Dinay Steyn and Bri Janese Van Rensberg are behind Sipreme, a New Zealand company that has come up with a meal replacement that they’ve just successfully funded through Pledgeme.
Dinay (or Dee) comes from a film background, Bri has a mechanical engineering. Dee emailed me a few weeks ago, flattered my ego saying they really liked my blog and wondered whether I’d be keen to talk to her about Sipreme and what the future holds for their start-up.
How could I resist?
What was the catalyst for starting up Sipreme?
Bri (Mechanical Engineer) and I (filmmaker) have been dating for four years. One of the most frequent spats we had was around how little time we got to do things together. Taking a geeky approach to solving the issue, we calculated our free time – subtracting shopping, making food, eating, dishes, and house chores from it. There’s almost no time left over, and it just wasn’t enough for us. There is so much stuff to do in life – I want more time to do it in.
That, combined with us being chubby and terrible cooks, made us Google for a food solution.
We found American Soylent, and it was awesome. $400 for a whole months’ food, mixed and ready in seconds, and it’s super healthy? Sold. We had to bring it in through YouShop as Soylent doesn’t ship to NZ, which is $180, then the $US vs $NZ exchange rate took a toll, as well as customs fees etc, so it ended up being over $800 for one month’s worth.
We did it anyway, and loved it. We lived off of it for two months – 90% of our meals. It was a total heaven send. More time, more energy, less fussing. After month two, we thought we could join the DIY Soylent hacker movement, and mix it ourselves for cheaper. We bought the various ingredients online and waited for them to arrive in drips and drabs. Trying to mix 10 powders together for hours and making it taste like anything remotely edible actually sucks. It ends up being just as much (if not more) of a mission than cooking. It wasn’t cheaper either. We binned that idea. It’s interesting but not practical.
So it hit us: There’s an opportunity here – supplying future food to kiwis.
Sipreme is quite similar, I guess, to the Silicon Valley craze over Soylent but what are the main differences between the two?
The community around Soylent – the DIY recipes, ingredients and constant discussions/debates on the forums – all really helped. It’s a great concept and Soylent provided a well researched starting point to work from to develop our own Kiwi version.
We are now on the 40th iteration of the recipe and have worked really hard to get it tasting good and being nutritionally complete – with a lot of help and input from over 100 beta testers. We have also worked with nutritionists and food techs, and followed the Ministry of Health NZ guidelines for amounts and types of nutrients the average adult needs. Tadaa – Sipreme was born.
The biggest difference we brought into Sipreme was the flavour options. When we drank Soylent 3 times daily for months, eventually pouring another glass of the same flavourless goop for dinner makes you feel like you want to run for the hills. Instead we ran to McDonalds. The next morning we feel like we have a hangover, because our bodies just weren’t used to that kind of food anymore.
It’s not that Soylent starts tasting bad – it’s just that your body knows you need to eat different things with different tastes – or you might die. Which is smart if you are a hunter gatherer, but not when you live in the coolest technological age ever, where science rocks, and you can eat one food with with the goodness of a thousand things in. So to convince our taste buds that everything is cool, we worked on some different flavours. Problem solved.
We’ve also included higher levels of sodium in Sipreme than Soylent does because we’ve found that we experienced salt cravings due to insufficient sodium intake with Soylent. In the future we will also diversify into salty flavours that you can warm up and have like a soup for winter, as well as weight loss and high protein muscle gain versions.
How long did it take you to come up with the current Sipreme formula?
Oh man, we haven’t stopped changing it since we started at the beginning of the year. We are manufacturing the first batch in this month and are still finding things we could add. “Oooh!!! Resistant Starch! Ooohhh!!! Inulin!!!” It’s a never-ending quest to find the “perfect food”. The science around nutrition keeps being updated, and we want to keep updating Sipreme to keep up with the best recommendations on what is healthiest for our bodies. Sipreme will keep evolving.
What has the public reaction to Sipreme been?
Initially, it divides people: You love it or you hate it. But from the lovers, we’ve had a tonne of positive feedback.
The benefits are clear. It’s super quick, easy to mix, and costs around $4 a meal. What more do you want from a healthy fast food? Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding food, and some people are justifiably skeptical. Many people associate Sipreme with diet/protein shakes and meal replacements, but these products have gotten a bad reputation as an attempt at a quick fix – an unhealthy fad. Sipreme is just a new food: A super scientific one.
