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What A Melon: the UK’s most high-tech drink

What A Melon: the UK’s most high-tech drink

by Ollie Lloyd 04 October 2018

Ollie Lloyd discovers how this small soft drink brand is utilising social media and blockchain technology to stand out from the crowd and offer full transparency in how it’s made.

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3,793. That’s how many followers What A Melon has on their Instagram. Sure, it’s a long way off Brooklyn Beckham’s 11.5 million but, for context, this is a soft drink brand whose posts are almost entirely centred around a juice bottle in the colours of a watermelon. There’s a bottle on a pair of trainers. A bottle in a ball pond. A bottle sailing on an inflatable pink flamingo in a swimming pool with the caption, Come on in, the water’s fresh. It’s ridiculous – yet this feed, combined with What A Melon’s other canny social media games, is making serious waves in the expanding world of healthy soft drinks.

‘I was on the phone to the woman running the Waitrose bar two years ago, and she was beside herself. She said, ‘Olly, I’ve not enough time to talk to everyone, let along get back to them.’ The number of functional drinks, health drinks, flavoured waters and such was overwhelming’ – and that was then, says Olly Bolton, co-founder of Alibi, the soft drinks company which released the What A Melon two years ago. Today the soft drink space is busier than ever. Big corporations have cottoned on, with brands like Volvic and Danone all releasing flavoured waters to compete with those producers biting into their bottled water market. What Alibi and its brands What A Melon and Fact Water are doing, however, tells a different story: one with sustainability, traceability and community at its core.

Hear more about What A Melon and Almond

Listen to what Olly Bolton had to say about how blockchain technology and food brands can work together on the FoodTalk podcast by clicking here.

What a Melon comes in tetra pack. The juice doesn’t need refrigeration, which significantly reduces its carbon footprint, and the carton is easy to recycle. Its ingredients – watermelon juice and a squeeze of lemon – are sustainably sourced, as are those in Fact Water, and contain only naturally occurring fruit sugars. Their trump card, however, is that all this is traceable thanks to a blockchain platform called Almond Olly himself developed, in a bid to further consumer trust by promoting transparency in companies and sharing that with customers. Consumers scan a unique code hidden on a product, which then rewards them with brand tokens (that can be redeemed for cash) and reveals the scanned product’s personal history and story. ‘The platform gives brands a way to digitise their products, giving consumers access to detailed supply chain data and product information,’ he explains. ‘Almond gives people an economic incentive to buy profit-for-purpose brands and gives them a way to authenticate their ethical and environmental credentials. They can trace that journey.’

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Buy a can of Fact Water, and you’ll find a unique code under the ring pull. That’s linked to the batch number, ‘so you can trace where the ingredients are from, and how far that particular can has travelled. As a reward, you’ll get 10p’. That might not sound like much, but it adds up when you consider that Almond plays host to far more than soft drinks companies. ‘Other corporations are welcome to join, and there are also brands which aren’t necessarily affiliated with schemes like Fair Trade yet share the same values. Each brand will be thoroughly vetted by an independent panel which changes regularly.’ The idea, he continues, is that Almond can bring brilliant purpose-led brands of different certification under one roof.

With What a Melon and Fact Water, Alibi was, in fact, the first soft drinks company to become a ‘B Corp’ – a business that meets the highest standards of accountability, transparency and environmental concerns. Almond came about through conversations with other brands regarding the importance of purpose in business, ‘and finding ways to help those purpose-lead brands enter the mainstream,’ says Olly. ‘We felt what was missing was an economic incentive. Purpose-led brands are often, by necessity, a touch pricier, so building a reward mechanism seemed the way forward – especially combined with an authentic uplifting story and imaginative online engagement.

In the past, the ethical food and drinks market has been made up largely of old-fashioned brands which took themselves too seriously, and had little presence online or indeed anywhere outside of Whole Foods. Alibi and its companions on Almond are changing that, and with the blockchain concept launching in the first quarter of 2019 with a range of brands on board, it could potentially disrupt the entire marketplace. The big corporations dominate most of the food and drink market, but with the help of Almond, small independents like What a Melon can offer a more sustainable, authentic and traceable alternative. It’s not impossible that the juices and flavoured waters of the bigger brands might soon be squeezed out.

The FoodTalk Radio Show

The FoodTalk Radio Show celebrates the entrepreneurs and artisans working to make the UK's thriving food scene one of the best in the world. Catch a new show every Thursday and find out more by visiting the website.

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