If you've ordered our new Watermelon Road Add Ons, you'll understand the obsession! These delicious, sweet, fruit snacks are new to the Model Meals Add On menu and we couldn't be more excited.
In this post we talk to Jamie Melzer, Founder & CEO of Watermelon Road, to learn more about the products and how she started this incredible company.
Q&A with Watermelon Road's Jamie Melzer 🍉
How did you start Watermelon Road?
When my husband was 25 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare, genetic autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. It took doctors five years to diagnose, followed by years of immune suppressing medications which did nothing to treat his original symptoms and wreaked havoc on his immune system and his gut health. By the time we began dating, eight years ago, I had several friends (also in their twenties) who had been diagnosed with “rare” autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s, Celiac, Hashimoto's, ulcerative colitis, and I personally had been diagnosed with endometriosis. I also have had several family members who have suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease and other life altering diseases with strong ties to gut health.
It was clear to me that something in our food system had gone terribly wrong. As a research analyst by trade (my career prior to starting this journey with Watermelon Road) I turned my research to better understanding the link between the industrialization of our food supply and the rise in autoimmune related illnesses – a link that is more and more widely accepted today.
I swiftly overhauled our family's diet by removing all processed foods from our home and our meals. Everything was sourced as locally and closely to the source as possible and cooked from scratch at home. I eliminated all grain, gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar from our meals and watched as my husband’s health rapidly improved. His joint pain and inflammation was completely gone, his gut issues (I won’t go into them all, but they were numerous and uncomfortable to say the least) were eliminated – all from our diet change and common sense approach to consuming only real, unprocessed food.
While this was easy enough to do at home, it was and still is relatively difficult to find clean, unprocessed snacks when at work, traveling or just on the go. At the time we were both working long, crazy hours in finance and eating two or three meals a day at our desks or on the road. So, I began making clean snacks to send to work with my husband (and myself).
Why did you want to create Watermelon Road?
Watermelon Road was born at our home on the east end of Long Island, and while today the area is known as “The Hamptons” it has historically been a farming and fishing community and a lot of that still exists today. For about six months out of the year we have access to the most incredible local organically grown produce that you can imagine literally in our backyard - we live just behind a 60 acre organic community farm. But the other six months are like a food desert, so I began playing around with a lot of preservation techniques so that we could continue enjoying these foods year round - things like fermentation, making sauces and jams, freezing and of course, dehydration… which ultimately is how Watermelon Road was born.
Long story short, I grew frustrated with not being able to find clean snacks at the grocery store or airport that weren’t filled with oils, sugars, preservatives and non-food “foods”. I joke with my husband that just because something is edible doesn’t make it “food” or rather fuel for your body.
After my daughter, Charlotte was born nearly three years ago I returned to work to find that my role in finance wasn’t fulfilling my deeper need to make a difference. So I set off to create something that could have a positive impact on people’s lives through clean, healthy and convenient food.
How did you come up with the name Watermelon Road?
Watermelon Road is a fictitious name that is meant to inspire joy and adventure. For me it conjures up bike rides to the beach or picking fruit at a local farm or hiking with friends… in a Utopian world, Watermelon Road would be the place where all ingredients are clean, and real and purposeful. It is also a sort of pseudonym for the street in the Hamptons where we live and where the brand was created - located just behind an organic community farm - so that was part of the inspiration.
What is your fav Watermelon Road product?
My favorite (and our top seller) is the Pineapple Mojito flavor. We marinate fresh, hand-sliced pineapple in lime juice which makes is really bright and tangy, and then add fresh mint which makes it surprisingly refreshing. It’s like no other dried pineapple that you’ve tasted. Our new Mango Margarita flavor is a close second, and our Apple Pie is really nice and versatile for fall.
Can you explain how the products are made and why they’re so healthy?
My goal with creating these products was to keep them as clean, simple and unprocessed as possible. We start by hand-slicing fresh fruit and marinating it in citrus, which acts as a natural preservative. This allows us to skip the nasty preservatives like sulfites, oils and sugars. We lightly season our fruits with herbs and spices (and absolutely nothing else!) and then gently dehydrate them at low temperatures to preserve the most nutrients and flavor. The result is a slightly sweet, slightly tart dried fruit with the perfect chewy jerky-like texture.
What other products can we expect to see in the future?
We are constantly brainstorming new plant-based flavor combinations. We will likely introduce new fruits in the future, but I would also love to roll out a savory vegetable line that is naturally low in sugar. I love our fruits as a healthy, indulgent tasting sweet treat, but I need something to replace my chip cravings and there are so many cool vegetables that can be dehydrated.
We want to thank Jamie for taking the time to answer our questions!
Remember, if you haven't already ordered Watermelon Road... it's time! You can find them in the Add-On section of our Sunday and Wednesday menus. You won't regret it. 🍉🍍