Zume Inc announced today that it is launching a new plant-based packaging system that rivals plastic in both use and cost. The new compostable food container technology comes via the acquisition of Pivot Packaging, and Zume will open a 70,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant in Southern California to create the packaging. This is Zume’s first acquisition and terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The fact that Zume is getting into the manufacturing of sustainable packaging isn’t a huge surprise. The company has always been on a mission to increase efficiency throughout its food production through robots, data-driven logistics, high-tech appliances, and applying its knowledge to other restaurants.
The addition of making and selling its own eco-friendly packaging extends the control over their product further down the delivery stack, provides another source of revenue, and comes at a time when there is a definite anti-plastic sentiment rising around the globe
Zume packaging works with a number of different fiber products like bagasse (sugarcane fiber), bamboo, wheat, and straw. According to Zume, Pivot’s technology allows these fibers to be molded in a way that acts like plastic, and at scale, is at a price parity with plastic (more on that in a moment). After use, the Zume Packaging is fully compostable.
This isn’t the first time Zume has gotten into the packaging game. In 2016, Zume launched its Pizza Pod, which was made with sugarcane and developed with Pivot. This new packaging is a part of Zume Source, the division of the company that deals with inputs (ingredients). The other divisions of Zume are Zume Culinary, which includes Zume Pizza, and Zume Foward, which handles all of the logistics, trucks and appliances.
Plastic packaging is a huge problem that the world is (slowly) waking up to. Various cities, states and countries around the world are banning various forms of single-use plastics like straws and grocery bags. But the problems in combating plastic are that it works, it’s cheap and it’s already manufactured at scale.
I spoke with Zume Co-Founder and CEO, Alex Garden, who said Zume Packaging alleviates those problems. First, Garden said that Zume Packaging achieves price “parity” with plastic at scale. He didn’t fully explain exactly what metrics he was using, what the actual cost of Zume Packaging is or how he was defining scale, but said customers large and small would be able to afford it.
Zume Packaging will be available to Zume customers around the world. In addition to the Southern California plant, Zume is opening up manufacturing facilities in India and China. Zume Packaging is available to Zume Culinary customers and those customers would be making announcements about their use of the product over the coming months.
One of the reasons Zume is able to make both the Pivot acquisition and aggressively ramp up the manufacturing of its new packaging is because it got a $375 million investment from Softbank towards the end of last year.
Zume isn’t alone in re-thinking traditional packaging. The Loop is a partnership among a number of different CPGs like Pepsi and Unliver to ship products in re-useable containers. And over in the UK, grocery chain Waitrose introduced compostable packaging for its ready to eat meals in May. Israeli startup TAPI has also created fully compostable, flexible, plastic-like packaging.
We’re all for any company fighting plastic waste here at The Spoon, and we are interested to see how Zume Packaging stacks up against plastic.