Sydney start-up Alt Saints to take on Disney Ooshies collectives with non-fungible tokens

An Aussie start-up wants to take on the wildly popular Disney Ooshies, but with a twist – by providing the collectibles in digital form.

Alt Saints is the brainchild of Sydney founder Charbel Zeaiter, who is set to launch his children’s cereal after success with his adult breakfast range.

Major retailers have showed an interest, according to the 59-year-old, who is on a mission to re-imagine cereal toys and the impact they can have on kids.

He’s just raised $181,000 to make his dream a reality – to replace collectibles, like Ooshies, with digital versions called non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

They are unique digital pieces of data which can take the form of anything from audio to video or picture files.

Heralded as the future of art and music and potentially the next best investment since bitcoin, recent NFTs have fetched millions of dollars.

A print from a digital artist known as Beeple made headlines when it fetched $69 million at a Christie’s auction, while famous memes like Disaster Girl went for $650,000 and YouTube video Charlie bit my finger was sold for $760,000.

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Mr Zeaiter started selling eco-friendly premium muesli and cereal direct to consumers last September in packaging that featured endangered species, while pledging 1 per cent of revenue to support global grassroots environmental organisations, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, which rescues traumatised chimps.

“Collecting rare, limited edition items is not new. Ooshies and Pokemon cards have been popular for a long time and what are they other than pieces of rubber and plastic or printed cardboard? One card sold for £266,000 (around $A475,000) in January 2021. What drives the value? Emotion, vanity and scarcity,” he said.

Last year, supermarket giant Woolworths sparked chaos after announcing the premature end of its Disney Ooshies promotion.

The collectables – including 36 beloved Marvel, Star Wars, Disney and Pixar characters such as Darth Vader, Elsa, Buzz Lightyear and Moana – were supposed to be available until the promotion ended on October 20.

But “unprecedented demand” forced the grocery heavyweight to call it off earlier than planned, with Ooshies stock depleted before the end of September.

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His cereal tells a story – on the front of the box there’s information on how many animals are left in the wild and on the back it goes into more detail. People can scan a QR code, which brings up a map of 400 endangered animals.

This includes the northern hairy-nosed wombat in Queensland with just 138 species remaining in the wild and the Gilbert’s potoroo in Western Australia which has only 49 species left in the wild.

“There are a lot more to design and we’ve got a predicament right now that we’ve got to solve and it’s only humans that can solve it,” said Mr Zeaiter.

This is what is driving his mission. His plan is to create NFTs based on critically endangered or endangered species around the world – meaning there are fewer than 2000 alive in the wild – with the option for kids to collect everything from an orang-utan to a rhinoceros.

“Obviously the $69 million art sale was a big trigger for me and I wanted to work out how do we create long-term engagement and education through that model. I’ve got great product and great design that tells a story and 1 per cent of profits goes to environmental organisations, so how do we take education further and how do we tap into the collectable mindset?” he said.

“It’s NFTs as digital toys, so collectable digital toys you can swap online. My idea is replacing plastic toys with something that still has an engagement model but takes away the plastic waste model and opens up a whole word of digital. In the future, you will be able to swap and trade in a marketplace too.”

The Maroubra local also has a vision to bring the animals to life through technology and tap into the power of gaming that is heavily influencing younger generations.

He explained that long-term he could see the NFT animals being able to answer questions from young kids about its life and environment.

“What we are seeing too with open gaming or any gaming platform is the need to collect and purchase special power-ups, so how do you take advantage of the open gaming platform and say take the orang-utan into a kid’s game like Fortnite as an avatar,” he said.

“There is that collectable mindset and engagement that kids have with games and I want that dinosaur or orang-utan in to the game so engagement goes beyond our brand.”

He can also see the NFTs offering ongoing funds to help environmental organisations by setting royalties for when the digital cards are traded in the marketplace.

Mr Zeaiter believes he is the first company in the world to bring together food, content, media and NFT collectibles that will not only entertain but educate people about the past, present and future plight of animals, rainforests and jungles, insects and oceans.

“Beasts, trees, bees and seas is our tagline and each of these categories presents an opportunity for us to grow content, tell stories and to trigger positive change for all living things,” he added.


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