Every year, upwards of 800 million pounds of watermelons go into the garbage, deemed unsuitable for sale based on aesthetics alone. But in all that waste, Jody Levy and Harlan Berger saw opportunity. Initially, the duo were set on turning a portion of those discarded watermelons into rocket fuel, but that idea soon fizzled—apparently, watermelons aren’t sweet enough to make ethanol. Not easily discouraged, Levy and Berger launched WTRMLN WTR in 2013 instead based on a drink made from “a squeeze of lemon” and cold-pressed watermelon juice, sourced from all that imperfect produce.
Watermelons are 92 percent water, naturally electrolyte-rich, and packed with functional nutrients, including potassium and L-Citrulline, an amino acid and vasodilator that prevents muscle fatigue and aids in recovery. Positioned as a natural sports drink, Levys says they knew they were onto something. “We created our brand, launched our product, and invented a category all at one time.”
In 2016, the company moved from New York City to Denver, drawn by the Centennial State’s outdoor lifestyle and the company’s in-house fitness team, the Rebel Workout, also based locally. WTRMLN WTR has grown exponentially ever since, thanks in no small part to an investment from Beyonce; in a twist of fate, her “Drunk in Love” lyrics preceded the funding.
Today, WTRMLN WTR employs some 45 people across the country and comes in six flavors, like Cucumber and Cherry, sourced from “ugly” produce when possible. The company’s latest addition is Strawberry—a not-too-sweet combo of lemon, cold-pressed watermelon, and strawberry purée—launched alongside a partnership with Portland, Oregon-based FoodCorps, a nonprofit whose mission is to connect kids to healthy foods in school. (For the rest of 2019, an undisclosed percentage of sales from WTRMLN WTR + Strawberry will be donated to the organization.)
At $4 a bottle—available at Whole Foods and Safeway—WTRMLN WTR’s price is more aligned with kombucha than with Coke or Gatorade. But for converts, the lack of sugar, artificial flavorings, and colorings can help justify the extra dollars. It’s also delicious, and on a recent Sunday morning, as I sat down to write this story, a godsend: Turns out WTRMLN WTR is also great for hangovers.