MANA is my first powdered food product. Whenever I begin explaining to people what powdered food products are about, a regular response is something along the lines “This is nothing for me, I like cooking”. Fact is, I enjoy food and cooking very much, especially experimenting with food and learning to prepare new meals. But, and this is the major point, I like the idea of making a distinction between ‘food as an enjoyment and/or as a social event’ and ‘refueling your body with nutrients’. To me, these concepts are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand.

Shipping

Shipping seems to work quite smooth nowadays. One of my first MANA orders took some time, but my last order took about a week. Nice!

Taste and Texture

MANA has just changed the recipe: Since April 9 they are shipping the new MANA labelled “[ MARK 1 ]” (see the announcement). Note: As of April 17 they have neither updated the printing on the MANA pouches nor the paper manual, which still claims MANA to be version v1.1. The v1.1 MANA tastes a bit like sweetened vanilla oat meal – I like the taste very much. The texture of v1.1 MANA is okay, but not really perfect. There is a lot of ‘granular mixture’ in it, which sinks to the bottom of the bottle resp. the cup. So it is a good idea to always ‘re-shake’ your MANA before drinking, as otherwise the last few sips of the drink will consist entirely of this granular mixture.

For the new “[ MARK 1 ]” formula they have changed the taste and the texture. The taste is much more neutral – the oil mixture (vegan in my case) is still flavoured with vanilla, but the resulting drink is substantially less sweet. In the direct comparison, I was actually surprised about how sweet the old MANA v1.1 seems. Regarding the texture, there is still a lot of granular in it which sinks to the bottom. It seems they did not address this. There is nothing groundbreaking new here, but this is fine. I guess it is better to make many smaller improvements then to radically change the product to which many people already got used to.

Nutritions Numbers

Please note that I am not an expert at all when it comes to nutrition science. But some numbers from the nutrition table do not really add up for me. I would have expected that for all of the nutritions in the table, the amount contained in one MANA meal is exactly one third of the “daily values” (according to some EU(?) nutrition recommendations). Most of the nutritions are indeed very close to 33%. But some are quite far away from one third. For instance: Proteins (72%), Vitamin D (102% in the power plus 33% in the oil), Manganese (83%), Copper (62%), Selenium (54%), Iron (48%), etc. Why is that? I would be happy to see an FAQ item on this matter on the MANA webpage.

Criticism & Wishlist

If I were to make some wishes, then these would be it (in the order of decreasing priority):

  1. Smooth out the texture even more, e.g. by crushing the remaining grains.

  2. I was told by the MANA team that their plan is to go ‘completely vegan’. This would be great, as the current solution for vegan oils seems to be a hack, as they have simply removed the fish oil without replacing it with something else.

  3. Consider to get rid of the throw-away oil bottles. Soylent and Joylent have done so already by adjusting their formulas so that the powder already contains the desired (vegetable!) oils.

  4. Offer MANA with different tastes, not only vanilla. I am quite happy with the taste, but I can imagine that this might be important to other people.

  5. Make sure that the pouches and (if necessary) the oil bottles have version numbers printed on them. Currently it is a bit confusing to have the same packaging for two different formulas.

  6. I think the advertising video could be improved. Currently it features a woman preparing (MANA) food in hotpants(?) for herself and her male partner, before he seems to head for work, while she can relax on the sofa. It would be great if MANA would try to avoid reproducing such gender stereotypes.

Summary

I really like the product and would not want to miss it anymore. Usually I feel better after drinking MANA than after going to the cafeteria at my university. I would not call the meals there particularly bad – but a MANA meal generally gives me a more pleasant and longer lasting feeling of fullness than a conventional meal in said cafeteria. Also, carrying MANA with me when I am on the road makes me feel more autonomous food-wise, as I do not have to resort to some kind of fast food. Currently I am usually replacing about one third up to one half of my conventional meals with MANA. And with respect to my cooking habbits, adding MANA to my diet has only changed one thing: It has eliminated the need for this ‘fast cooking’ which has the primary goal of making you full quickly.