In the late ’80s, visitors to county fairs, amusement parks and other mega-outdoor venues began seeing a new kind of frozen treat which was billed as the evolutionary descendant of ice cream. Marketed as “Dippin’ Dots: The Ice Cream of the Future,” this new “revolutionary” dessert was touted by its founders as a disruptive entry into the frozen dessert category– one which would obliterate consumer demand for ice cream, frozen custard and frozen yogurt in just a few short years.
Six years ago, the company filed for bankruptcy protection. And while there is an attempt by the company’s founder to save his invention from going the way of the Dodo, odds are Dippin’ Dots will soon become the ice cream of the past.
The more things change: today we are suddenly seeing a the “plastic bottle of the future.” Well, perhaps company officials at Skipping Rocks Lab aren’t saying so overtly, but they sure are implying it. The company’s new “edible bottle” — Ooho — is being hailed as the successor to the ubiquitous plastic injection-molded plastic bottle, which is made of boring old polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Oohos are single-serving spheres created by dipping frozen balls of almost any liquid into an algae/seaweed mixture that forms a membrane around the ice. The ice melts into liquid and the membrane, which is both edible and biodegradable, forms a watertight seal around it. To drink the liquid you can either bite into the tasteless membrane and sip it out or just eat the entire ball, membrane and all.
Ooho is a product that’s tailor-made for social media: It’s “green”, futuristic and looks awesome in a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc. viral video. What’s more, the company’s founders recently raised over a million dollars in less than a week in a GoFundMe campaign.
And it’s destined to become the Dippin’ Dots of our internet times. Why? Well, because to really slake your thirst, you’d need several “single-gulp” Oohos — or several dozen — if the day is really hot. And that’s sort of a pain, because you’d need to keep popping them in your mouth, one after another, as opposed to just continually gulping down liquid from a plastic bottle.
There’s another problem: those cute, transparent membranes surrounding the liquid are pretty darn delicate — unlike, plastic bottles, they’re not something you could casually toss in a backpack or cooler without worrying about them breaking and leaking. The membranes would also present a problem for grocery store stocking: Ooho would have to be transported and shelved in some kind of traditional exterior packaging (plastic?), therefore nullifying a lot of its green packaging-free ethos.
So is Ooho DOA in the marketplace? Probably not: after all, Dippin’ Dots hung around for 30-some-odd years, and still can be found in specialty venues and kiosks. Ooho is novel enough to make some serious money for its founders until its bubble bursts, and people grow weary of it. But replace the traditional plastic bottle?
That’s a bit hard to swallow.