Sometimes the idea for a product or company comes from deciding to improve the way something works. Sometimes it comes from a negative experience. In the case of Pierre-Yves Paslier, it was a combination of the two.
During his role as an engineer for cosmetics giant L’Oréal, Paslier couldn’t fathom the sheer amount of plastic produced. In an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, Paslier said: “This is really how much plastic we use? I was the guy helping this happen [and] that felt really wrong.”
Racked with guilt, Paslier left and decided to study for a masters in innovation, design and engineering. During this time at Imperial College London, Paslier met classmate Rodrigo García González. For a side project on edible packaging, the two looked closely at the properties of natural food and how they hold liquids. They decided on seaweed – and in 2014 the pair’s first project was turned into a business called Skipping Rocks Lab.
Since then, the pair’s success has been remarkable. Their first edible packaging project, Ooho, was a seaweed pod filled with filtered water, which they sold at running events as an alternative to runners drinking from plastic bottles. This summer they launched sauce sachets made from the seaweed material, which are on trial at 10 London takeaways with the delivery service Just Eat. They have also taken ginger and fruit juice shots to Selfridges, the department store, and sold the product at UK music festivals as edible alcohol shots, including espresso martini and tequila sunrise.
So, how exactly does this edible packaging work?
Customers can choose to eat the packaging once they’ve finished what’s inside, or bin it. There’s a slightly chewy texture with little taste – we’re looking forward to trying for ourselves. For those that decide to dispose, the packaging is biodegradable within six weeks. Ooho has a limited shelf life and starts to shrivel after a few days, making it ideal for liquids that intend to be consumed soon after purchase.
From their lab in East London, the Skipping Rocks Lab team is experimenting with using their seaweed wrap to replace plastic toiletries bottles in hotel rooms, as well as forging partnerships with global food businesses to develop their packaging further. The commercial launch is set for later in 2019.