Slap bang in the middle of a Venn diagram with two circles labelled “sincere tech startups” and “dystopian satires that are a little on the nose” you will find SquarEat: a company that you would swear is a joke if you weren’t already familiar with how the simulation we’re all living in likes to collide fact and fiction.
SquarEat was apparently born of a simple idea: what if you could eat squares? But boy oh boy does it deliver on that premise.
The company claims to have “created a new concept of food” (squares) which it makes by blitzing ingredients and compressing them into “ready-to-eat” 50 gram packages (squares). You can buy your squares in packs of four or six and have them delivered to your house. They can be eaten hot or cold, heated in a microwave or a frying pan, and come in a dazzling array of flavors including chicken, beef, asparagus, peanut, seabass, and salmon.
The Miami-based startup seems to have launched in June, and, honestly, I’m still not totally sure it’s not satire. When images of its products started doing the rounds on Twitter this week most people were similarly confused, with its square meals drawing comparisons to dystopian TV shows and films like Snowpiercer and Soylent Green.
Couldn’t make it any other shape huh pic.twitter.com/5UtX9NdoWR
— Henry Thomas (@zhejiang0pterus) August 24, 2021
In an interview with Today, though, SquarEat’s chief marketing officer Laura Vacaflores assures the publication that square food is both real and tragically misunderstood. Vacaflores said the square shape of the foods helps standardize preparation and packaging, and that a single square isn’t supposed to be a full meal replacement. The squares are intended to be eaten as multiple units (my favorite way to measure meal intake) and can be combined with other non-square nutrient forms, aka regular food.
“Thanks to the square shape, we are able to run mass production using gourmet techniques […] Allowing us to produce a superior-quality food and sell it at an affordable price,” Vacaflores told Today. “We are not the first food concept that adopted the square shape, if you, for example, think about tofu. The only thing we are asking people to leave behind is their original idea about the external appearance of the food.”
Vacaflores added that each square is seasoned ready to go and uses proper ingredients. “There’s no substitute at all […] For example, the chicken is just chicken breast, black pepper, lemon and rosemary,” she told Today. “It has nothing weird, no additives. I know a lot of people think this is a meal replacement, but it’s not, it’s just chicken. People try it and say, ‘Wow, it tastes just like chicken,’ and yes, because it is chicken. There’s nothing else.”
While SquarEat doesn’t seem to be an elaborate joke, it’s also very much a startup that, I would wager, is not yet manufacturing its squares at anything near industrial scale. The company is currently raising money on WeFunder, where it’s pitching an extremely ambitious plan to “disrupt the food delivery market” by replacing meal plan programs.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to think about SquarEat. It strikes me as an unnecessary and dispiriting way to eat food, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a success. Meal replacement shake companies like Soylent and Huel are still with us after all, and leaning into the dystopian imagery inherent in their product didn’t seem to hurt them in the long run.
More than that, I now have a genuine urge to find out what these squares taste like. Their little Lego forms are now embedded firmly in my imagination, and I must know what it feels like to bite into a square chicken. Maybe for lunch today I’ll make a square meal of my own.