The corporate motto of Soylent, the cheekily named meal-substitute company, is "maximum nutrition, minimum effort." The firm's disarmingly plain monochrome packaging and scientific sell are designed to appeal to geeks, especially Silicon Valley types keen on the efficiency offered by sustenance that costs $2, takes 30 seconds to consume, and entirely replaces the need for actual food.

But the hipster SlimFast competitor has had a tough autumn. The company had to pull two of its four product lines, including its signature drink powder, due to reports of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in a small segment of customers. A possible culprit, though the firm is playing coy for now, is powdered flour made with algae.

Soylent's model relies on constantly releasing updated iterations of the product; the recent trouble was caused by version 1.6. That software-style release model increases the likelihood of bugs getting to the customer level, but it also means that the company is agile enough to pull problematic products and replace them with suitable alternatives quickly—far faster than regulators can get into gear.