New Investment: Ample wants to simplify optimal nutrition.

tl:dr if you’ve not got on the pre-order list for Ample, do yourself a favor and sign up here.

Earlier this spring, after seeing a tweet from Marshall Kirkpatrick that he’d tried an Ample shake, I dug around, found a link that wasn’t supposed to be there and ordered. I make my own protein shakes and have tried almost everything since I ran in university.

Thankfully, Ample’s founder, Connor Young, decided to let me try them even though they weren’t taking on customers at that point.

I loved them. Loved them so much I gave 2 of the 6 away to people I knew who I thought would also love them. Since it’s a complete meal with good fats, protein, fibre and low sugar, an Ample is a post workout meal, or a healthy breakfast or lunch in a time crunch.

Connor followed up to see what I thought of Ample.

Connor had graduated with a biology degree and had been a crossfit athlete, coach and gym owner. After coming to the bay area he lived in a hacker house and saw his friends consume foods that were terrible for them — they were creating health problems for themselves from the foods they ate. It’s hard to eat healthy. Athletes and developers alike.

He spent time doing nutrition lessons and cooking classes but his friends either didn’t get the biochemistry (nutrition science has gone way beyond good fats vs bad fats, proteins and carbs), or they didn’t have the time to do it themselves.

Finally his friend Jason told him “don’t give me more work to do. Just give me a solution.”

Over the last year, Connor hand-selected dozens of nutrients and ingredients, created proprietary blends, and mixed over 100 variations of the formula in pursuit of the optimal meal replacement shake.

The mission: simplify tasty and optimal nutrition.

Ample’s first product is a great first milestone.

Ample is the first company to use hard core nutrition science along with palatability testing to design convenient AND optimal nutrition — at a price you can live with.

The ingredients are unapologetically natural real foods. Macadamia nuts, chia seeds, non GMO, no soy, vegetable proteins, all gluten free.

Ample’s first product includes good fats, high quality proteins, low amounts of high fibre carbs, very low sugar, and copious amounts of real food ingredients for your gut biome and overall health.

In some ways, you can think of Ample as the combination of ingredients we know we should be eating but aren’t, because we either don’t know how to design it, or we don’t have the time to make it and clean up.

The Ample Meal you can order today tastes great, costs around $5, and takes only a few minutes to prep, consume, and then you’re done.

After my initial batch, I asked for more and paid $5,000 for a “lifetime subscription” of 2x day (I’m not the only one). Sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for lunch and often as a post workout meal.

This product clearly fills a need. It’s not for everyone, but for people for whom this resonates, we’re seeing many people have several per week. 1 per day is pretty common.

This June, Connor ran an Indiegogo campaign for fall pre-orders. Ample received $367,000 in orders, with a large average order size. 30 people paid $6,000 each for a subscription that gives them 2 per day, with 24 of those customers having never tried the product before.

Last month I made a large (for me) investment in Ample. 3x more than I’ve invested in any other startup. I don’t invest often in private companies. But this one is special. I’d invested in Fitbit in 2007 because James and Eric had a vision to help people become healthier by making it easier for them to become more active. Connor is addressing the other side of health — the fuel for your body. Food as fuel. Food as medicine.

Solutions to help people become healthier through optimal nutrition will become an integral and valuable part of daily life for a decent percentage of people on this planet. A company based on iterative and transparent nutrition science, that is digitally savvy and building a movement around optimal nutrition could be a trusted and very valuable brand.

But Ample is not the first food company to use science.

Incumbent food companies have used science to raise yields and lower the cost of a meal. And yes, in doing so, they brought hundreds of millions of people out of starvation.

Food companies have also used science and empirical studies to create foods that are incredibly tasty and produce cravings and repeat consumption. And yes, in engineering refined carbs, sugars and high omega 6 fats, they brought hundreds of millions of people into obesity, diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease (and recent studies suggest brain diseases are partly caused by poor nutrition.

Incumbent food companies have used science to optimize their cash flow statement, not our health.

It is inevitable that a company like Ample will exist in the future. A successful company will be a great business but more important, it can help a lot of people become healthy.

