Ready-to-drink meal could put food on chopping block

A company called Soylent has started selling what it calls complete meals, ready to drink in a bottle, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

When Willy Wonka created a three-course meal chewing gum, it did not turn out so well, but Soylent said it has found the formula to food as we know it.

It may be different, but Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart says he's got nothing against food.

"Quite the opposite; I love food," he said. "I love pizza, I love burritos, barbecue."

The 27-year-old engineer realized that while working long hours, he was also eating a lot of bad food and wasting a lot of time and money on it. He now drinks 80 percent of his daily calories.

"This is not something that's designed as a supplement to fill in the gaps of your diet, this is a full meal, it's going to give you everything your body needs," Rhinehart said.

Soylent is designed to provide a complete meal of essential vitamins, minerals and healthy fat with zero cholesterol. Each serving is 400 calories and contains 20 grams of protein.

Rhinehart said he designed it to be bland so people could flavor it to their liking.

Some nutritionists have criticized Soylent, saying we body don't metabolize synthetic nutrients the same way we process food, and that Soylent does not deliver enough protein.

"This does not substitute for regular food; it certainly could be used together with food, but in no way does it provide all of the things that you get from eating a diet of colorful fruits and vegetables and adequate protein," UCLA Division of Clinical Nutrition Chief David Heber said.

Soylent said it has sold more than 6 million meals and has 50,000 customers, including producer Michael Hoopingarner.

"I was often just finding myself very hungry in inopportune moments," Hoopingarner said.

He said the meal in a glass comes in handy on movie sets and during late-night editing sessions.

"I drink Soylent every morning for breakfast to replace my breakfast and then certainly if I find myself in a situation where I'm working late into the night, then I'll definitely drink it then," Hoopingarner said.

If the company name sounds familiar, you may remember "Soylent Green," a 1970s sci-fi film in which overpopulation made food scarce.

Rhinehart hopes his Soylent could eventually be a solution in overpopulated countries and feed the world's poor.

Soylent currently costs $9 per day, but a Silicon Valley venture capital firm just invested $20 million in the company and Rhinehart thinks the product can get even less costly.

"All we have to do is produce food more efficiently and distribute it wider and we do that through technology and that's what we're working on," he said.

He has plenty of time to work now that he doesn't have to worry about eating.