If all the hype around food replacement startup Soylent is to be believed, there is a large swath of people (mainly, it seems, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs) who are content to replace their regular meals with a chemical slurry that supposedly contains all the nutritional elements necessary for a healthy diet.
Maybe Soylent will take off among people outside the Silicon Valley bubble. Even if it does, liquid meal startup called Ambro thinks that another market is just waiting to be tapped: busy professionals who want real, organic food items...in their food substitute.
Led by a group of Finnish health and outdoors enthusiasts, Ambro was inspired by the work of Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart. "That's why we contacted Rob early on during product development," says Ambro cofounder Simo Suoheimo. "It's the same pieces of the puzzle from a different viewpoint. We're looking to create a two-minute meal from organic sources." Rhinehart, in comparison, is creating a cheap two-minute meal from chemical powders.
Ambro aims to be a complete nutritional source—one that contains ingredients you might find in Whole Foods. Ambro contains whey protein, quinoa, whole grain rice, organic almonds, organic pecans, organic hazelnut, raw cocoa, Finnish berries (like sea buckthorn), and more. The mixture, says Suoheimo, was developed in partnership with doctors and nutrition specialists.
A small camp of enthusiasts (and journalists) have tried to live on Soylent without eating anything else. Suoheimo stresses that people shouldn't do that with Ambro. While it provides enough nutrients, it's intended to be more of a "meal enhancement" than a meal replacement.
"We love cooking good meals. We want to enjoy the meals, take the time, and enjoy the whole social event," he says. Ambro is a replacement for microwaved mac and cheese, not a gourmet dinner.
Still, that mac and cheese probably tastes better than Ambro, whose creators put nutrition and purity of raw materials—no artificial flavoring, preservatives, or colors—ahead of taste. Suoheimo says that the mixture tastes like raw cacao and nuts. That's not revolting, but it's not a flavor most people crave, either.
Unlike Soylent, Ambro is not cheap, and it never will be. "When you have one of the least densely populated places in northern Europe, and you go and pick berries there, you definitely aren't looking at a discount product, that's for sure," says Suoheimo. But he believes that there are enough busy people searching for a way to eat healthily who don't want to spend time on cooking two or three meals a day. "We want to make healthy eating as easy as breathing," he says.
It's a safe bet that the people willing and able to shell out for Ambro are people who are already looking out for their health, though.
Ambro plans to begin shipping globally in January 2014.