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This Startup is Giving Ugly Watermelons a Refreshing Purpose

Grocery stores in Europe and North America have slowly begun to target the food waste epidemic by showcasing “ugly” produce: French supermarket chain Intermarché led the pack in 2014 with its ingenious “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign, UK-based Asda followed suit with its “Wonky Veg” campaign, and the trend came Stateside last summer when West Coast supermarket chain Raley’s partnered with Calif.-based startup Imperfect to pilot the “Real Good” initiative.

Chefs are doing their part in drawing attention to the massive issue of food waste, as well. For example, all-star chefs teamed up to run a pop-up restaurant dedicated to food waste, WastED, in Greenwich Village last March, and UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall started a TV show focused on food waste in the fall.

Now a New York-based startup has plans for the 20 percent (over 800 million pounds) of watermelons that fail to meet cosmetic standards and never make it to the grocery store. Over the next 3 years, WTRMLN WTR plans to use 168 million pounds of those watermelons in its beverages. The company uses 99 percent of the entire melon and recycles the skin into livestock feed.

We caught up with Co-Founder Jody Levy to hear WTRMLN WTR’s story.

What led you to start this company?

My co-founder Harlan Berger discovered that there are 800 million pounds of misshapen and cosmetically imperfect watermelons annually in the United States. Together we decided to do something with this waste and set out to create a super clean, cold-pressed, all-natural functional beverage.

WTRMLN WTR is a mission-driven company committed to helping to educate people about the importance of clean, healthy living. We don’t use any additives or preservatives whatsoever, we don’t heat pasteurize or add sugar or water. WTRMLN WTR is committed to supply chain responsibility and nutritional excellence, aka better products for people and the planet.

Why watermelons?

Watermelon is a super fruit with superior functionality to both coconut and orange juice, and offers a much healthier alternative to the traditional sports drinks and juice boxes of the past.

In each bottle of WTRMLN WTR you get electrolytes in the form of potassium; Vitamin C; a powerful antioxidant, Lycopene; and L-Citrulline, an amino acid that helps with muscle performance and blood flow. Watermelons are 92 percent water, so the fruit itself is incredibly hydrating, not to mention the playful enjoyment that comes from its perceived nostalgia.

How are you involved in the juice’s supply chain and the manufacturing process?

WTRMLN WTR is Non-GMO Project-certified; our melons are sourced accordingly from farms across the United States.

We employ conscious farming and manufacturing methods by employing family-owned farms and creating a positive revenue stream out of what would otherwise be waste.

We believe in a sustainable supply chain from start to finish. It starts at the source – we hand-skin the melons and extract the flesh and rind, and our leftovers are used to create animal feed for farms local to our manufacturing facilities.

How did you decide what packaging to use?

We are exploring evolving packing technology that is compatible with high-pressure processing (HPP), our cold-pressure method of fresh shelf life extension. We celebrate innovation and look forward to the future of reducing our footprint where and when we can. Our current bottles are BPA-free and our boxes are made of low-weight recycled cardboard.

What’s next for WTRMLN WTR?

This month, we launched a larger version of our current product that we call The MAMA - 32 ounces (4 servings) of liquid love. The new pack size is a cost-effective solution for bulk and family buyers who are making the switch to healthier products. It makes a wonderful size for sharing, and the perfect amount for athletic hydration.


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