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Soylent gets a $50-million investment led by Google’s venture capital arm

Soylent is trying to miniaturize meals into quickly consumable products, but scientists question the safety of moving past traditional food without further testing.
(Soylent)

Google co-founder Larry Page liked the chocolate-flavored meal-in-a-bottle drink Soylent so much that he wanted to chat with its creator.

The ensuing meeting a month and a half ago led to a major investment from GV, the venture capital division of Google parent company Alphabet Inc.

Soylent unveiled the financing Thursday, saying GV and other funds collectively invested $50 million to bring the Los Angeles start-up’s total fundraising to $74.5 million.

The infusion should help the 4-year-old company boost manufacturing as it aims to get bottles and small packs of its beverage into convenience and grocery stores this year. Soylent, formally known as Rosa Labs, also wants to begin shipping online orders to Europe soon. It serves only U.S. customers now, and regulations and logistics issues pose challenges to expansion elsewhere.

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The company expects to release two or three new flavors this year to add to a lineup that includes a coffee-flavored, chocolate and fruity nectar varieties along with its chalky original flavor. Some customers buy Soylent’s powder and blend their own varieties.

By packing nutrients into a drink, the company contends it can spare people the time, money and environmental costs of sit-down meals. Consumer and retailer interest in such products is growing. But scientists question the safety of broadly moving past traditional food without further testing.

Soylent has bolstered its ingredient testing teams as it expands into new offerings and tries to bounce back from food-safety mishaps in the last year, Soylent inventor and Chief Executive Rob Rhinehart said.

Rhinehart was not looking for funding when he heard from Page, whom he described as an early user of Soylent’s powder.

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Their discussions about food manufacturing and distribution led Page to connect Soylent with GV’s Andy Wheeler, who joined the start-up’s board and shares Rhinehart’s interest in telecommunications technology. The company declined to identify other board members or release specific sales figures.

“Soylent is addressing one of the biggest issues we face today: access to complete, affordable nutrition,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Soylent is tackling this problem head on with progressive thinking and a clear strategy that has led to outstanding growth.”

A spokesperson for Page didn’t comment.

Soylent’s other new investor is Tao Capital, whose principal Nick Pritzker is a Soylent user too, Rhinehart said.

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paresh.dave@latimes.com / PGP

Twitter: @peard33


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