Skip the Bottle and Just Add Water With Plink!
by Bill McCool on 05/04/2022 | 6 Minute Read
When I was a kid, I remember going to my grandfather’s house and seeing multiple boxes of Alka Seltzer lined up in his medicine cabinet. An unsubstantiated family history of heartburn and questionable dietary decisions aside, I was familiar enough with the fizzy tablets because of their many commercials sandwiched between my favorite sitcoms. I knew that if I threw one of the tablets into a glass of water, I’d get to witness instant magic. I did this on more than one occasion but could never bring myself to take more than a quick sip because of the awful taste. Still, even today, I have to admit, there was something so immensely satisfying watching a tablet dissolve into foamy, fizzy bubbles.
What I didn’t realize as a child, however, was that I didn’t need a canned drink or something bottled in plastic. All you needed was the tablet—the tablet could have all of those intensely awesome flavor parts distilled down into aspirin form. And it makes you wonder just why more brands aren't doing this. Doesn't the TikTok generation want ASMR-heavy videos of frothy tablets dissipating into gorgeously-tinted drinks?
Well, that’s what you'll get precisely with the new subscription-based beverage brand Plink!
Of course, Plink! is no heartburn remedy—it’s a sustainable, low-sugar drink in an effervescent, flavor-packed tablet. Just provide your own water and glass, drop a Plink!, and watch it turn into delicious, flavored water.
Max Luthy and Luke Montgomery-Smith co-founded the brand, something they jokingly refer to it as their “COVID baby.” Before Plink!, Luthy's background was in trends and insights, and he worked at TrendWatching until COVID essentially axed his job. The idea came to Luthy a few years before the pandemic. He had grown tired of working with brands that merely paid lip service to sustainability and wouldn’t change their ways when it came to increased production costs for sustainable materials and packaging. But one night, he shot up in bed and started messaging a friend with his idea.
“It’s a bath bomb you can drink,” Luthy says. “It's experiential, it's low sugar, low packaging, low carbon impact, and delivered by subscription, and it’s called Plink!” Of course, Luthy had no idea how to engineer a beverage and bring it to market, and that’s when a friend connected him to Montgomery-Smith, who co-founded Wild Fizz Kombucha. While the pandemic led him to close down the brewery, he shared Luthy’s passion for sustainability and wanted to create a drink with a lower carbon footprint that kicked packaging waste to the curb.
Very little of the plastic bottles we use for beverages get recycled, and it either goes straight to landfill, ends up in our oceans as microplastics, or gets incinerated. Plink! has removed nearly all of the waste from the packaging equation—there's no plastic bottle. Hell, there’s no glass or aluminum, just an aluminum and paper sachet carrying the tablet.
The initial offering from the brand comes in rectangular form as 18 tear-away packets, and while it’s recyclable in the UK, it’s still not considered curbside recyclable in the US. It also presented the brand with its greatest challenge, as the product required a plastic liner on the inside since they don’t want the aluminum leaching onto the tablet. In addition to a high oxygen and water vapor barrier, the brand isn’t left with many great options. But they're working on making the packaging either compostable or curbside recyclable in the US.
Still, the concept is refreshingly simple, and with minimal packaging, the founders say there is 98% less carbon impact and 99% less packaging waste than canned and bottled beverages. You don’t have to be a packaging expert or materials wizard to realize that if you take water out of the equation (and a lion’s share of the packaging), you curb plastic waste while also reducing emissions.
“This isn't about a reinvention or a reimagining of something,” says Montgomery-Smith. “Plink! is about a new way to consume beverages. And the thing that we're most chuffed with the product and the design is that it doesn't look like anything that currently exists.”
That's likely because so many new drinks that churn their way through the beverage market advertise their functionality. “With so many functional beverages, it’s like, ‘drink this because it'll boost your libido. It'll reduce your stress, it'll help you get to sleep, it'll help you wake up.’ Just having a truly joyful product was a huge objective for us,” says Luthy.
That sense of delight was something they wanted to bring to the identity and the packaging, and it’s executed skillfully by the design agency Made Thought (who are also co-founders).
“Everything we created stemmed from this,” says Ben Parker, creative director and founding partner at Made Thought. “From the brand name to the bold and graphically-charged identity, we envisioned an energetic and exciting brand where flavor, fun, and authenticity are at the forefront. The name itself is both onomatopoeia and instruction. It's the sound of the product entering the water and starting to work its magic. For us, the energy and emotion that the name Plink! evokes helped guide the rest of the brand language, including the use of bright colors, exaggerated typography, and a very human, authentic way of communicating with the world.”
The oversized bright, bubble letters deliver a tasty wordmark, while cute, straightforward pictures of fruit indicate the flavor. But the brand name as a verb—think Uber and Google here—tells you everything you need to know.
“It's just so immediate,” says Luthy of the packaging. “You don’t have to explain the current impact of canning and bottling water and tracking it from a bottling plant to a warehouse to Costco to your Subaru to your house and the recycling bin, right? You just kind of see it, and you get it.”
The beverage maker has also chosen to launch without having a branded bottle, a tactic similar companies have used in recent years, which is, frankly, a breath of fresh air. Skipping out on the water but shipping out a heavy metal bottle defeats the brand's sustainable ethos. Plus, chances are, you’ve got a dozen water bottles sitting underneath your sink as you read this—you definitely don’t need another one. And while Plink! says they might release a bottle in the future, they at least plan on having a pop-up screen asking their customers if they really, truly need this in the first place.
That said, upending habits and traditions is hard work. It’s no wonder that so many start-ups launching drinks that come in concentrate or powder form are still trying to sell you on the idea of a drinking vessel, but the reality is, you don’t need it, just like you don’t need an endless feed of single-use plastic bottles. That is not to say that bottled or canned beverages are going away anytime soon—they most certainly won’t.
But it is conceivable to transform the way we consume our favorite drinks. Maybe that comes from buying a SodaStream and cutting back on packaged drinks. Maybe it involves a fizzy tablet that dissolves in water. Regardless of the method, it's about changing a learned behavior. You might feel great about drinking a particular brand of bubly water because it gets packaged in aluminum. And, sure, it's endlessly recyclable—that's a very good thing—but did you really need the packaging anyway? What if you could eliminate all of the wasteful elements and keep the essential parts you actually need? Consumers are looking for new ways to enjoy the things they love without the added waste and guilt.
Plus, Plinking does have a nice ring to it, and if you can turn your brand name into a verb, well, you might sniff out some much-needed changes.
Plink! launches today, and you can visit drinkplink.com to order their debut 18-multi-pack sachets.
Images courtesy of Plink!