In the Berenstain Bears’ book “Learn About Strangers,” Mama Bear uses “strange-” and traditional-looking apples to explain to Sister Bear to use caution around strangers because, like apples, you can’t tell the good from the bad by their outside appearance. Although this is a worthwhile lesson for kids, strange or ugly fruit typically do not make it to store shelves and often can become food waste. However, one company is addressing this issue as well as the overall clean food movement.

Co-founded in 2013 by Jody Levy and Harlan Berger, New York-based World Waters came to fruition after Berger learned of the hundreds of millions of pounds of unused watermelons in the United States and around the world every year, says Levy, the company’s co-founder and creative director.

“That inspired us to come up with an idea to do something with the waste stream,” she says. “That was really the inception point.”

Levy adds that the company also was born out of an awareness about the scarcity of water and the concept of using fruits and vegetables that contain high water content to “grow” water. For instance, watermelons are comprised of 92 percent water, she explains.

“Our first product, WTRMLN WTR, is made with ‘seconds,’ basically ugly watermelons that historically would be thrown out or tooled back into the soil; the ‘seconds’ are never taken to a store to be sold because we as a society like perfect fruit,” Levy explains. “Once we started cold-pressing WTRMLN WTR, we realized that it’s packed with functional nutrients and it’s the most hydrating functional beverage you could find.”

As part of its sustainability transparency, World Waters also is dedicated to sourcing its watermelons from within the United States. However, the company learned in its initial production year that for a couple of months of the year it was unable to domestically source the watermelons and, therefore, has since partnered with the Department of Agriculture in Puerto Rico, bringing more than $2.8 million to the country’s agricultural gross income.

“Watermelon is America’s superfruit and, because of that, it’s been really important to us to source as much as we possibly can from America,” she says.

Inspiring a movement

Sustainability is not the only passion for World Waters. A strong component of its brand ethos and mission is to help inspire the clean, healthy food movement, Levy says.

“It’s our mission and passion and our promise to consumers that we always source and produce with the highest standards and best practices with sustainability and quality of our ingredients and processes,” she says.

Among the ways the company commits to this promise is by utilizing high-pressure processing (HPP) technology. Around the time of the WTRMLN WTR’s 2013 launch, HPP was becoming more known throughout the beverage market, and World Waters was educated about the process and its benefit from its food scientist.

“We believe that it’s possible to make really clean foods. There’s innovations in food science that allow companies like ours to cold-press fruits and vegetables without adding harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients in order to maintain all the enzymes, nutrients and goodness. While it’s not as easy and it costs a lot more money for us to do it this way, it’s really important for the advancement of our food system today and in the future,” Levy says.

The company’s care and thought in its founding also applies to its recent new product development efforts: BLNDS.

“The first BLND that we launched, WTRMLN LMN, actually was during our first summer out and it was based on the premise of everybody loves lemonade,” Levy says. “Lemonade is like the favorite summer drink, but most lemonades are laden with sugar, and we’re not fans of sugar, so by creating WTRMLN LMN you’re getting the refreshing and delicious lemonade experience plus the functional benefits of the watermelon water without any added sugar.”

Earlier this year, World Waters expanded its BLNDS line with WTRMLN CHRRY (tart cherry), WTRMLN LME (lime) and WTRMLN GNGR (ginger), all of which were designed with a function in mind.

“Tart cherry is great for long endurance running and we call it the Muscle Marathoner, and lime is amazing for pH balancing and known as The Alkalizer, and ginger’s awesome for digestion and [the] immune system, known as the Sportier Spice,” Levy says. “Using these natural ingredients in conjunction with the WTRMLN WTR enhances the functional benefits for the consumer.”

Originally, BLNDS only were available in Whole Foods Market stores as part of the Whole Planet Foundation. “A percentage from every BLND sold went primarily toward women, but also to people around [the] country growing or making ingredients so it’s a give-back, which is a huge part of our company’s ethos,” Levy explains.

Today, the company is rolling out BLNDS to additional retailers. Although World Waters is committed to the natural channel, it now is expanding into more retail outlets and channels to continue the clean food movement. “Our mission [is] to democratize clean and with that it’s about being in more places where people connect with the product,” Levy says. BI