These Weird Water Bubbles Are the Plastic Bottles of the Future

published Apr 14, 2017
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(Image credit: @oohowater)

Plastic water bottles are a waste of resources and damaging to the environment. But with consumption of bottled water on the rise, sustainability becomes a big issue. Now, a sustainable packaging startup has created a water blob that eliminates the need for plastic.

London-based Skipping Rocks Lab introduced their innovation, called Ooho, in 2014, but it only now is going viral. The concept is simple: Package water in 100 percent plant-based biodegradable materials. The water bubble is essentially an edible jelly-like sphere with a membrane made of calcium chloride and brown algae that keeps water contained inside of it.

It’s made using a technique called spherification, which was created by Unilever in the 1950s and made popular by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. In the past, spherification has been used to create fake caviar and the juice bubbles used in bubble tea.

“It’s a work of engineering as well to make it resistant enough but so you don’t choke on it,” Rodrigo García González, the founder of Skipping Rocks Lab, tells Reuters. “We’re working as well on making double layers, so you can peel them off if you have it in your pocket, you can just peel them and eat the inside.”

How people choose to consume the bubble is their choice: they can ingest the whole thing or take a bite out of it to suck the water. Eating the casing is an option, but since it is biodegradable — it disintegrates in four to six weeks — disposing of it does not damage the environment.

At the time the Ooho “water bottle” was introduced, the consumer verdict was unclear. “Not all of the reactions were positive,” González told Smithsonian magazine in 2014. “Some people say that [the bottles] are like breast implants or jellyfish.”

But a lot has changed over the past few years. Consumers are more open to trying new things — especially with the rise of viral food videos — and engaging in novel dining experiences. Plus, the company is looking into seeing how the casing can be used for alcoholic shots.

“Obviously, people see these small round bubbles and they just think ‘shots’. So that’s definitely something we’re looking at,” Lise Honsinger, COO/CFO of Skipping Rocks Lab, tells Reuters. “We have encapsulated alcohol, we want to perfect it, and then hopefully this will be the Jägerbomb of the future.”

The company surpassed their crowdfunding goals of 400,000 pounds and hopes to use the money to get a new machine that can create a hundred thousand Oohos per day. The product will be available in select markets this summer.