When researchers study the effects of nutritious food, they often break family cohorts into 1 hour or less of food prep, 1–2 hours of food prep and 2+ hours of food prep. Per day. A common understanding is that if you spend less than 1 hour per day on food prep, you’re going to be far less healthy and will be at higher risk of obesity and the associated diseases. That’s incredible. Do you really have to spend over 2 hours per day on food to be healthy?

First, let me state the obvious. Food is not just fuel. Food prep and eating together is a social activity. My wife and I get tremendous satisfaction when we cook for each other (especially if our kids enjoy what we’ve made). Eating foods from different cultures is also incredibly fun and good for the soul. Food is also entertainment and art. We all love eating foods prepared by people who are incredible at their art and craft.

Food is more than just fuel. But make no mistake. It is also fuel. Out of the 3+ meals per day x 7 days (call it 25 meals / week) we often find ourselves eating, not to build social engagement or experience art, but simply for fuel. To get hundreds of calories in our bodies to power the next several hours of life. Many fuel stops are when we have the least amount of time and those are the times we often make the poorest nutrition choices.

For decades I have thought that it makes no sense that we are forced to choose between two bad options.

  1. Design our own nutrition programs, conduct macro and micronutrient evaluation, procure and assemble the nutrients for palatability, and then clean up. Likely time: 10–20 hours per week. And we might not be great at it because we don’t each have a PhD in nutrition science, and we’re not all great chefs.
  2. Outsource the above to a packaged food company to save the time. However, food companies do not have our best interests at heart, and judging by their marketing claims and ingredient list, they know less about nutrition science than the least informed of us. At least we know that you shouldn’t have the sugar in a Coca Cola. But Odwalla has put more sugar than a Coke in Odwalla “healthy” smoothies.

For years and years I’ve thought that a company will eventually come up with a way to do for food what many companies have done in other areas, like computers and phones.

We don’t design our own computers or phones, procure and assemble the parts to build them ourselves. We trust Apple to do a better job at engineering and user experience design, parts procurement and assembly, and recycling.

So why are we expected to do this all ourselves multiple times a day for something as important as nutrition?

In terms of nutrition, we are living in the computer age of the 1970s. Back then, a few DIY hobbyists and a number of academics understood how to build computers for themselves. The rest of us marvelled from afar at the basic capabilities on display. Even among those who are informed, there are raging debates about the value of certain nutrients and the trade-offs. It’s early early days in nutrition science. But it’s starting to change.

Some other companies are taking the amount of information we have today and coming to the conclusion that since food is made out of chemicals, it’s reducible, we can build it back up, we can change it, and make it better.

While we may have a fair body of scientific studies to try to understand what different types of foods do to the body, we are still only scratching the surface in terms of our understanding of why they do so.

I am impressed that Connor is taking a strategy of science AND humility to make a meal from the building blocks created by nature and those things humans have by and large evolved to eat. The human body is a complex system. We don’t know what we don’t know. In the meantime, when I’m not eating “real food” I’d rather be eating real food ingredients, mixed by someone smarter than I in nutrition science, in a convenient form.

The obesity epidemic is causing hundreds of millions to search for an answer. Not just academics, not just athletes, not just nutrition geeks. Almost everyone, not just athletes and nutrition geeks, know they should eat better. When I was sending a sample bottle of Ample to a friend on the east coast, the fedex clerk asked what it was. When I told her it was like a protein shake / replacement meal, she started grilling me. How does it taste? Like graham crackers in milk. Is it low sugar? 2 grams. Does it have high fibre? Yes. 7 grams. Is it filled with chemicals and other things I can’t pronounce? No. real food ingredients. She was checking out the pre-order website as I was leaving the shop.

Ample is a great solution if you have the expertise but don’t always have the time, and that’s where the first product will do very well. It’s a great solution today for athletes, nutrition geeks and body hackers, who know what they need, but can’t always devote the time for every meal to dial it in.

Other people will likely try it also and start educating themselves on nutrition as a result. Some will have an Ample for breakfast or a lunch, or after a workout. Future products from Ample will make good nutrition even more accessible to more and more people.

I can’t wait to hear the stories from customers about how Ample helped make them healthier, with less time and money.. And I can’t wait to see what Connor and team will do to “science the shit” out of optimal nutrition in the future.

Finally, if you’ve not got on the pre-order list for Ample, do yourself a favor and sign up here. Everything the body needs!

Martin