Notpla: Packaging That Disappears
By Alixandra Rutnik on Jul 10, 2020
Incredibe and edible, this product innovation turned judges' heads in The One Show & ADC Awards
Notpla is literally Not Plastic. But, it serves the same purpose as plastic, except that it is edible, so it's kinda genius. Plastics taking over our oceans is no joke, but Notpla is helping to alleviate this mess with their edible water “bottles,” edible juices, edible cocktails, edible shots, and edible sauce packets, all thanks to brilliant minds, science, and seaweed.
Notpla was awarded the Green Pencil in The One Show 2020, as well as the title of Best of Discipline in Product Design in the ADC 99th Annual Awards. We interviewed Pierre Paslier, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Notpla, and Mark Wood, Senior Creative Director at Superunion to learn how Notpla came to life.
Superunion / London + Notpla / London
2020 Green Pencil: Green Pencil
This is a wild concept, but also very intriguing. What’s it like to manufacture something like this?
Pierre: Our team is 25 people strong made up of chemists, designers, and engineers who created a whole new manufacturing process, which we prototyped in our London office and then built a machine to scale it up. The process is actually very energy efficient, as it doesn’t require any temperature to form the packaging, unlike plastic.
The idea of edible packaging makes so much sense, but when did you come up with this and how?
Pierre: Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and I started the project in 2013 while studying Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. We were inspired to create a packaging that would be more like a fruit peel than a synthetic container. We investigated many different natural materials, eventually focusing on seaweed because it is edible, naturally biodegradable, and highly renewable. We started in our kitchen, where we cooked up the first prototypes in a few weeks. Because we were using edible ingredients, we were able to test it with people right away. After the first video of “Ooho” (our first product) went viral, we incorporated the company and joined Climate KIC, Europe’s largest funded accelerator focused on climate innovation.
"We investigated many different natural materials, eventually focusing on seaweed because it is edible, naturally biodegradable, and highly renewable."
So is it made from the type of seaweed we all eat in our sushi rolls?
Pierre: Yes, kind of. We use different seaweed extracts to create the Notpla material. Nori, the seaweed used for sushi is a red seaweed species. We also use brown and green seaweed species in Notpla for tuning the final properties of our packaging.
What does it taste like?
Pierre: We’ve worked very hard to remove any seaweed taste, so it’s actually tasteless. It does have a texture so it’s quite a fun experience to eat your packaging. Someone said recently “it’s like a party in your mouth,” which is a good way to put it, especially when they’re filled with cocktails. Currently, we are focusing our manufacturing capacity on running events (like the London Marathon) and on sauces for takeaway.
"Someone said recently “it’s like a party in your mouth,” which is a good way to put it, especially when they’re filled with cocktails."
Which have been the best Notpla fillings so far?
Pierre: So far, we have made over 250,000 Oohos made from Notpla, reducing many single-use plastic cups or small bottles on the way, so we’re very proud of the impact we are starting to have on eliminating waste.
We can package many different liquids and actually our chemists try to make it work for packaging any liquid. For now, water, soft drinks, cocktails, and sauces are the most suitable contents.
The name "Notpla" is pretty simple. How did you decide on it?
Mark: The name needed to be simple to say and understand, as well as be flexible enough to be the name of the business, and the name of the material. It is not plastic, so Notpla was a succinct way of communicating this. It is quite unusual for a brand name to directly reference what it isn’t, but the global environmental issue we have with plastic is so huge and pressing it made sense to directly state this in the name. The Notpla logo reflects a vessel that can be filled with liquid and when it is emptied, the exterior disappears, just like its packaging.
Where do you plan on taking this initiative – especially now that it has won big both in the ADC Awards and The One Show?
Pierre: We’re here to make packaging disappear. The goal is to stop billions of single-use plastic packaging from ever being made, and we think that Notpla has the potential of turning the tide on plastic waste. While we continue to innovate and improve our products, we are also in conversations with brands around the world on how Notpla can help to reduce plastics from their supply chains. We are very honored to have won these awards and we are very grateful for the broader audience we are being given to bring sustainable packaging to the world.
Missed The One Show and the ADC Awards? Good news: you can still experience all of the winners!