly even if you haven’t, because it happens to be a very famous movie quote, and I’m going to mention it here but before I do I should tell you that it is a teensy bit of a spoiler:
“SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!”
Yes, that’s right. Rosa Labs has named its first product offering after a fictional food that was made from humans.
With that as background, I can only surmise one of three things:
- Nobody at Rosa Labs, or any of their friends, family or investors, was familiar with the movie or the ending, or
- They were aware of it and they thought they could appeal ironically to hipsters by using a pop culture reference for the name, or
- The list of ingredients above is a lie.
In any case, I’m certainly looking forward to the next product from Rosa Labs: Donner Party Mix.
See you soon.
*Because of the phone in their other hand.