There are also fears that Sipreme is intended to take away the pleasure of food and sharing meals with your friends and family. It’s not. It’s just there to grab and run as a super healthy food, or instead of crappy takeout or skipping breakfast because you overslept.
It’s just a fear of the unknown. Most of the time, if you take the time to chat to people and explain that Sipreme is an entirely new kind of food, based on solid science and is as nutritionally complete as possible, they get it.
So the natural choice of target market is the early adopters in the science/technology fields. Geeks are generally more open to try new ideas and technologies and willing to trust that science can improve our lives instead of being afraid of it. Once the public sees that thousands of people are happier and healthier because of Sipreme, then I think mass market adoption will take place.
Do people like the taste and texture or are people still wary of a completely liquid diet?
Men in their 20s and 30s have shown themselves as our most eager customers – they understand the logic of Sipreme’s “fast, easy, affordable, healthy” purpose. They get past the “not-quite-as delicious-as-a-steak” taste very easily, too. IT people, engineers, programmers and gamers love it. It solves our needs, gives us more time, and is tasty enough.
Sipreme, primarily a super healthy convenience food, is unlike anything out there in terms of taste or texture. It’s thick, to keep you fuller for longer, and tastes a bit like cereal due to the oat flour it contains, so it’s something your pallet needs to get used to. If you want really delicious food, a restaurant is a better option. It’s different ballgames. That being said, we are always working to make Sipreme tastier. Interestingly, we save a lot of money by drinking our product and tend to go out to fancy restaurants much more often, which is cool too 🙂
In terms of a liquid diet – you don’t really miss chewing. The science checks out too. Basically, we chew food and mix it with saliva to break it down into smaller pieces, increasing the surface area of the food so we can absorb more of its nutrients. Sipreme is a powder, which has a massive surface area, and doesn’t need to be chewed to break down, thus it is very easily absorbed by the body. Boom.
An important thing to remember is that you can eat something solid whenever you want because Sipreme is not a rigid diet program or product, it’s just a healthy source of nutrients that you can use in whichever way best suits your lifestyle.
You’re both gamers so do you see this as the perfect gaming food?
Totally. If you have seen that Southpark episode, “Make love, not Warcraft” then you know it sucks to have to get up and cook while slaying creatures. Lol. Wait… Scratch that episode reference 😛
We have had a good response from gamers, and actually presented at the NZGDA and Software Developers meetups in Auckland. Three hours a day less cooking and dishes means more sleeping late, more beach walks, more Skyrim, more working on that game you are developing. No more cravings for chocolate and burgers – literally – which were our old staples. It’s incredible how your body feels on this type of food – light, awake, healthy. I can’t describe what it’s like other than to say it’s fucking awesome. Giving your body exactly what it needs according to science feels like .. a super power or something. Just try it. No more yawning during the day. No feeling lethargic cause you are lacking some vitamin you haven’t even heard of but are supposed to get in somehow.
Could you realistically survive just on Sipreme, if you chose to?
Absolutely. Not just survive: Thrive. I’ve lived on chocolate and white bread for 25 years and Bri on burgers and Coca Cola. If you can live while eating that garbage then surely getting the complete recommended intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals is much better for you.People say “but it’s not natural – it contains chemicals!!!” and I want to sigh and send them this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkhhCi7nMFI&feature=youtu.be
All foods are made of elements, and we break it down to those elements to give our bodies building blocks to grow and repair itself. Sipreme just takes the base elements we need and combines it into one source. And we will keep changing it and updating it too, so rest assured – we got your back.
You can still eat whatever you want, whenever, with whomever – but we see a big gap in the healthy convenience food market, and personally love it and eat it most of the time.
Also, there are people who have come to us because they have no other choice in foods due to allergies, intolerance, medical conditions and even terminal cancer. We are out to do good, have fun, and eat better in NZ.
You’re reached your funding target so where to now for Sipreme? What the next phase?
Now, we chew our fingers to the bone while waiting for long lead-time ingredients to be shipped here, and answer all the “WHERE IS MY FOOD!!!” emails. Then the easy part (if nothing goes wrong) is manufacturing, bagging and shipping to backers. Our online store opens after that, allowing the public to get their hands on this future food, and then it’s grow, grow, grow. We will be doing endless tasting events at companies and meetups next year to get it into people’s mouths and minds.
I really want to thank Dee for taking time to talk to me. I hope it all goes well for Sipreme.
If you want to know more about Sipreme, or chat with Bri and Dee, you can get in touch with them at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org