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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

People, People Who Eat People

Hot on the heels of bacon-powered insurance comes -- not to be melodramatic, but let's call it what it is -- a nail in the coffin of my childhood.

The 1973 science-fiction thriller "Soylent Green" depicts a future of overpopulation, social disorder and food shortages. A police detective (Charlton Heston) discovers human remains are the key ingredient in the primary source of nutrition to the citizenry, a green wafer manufactured by the Soylent Corporation. The film concludes with Heston howling as only he can to anyone who will listen, "Soylent Green is people!" That line quickly became a catchphrase. I used it, my friends used it and, as teenagers, we would have jeered at the notion that one day an actual food product would employ the word "Soylent" in its name.

But time passes.

Without a trace of irony in its web and advertising presence, a company called Rosa Foods has introduced Soylent, a line of meal replacement shakes and other concoctions. Soylent is a plant-based substance containing soy protein isolate, corn syrup, canola oil and oat flour, among a long list of ingredients. Though the creator of Soylent states that he purposely named the shakes after the movie, no entrepreneur would have made such a decision until "Soylent Green" and its catchphrase had ceased to be familiar to 18-to-34-year-old males, the target market for energy drinks in general and this line specifically.

Despite its makers' strategy, Soylent has struggled in the marketplace. The original bland, chalky shake tasted no better than it sounds and resulted in complaints of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. An "improved" shake is now available in vanilla, strawberry, cafe mocha and cacao, as well as the much-loved original flavor. The improvement, however, hasn't persuaded Canada's Food Inspection Agency to lift its ban on Soylent, which remains unobtainable north of the border.

I don't know, perhaps the path to popularity for Soylent lies in embracing the Charlton Heston association instead of shying away from it. I can hear the advertising slogans:

"Let my people go ... and buy Soylent."

"When the Romans were marching me to the galleys, thirst had nearly killed me. A man gave me Soylent to drink and I went on living."

"I'll give you my Soylent when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."

"You banned Soylent! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

Okay, maybe not that one.

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