CMO of meal-replacement drink Soylent explains how to market an unusual product

Soylent co-founder: Any problem can be hacked, even food

Fascination with meal alternatives tends to be prominent in the fitness community, but lately Silicon Valley is in on the trend.

Soylent — a meal-replacement drink advertised as convenient, cost-effective and nutritional — has been making waves in the Bay Area among coders, engineers and entrepreneurs who consider eating more traditional fare too time-consuming.

According to David Renteln, Soylent's co-founder and chief marketing officer, the product is popular with this group because they understand that "food, like any other problem, can be broken down."

But how do you market such an unusual product to the general public? Renteln's answer is simple: Educate people about your product, and be transparent.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

It's important to lay out the case to consumers about why they'd want to use your product, he said. Soylent's strategy, for instance, has been talking up its price point and time-saving benefits, as well as detailing the science behind the formulas.

In addition, Renteln advises entrepreneurs to employ full transparency with customers.

For him, that means "letting them know when shipments are delayed," as well as "letting them know every ingredient that's in the product and where it comes from, and completely letting them in to the extent that it's possible."

"When you're honest with people and straight-up with them, they really appreciate it," Renteln said.

Soylent was founded in the Valley three years ago, and last year raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

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