First there was beer, then there was coffee, now purified and sparkling water are the latest beverages to reach high-end status — along with throngs of advocates ready to fiercely debate minerality, detoxifying properties, notes, flavors, bubble size (for seltzer), health & wellness features, and more. And one IndieGoGo campaign wants to help you ditch all that single-use plastic from the bottles, cans, and pods that go along with fancy water by helping you better DIY your habit at home.
Along with a campaign to bring more awareness to the impact of our bought water consumption on the environment, rOcean wants to provide consumers with an all-in-one countertop "smart water" treatment plant that has the ability to purify, distill, and carbonate your own filtered water. The all-in-one machine sits right on your countertop or bar, at your home or office, and connects to both your smartphone and smart home devices so it can save (and learn) your personalized preferences — even automatically reorder replacements without you having to remember or hit a single button.
The founders behind rOcean want to capitalize on the stratospheric rise in bottled and sparkling water popularity around the world — known as the "hydration" vertical within the soda industry, piggybacking on the success of do-it-yourself seltzer makers like SodaStream and the now $2+ billion market for carbonated beverages alone. Not to mention our increasing fears about the safety of our tap water, with ongoing health crises like those in Flint, Michigan, where the public water supply is still contaminated with lead and other harmful chemicals and toxins — as well as the rise in pharmaceutical drugs found in our public drinking water all over the world. We know we need to drink purified water, but does it have to be bottled professionally? rOcean wants to prove that no, when it comes to water, you don't have to buy —you can DIY.
Enhancing the new machines with smart home technology, more commercial-grade home distilling features, patent-pending features that will significantly cut down on our environmental impact, and cost-saving measures — like filters that last an entire year and flavor pouches that can enhance up to 60 liters of water for just $15 — the innovative and compact countertop distillation and carbonation unit works in two simple steps: first, by purifying tap water and filtering out more than 70 contaminants (compared to 10 from conventional water filters and pitchers); then, allowing home distillers to carbonate or flavor their water to their personal preferences, "down to the drop."
The sleek and stylish unit that "takes cues from Modernist architecture", and also has customizable aesthetics like interchangeable, magnetic face plates in colors like gold, gunmetal, wood grain, and hunter green, looks more like a Dyson air purifier than a typical kitchen appliance. But it works in much the same way as SodaStream: with replaceable CO2 cartridges, reusable bottles (although you can also use your own, unlike other machines); and reusable "flavor pods" — a patent-pending, dishwasher-safe compartment that holds water enhancers (flavoring or electrolytes), either rOcean's own line of water enhancers or your own.
Unlike traditional water filters or home carbonation machines, rOcean also innovates with smart home and smartphone-connected features, like in-app analytics track your water consumption and estimated cost savings, and profiles for every member of the household stored with custom flavor and carbonation preferences. Every rOcean bottle also comes with an RFID sticker that can auto-sync to your settings, and the machine claims to "learn your preferences over time" even without you manually setting them, like a Nest thermostat to your preferred temperature. By connecting to Google Home or Amazon Alexa, the rOcean also offers opt-in auto-refilll and "smart alerts" to let you know when you need to reorder or allow you to just reorder by voice command ("Alexa, order more flavor pods") or Dash button.
Flavor is added in micro-doses, so you can customize your beverage "down to the drop," and you can find your perfect flavor settings then save them as presets int he app. The recyclable refill pouches cost $15 for up to 60 liters of water, but the rOcean team has designed their patent-pending, reusable and dishwasher-safe flavor pod compartment as an "open platform" system so that any beverage company can create and sell compatible flavors and additives separately. In terms of preferences, rOcean's flavor pod options currently include blood orange, strawberry, cucumber, ginger apple, coconut, watermelon, blackberry, lemon, peach pear, apple, and "electrolyte vitamin boost." (Very TB12.)
And our water preferences have become a very big deal. Culturally, beyond mere brand loyalty, a person's favorite bottled water or seltzer brand gets to the heart of everything from hometown or regional pride and Proustian nostalgia to a person's beliefs and habits about health and wellness (or hangover cures).
Now that our thirst for carbonated water has hit peak saturation, the $2 billion (and growing) industry has made the seltzer brand wars big business, too. Do-it-yourself seltzer maker brand SodaStream, however, is not so enthusiastic about the rising popularity. Though the brand currently sell more than 3 million machines globally each year, according to Fortune, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum cautions that the rise of premium brands of bottled carbonated waters is "the biggest marketing and advertising scam of all time" in addition to being wasteful in an ecological sense. Something that rOcean also seeks to solve, by making our tap water as attractive as bottled water — aka "the marketing trick of the century," according to Business Insider.
Topo Chico, the ubiquitously salty mineral water from Mexico beloved by Texans for generations, was recently bought by Coca-Cola for $220 million, as Eater reports. Back in June, the Internet just could not with the news that two iconic 1980s sparkling water brands — Clearly Canadian and New York Seltzer — announced they were coming back to market thanks to venture capital investments, according to Food & Wine. In the Northeast, the annual announcement of new Polar Seltzer flavors is as anxiously anticipated as the release of beaujolais each November in France — expanding their reach nationally this year with "mythically-inspired limited edition flavors," says Delish. La Croix has reached total Instagram saturation, "catapulting from near-oblivion to cult status in the matter of a couple of years," says Business Insider.
But rOcean, and its social-good mission by partnering from the outset with clean oceans nonprofit Hydrous, has an potential edge over its competitors by playing into our increasing desires to cut down on plastics consumption. Actor Jeff Bridges just leant his talents to a PSA about quitting plastic, and more and more celebrities and startups are jumping on board the mission of cleaning up our oceans' "Great Plastic Garbage Patches" with innovative solutions. More and more cities are starting to ban plastic bags and other plastic waste, like takeout containers — even Queen Elizabeth just imposed a moratorium on all single-use plastics at Buckingham Palace.
In addition, rOcean machines are constructed from recycled aluminum, recycled plastic, bamboo, and other "ecologically mindful components limiting its carbon footprint and allowing users to actively make an impact." The team is still determining where the units will be manufactured, but are considering both domestic and international options.
Find out more about rOcean and its innovative features on IndieGoGo.