Startups come in all shapes and sizes, but when your business model seeks to replace one of the most simple, ubiquitous products on the planets — in this case, plastic bottles — it really has to be unbelievably brilliant to have any chance at success. Enter Ooho, an “edible bottle” created by startup Skipping Rocks Lab who rebranded into a company called Notpla. It’s a product that was perfectly suited for internet hype. It looked crazy, seemed useful, and it was not particularly difficult to imagine using it yourself. But it never did take off quite as people thought. So Notpla had to pivot and is searching for more ways to get rid of plastic waste.
How Ooho edible water spheres work
Ooho spheres are created by dipping frozen balls of liquid into an algae mixture that forms a membrane around the ice. The ice melts into liquid water and membrane, which is edible and biodegradable, forms a watertight seal around it. To consume the liquid you can either bite into the tasteless membrane and sip it out or just eat the entire ball, membrane and all.
But there were a few problems with the company’s approach. Skipping Rocks Lab’s mission to make Ooho a staple of festivals, marathons, and other outdoor events was a great start since those are situations in which single-serving beverages without waste are well suited. But the wider goal of becoming “the global solution to water and drinks on the go” was really an impossible task.
Unlike bottles, single-gulp water is not something most of us need or would even find a way to use on a daily basis. As demonstrated in videos showcasing Ooho being drunk, the membrane is pretty delicate, and certainly not something you’d toss in a bag or backpack on its own. And because the membrane is edible, if Skipping Rocks envisioned Ooho being sold at grocery stores it would mean selling it within another external packaging, completely negating its “packaging free” mission.
What happened to Ooho
It’s the no-plastic-needed concept that turned Ooho edible water into a bit of a viral sensation. But the idea wasn’t as sustainable as the company thought. The spheres have a limited shelf life and begin to shrivel and break after a short time. In July 2019, the company rebranded from Skipping Rocks Lab to Notpla, standing for Not Plastic.
Ooho is still definitely a cool idea. There might be a way to utilize this idea in the future. Recently, sauce satchets are coming soon on the company’s website. You can still purchase Ooho edible water spheres. They are still used for cocktails and races.
But with the rebrand, Notpla has focused on sustainable packaging that is a bit sturdier. Notpla started making seaweed-coated food packaging. The packaging is made from seaweed and other plants, making it biodegradable. It is designed for liquids and is biodegradable from four to six weeks.
This is made for on-the-go consumption and it is more sustainable than plastic ones. You can purchase a case of 200 of them, so it is a great option for restaurants. The dimension of each box is 90 x 110mm on the base, 106 x 127mm on the top, and 65mm for height. Suitable for wet, cold, hot, or dry food, there is a place for these. They are home compostable as well. The packaging doesn’t contain any PET recycling.
Notpla is a London startup that has raised €6.3 million and looks to move towards getting rid of packaging. Notpla formed a partnership in 2019 with Just Eat and Unilever to create more sustainable food packaging. The containers and Ooho both contribute to getting rid of acid in our oceans.