Ugly melons are sitting pretty these days in a first-of-its-kind sports drink that’s taken the world by storm. WTRMLN WTR (watermelon water or cold-pressed, bottled watermelon juice) is made with two simple ingredients: fresh watermelon and organic lemon.
Even the name of the product, spelled without vowels, uses “only the essentials,” says artist-turned-beverage-company- owner Jody Levy. She created the drink to address the problem of food waste after learning roughly 800 million pounds of perfectly good watermelons go unused in the United States every year — simply because of their looks.
“We source the seconds,” Levy explains, “ugly watermelons or those that people don’t want to buy because they are seeded, sunburned, oddly shaped or aesthetically imperfect.”
Levy, who grew up in Birmingham and attended Cranbrook, co-founded WTRMLN WTR in 2013 with her friend Harlan Berger. She presently lives in New York. Three years after its founding, the juicy pink drink can be found at Whole Foods Market, Plum Market, Kroger, Costco, Papa Joes and 7,500 other stores nationwide. The company has 40 full-time employees and four manufacturing facilities in Michigan, New York, New Jersey and California. Oh, and Beyonce is one of their investors. As you might imagine, that made headlines when the news broke in May.
“I invested in WTRMLN WTR because it’s the future of clean, natural hydration. As partners, we share a simple mission to deliver accessible wellness to the world,” the entertainment icon said in a press release. “This is more than an investment in a brand; it’s an investment in female leaders, fitness, American farmers and the health of people and our planet.”
Levy caught Beyonce’s attention by sending her cases of WTRMLN WTR after the singer released her track “Drunk in Love” with the lyric, “I’ve been drinking watermelon.” The two eventually met and decided to form a partnership.
“She really is connected to our ethos and our mission, which we call ‘seeding change,’” Levy says. “Our use of waste melons, our use of waste from production (the company uses 100 percent of its waste. For example, the pulp goes to feed livestock). Beyonce aligned with many of our company’s core values.”
No Sugar Added
The sweet drink contains no additives; it’s low in calories and sugar. The company says it’s packed with electrolytes (especially potassium), the amino acid L-citrulline and the antioxidant lycopene. The product is all-natural, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan and kosher. It’s made using an innovation in food science known as high- pressure processing.
“We are able to preserve the nutrients, flavor and good enzymes and kill harmful bacteria,” Levy says. “That allows us to have a 45-day shelf life.”
Levy calls WTRMLN WTR “one of the least expensive ($3.99), most accessible, cold-pressed juices on the market.”
Financial details were not disclosed, but the company says “annual revenues [are] currently on pace to more than triple in 2016 from the previous year.”
Levy has received national press coverage in Time magazine, Vogue and Men’s Health (to name a few). It’s no wonder she refers to her invention as “liquid love.”
“I never envisioned myself anywhere near the beverage industry,” she says. “I look at every bottle as this interface to a bigger story — from farm to bottle education, bringing awareness of the ingredients and purity of the product.”
What’s next for this creative entrepreneur? Levy is also a partner in a mezcal spirits company called GEM&Bolt. Mezcal is an agave-based liquor. The company is currently in Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles, making its way across the globe.
When she’s not traveling the world or whipping up unique beverages, Levy still comes home to visit family members and friends in Metro Detroit. In the future, she also hopes to bring business back to her hometown.
“I’m a fifth-generation Detroiter. I’m a totally proud Detroiter,” she says. “When people ask, ‘Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Detroit.’” *
— Robin Schwartz, JN contributing writer