It’s hard to deny that the food industry is experiencing lots of disruption from startups around the globe who are trying to solve the market’s tough problems. Things like delivery, supply chain, sustainability, waste and sourcing are all on the minds of startups like Skipping Rocks Lab. The particular problem they’re trying to tackle? The proliferation of plastic bottles and the waste they generate.
Skipping Rocks Lab isn’t just minimizing plastic production or coming up with new ways to recycle water bottles – they’ve created a product that basically redefines the way water can be delivered and consumed. Meet Ooho, the water “bottle” that delivers single serve gulps of water and can actually be eaten.
The Ooho balls look like a cross between a gross Jello-based dessert and one of those plastic stress balls you can squeeze to get out frustration. But the balls are in fact edible – made by dipping frozen balls of ice into an algae concoction – and biodegradable, meaning they won’t sit in the ocean somewhere for eternity but rather disintegrate after about 4-6 weeks. Given that 50 billion plastic bottles are used by humans every year (EVERY. YEAR.), it stands to reason that this type of innovation would attract lots of interest.
And so far, it’s working. Skipping Rocks has successfully funded their first campaign on CrowdCube and the videos of people popping spherical water into their mouths have gone viral. The company is mainly serving Ooho at events and festivals – and you can see why. They are small and are perfect for quick hydration where storage isn’t a factor. The product is great for things like marathons and sporting events as well.
But Skipping Rocks vision is to become THE go-to seaweed-based packaging company in the world; they clearly have plans to move beyond water and adapt this packaging to all types of beverages that might be served in plastic. How they move the concept from small balls of water to actual practical implementation remains to be seen. For one, people generally like to consume more than one sip of a beverage in any given setting, and the packaging as it stands cannot be resealed. Once you’ve bitten into it, you’ve committed to consuming whatever is inside in one shot.
The other issue is distribution – the idea that they could be sold widely to consumers in stores means the balls themselves will likely need some type of packaging around them. The membranes are edible and therefore can’t just be left to sit out in the open on shelves. The retail model definitely leaves some questions around sustainability and the impact of the product as a whole.
But for now, it will be interesting to see how the startup uses the investment money and what types of unique implementations they come up with next. And of course, we’ll keep our eyes out for any Ooho balls in the wild – and be sure to document the experience.