Is Soylent the future of food

Berlin (dpa) - The food of the future is yellowish and smells a bit like fish food. In fact, it contains more than two dozen substances from folic acid to zinc to vitamin B12.

At least that's what it says on the packaging of Compleat, a food substitute that the Berlin company nu3 advertises as "astronaut food for everyone". Half a liter of powder and water should therefore replace a meal and provide all the necessary nutrients. Experts are skeptical - also for social reasons.

"We have the number of calories in it that makes a normal meal," explains oecotrophologist Maja Siegert, who was involved in the composition of the nutrients. A serving of Compleat has 546 calories. The dissolved powder tastes relatively neutral, a bit like grain. One tends not to drink one about thirst - or rather about hunger - with it. The powder is particularly suitable for people who have very little time and still want to feed themselves "completely" - such as young parents, outdoor athletes or people with stressful jobs, explains Siegert.

Berliners are not the only ones who want to make solid food dispensable. Sociologist and nutritionist Eva Barlösisus from the University of Hanover even sees it as "an old, recurring motif," as she explains. "The food, the powder, the tablet that replaces all food."

In late 2014, a software engineer made headlines with a meal replacement called Soylent. "The next generations cannot be fed organically - we have to optimize," the inventor told Vice magazine at the time. For him that means: no more classic meals, no more recipes, just a powder shake.

The makers of Compleat do not see it that rigorously. The idea behind it is similar, admits co-developer Siegert with a view to Soylent. In Europe, however, Compleat is the only product of its kind. And: "We don't say: Only feed on Compleat", she emphasizes. In theory, however, it could replace your meals with it. According to the information, the nutrients it contains are tailored to the average needs of a person.

But do you want that? "Food has to do with culture and enjoyment. It can't just be a powder," says oecotrophologist Guido Ritter from the Münster University of Applied Sciences. Ritter does research not only on the development of food, but also on enjoyment and taste.

"You can already work out that the most important nutrients are in food substitutes," he admits. But that is not a permanent alternative to a balanced diet. "The only whole food is actually breast milk." And even that would probably get boring at some point: "We are actually designed to have a varied diet," explains the expert. At some point you can no longer see the same shake. In addition, the feeling of satiety also has something to do with chewing.

There are currently no variants of Compleat. However, different flavors are planned, as the company announces. The astronaut food has only been on the market since the beginning of the year. According to its own information, the manufacturer cannot yet say how it will be received.