You might have slurped water. You might have gulped it. And you definitely will have sipped it. But have you ever eaten it? In an effort to bid adieu to the use of plastic bottles and glasses used for water and other juices, Skipping Rocks Lab, a sustainable… (Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-clear-glass-decor-907518/)
You might have slurped water. You might have gulped it. And you definitely will have sipped it. But have you ever eaten it?
In an effort to bid adieu to the use of plastic bottles and glasses used for water and other juices, Skipping Rocks Lab, a sustainable packaging startup, introduced Ooho — a bubble-like sphere of edible water that is chewable and edible. This revolutionary product is also bio-degradable, making it extremely environment friendly.
Each water bubble contains about a mouthful of water with an outer layer that is a flexible membrane made of brown algae and calcium chloride. The membrane can be tasteless just like water or flavored, colored and might be customized as per your taste. You can “drink it” by either puncturing the membrane with a bite or just eating it whole. The most intriguing part of this edible bottle is that, if not consumed, the membrane will degrade naturally in about four to six weeks just like any fruit.
Dating back to 1942…
While the invention has taken the world by storm, it was the origin of this technology that intrigued me to delve deeper. There are several patents filed in the edible water bubble technology space. The origin of the idea of an edible container can be traced back to a 1942 patent US2403547A, assigned to Unilever engineer William Peschardt, who introduced the idea of spherification. The patent discloses a method that makes use of sodium alginate and calcium chloride to produce the membrane.
The membrane used in Ohoo is made of alginates, a natural product of brown algae which are safe to consume and are also used to manufacture medicines. The membrane can either biodegrade or break down into simple molecules in the body, just like food.
The design and manufacturing of the membrane are covered under a Creative Commons license, resulting in the make and composition of the product freely distributed and available for use by anyone. There is a plurality of patents which introduce enhancements to the technique.
Research for manufacturing edible packaging has been on even 80 years after Peschardt published his patent US3908027A on an edible membrane. Filed in 1975, the patent teaches a procedure for packaging jelly-like foods in a flexible membrane made of polysaccharides. However, here, the membrane is not edible.
Another patent DE102016004464A1 filed in 2017 teaches a method of packaging milk using an edible and dissolvable membrane. It is formed by means of membrane-forming hydrocolloid-ion interaction and has a solid and dimensionally stable, dissolvable shell.
A patent application EP2759212A1 on an edible water bottle technology filed by Le Labogroup SAS teaches how with the use of biodegradable vessels edible or potable substances are transported. The technique to form the membrane around the liquid involves dipping a frozen liquid in separate solutions of calcium chloride and brown algae.
This technology of packing water can be extended to multiple beverages such as fruit juices that can be packed into colorful membranes. Athletes can use it during the events or on the go. The packaging technology can also be used to transport food in calamity-stricken areas or to soldiers posted at borders.
Attempting to replace plastic bottles with biodegradable membranes can be tricky. Companies should be careful about hygienic storage, transportation, and portability. For instance, there is a probability of membrane breakage during transit; therefore, the water bubble should be packaged well considering such situations. Furthermore, since the packaging is biodegradable, the product cannot be stored for longer than six weeks.
Every innovation comes with its share of troubles, and this technology is no exception. However, as the technique appears promising in reducing the usage of plastic for packaging biodegradable products, it needs to be worked on extensively and adopted at a large scale.
(Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-clear-glass-decor-907518/)