Zume Inc., which uses robotics to produce made-to-order pizzas, has acquired Pivot Packaging LLC and has launched Zume Source Packaging as part of its sustainable food strategy.
In a June 13 news release, officials with Mountain View, Calif.-based Zume said that the firm is opening a 70,000-square-foot sustainable packaging plant in Southern California. Zume plans to open several more U.S. plants, they added.
Zume debuted in the food packaging market in 2016 with the launch of the Zume Pizza Pod, which officials said was the first 100 percent compostable pizza box made of sugarcane. The product was a finalist for a DuPont Award that year.
Zume co-developed the Pizza Pod with Pivot, which is based in Chino, Calif. That design is now being transformed into other prepared food containers such as cups, bowls, plates, utensils and serving trays. No purchase price was disclosed in the news release.
Zume Source Packaging will use plant-based materials to create a cost-competitive alternative to conventional plastics when manufactured at scale, officials said. They cited United Nations statistics showing that only 9 percent of plastics waste is recycled every year and said that global food delivery is dependent on plastic containers and bags. That business is expected to grow tenfold between 2018 and 2030.
"A more sustainable food future must start with packaging," Zume Chairman and CEO Alex Garden said in the release. "That's why we're teaming with some of the world's leading food brands to reach our goal of eliminating plastic and [polystyrene foam] in fresh foods and food delivery."
Garden added that food delivery "is upending the food system as we know it, and we believe that the powerful consumer demand signals it generates can be a force creating a more sustainable world."
"Food packaging is a huge part of this equation because it provides critical consumption data, and also provides information from the farm where its materials are sourced to the final disposal," he said.
Zume has set a target of replacing 1 billion traditional plastic food containers by 2020 with the aim of reducing the number of single-use plastics from entering our waterways and landfills.
Zume Source Packaging will repurpose agricultural waste from sources such as sugarcane fiber, bamboo, wheat, straw, and other organic fibers. The use of agricultural waste significantly reduces water and energy use along with cutting carbon emissions in production and disposal relative to plastic and PS foam, officials said.
After use, Zume's compostable packaging breaks down into organic material and can be used again to regenerate soil or other organic matter, they added.
Officials said that Zume has "a proprietary set of formulas and forming and finishing processes" to create moldable fiber that can maintain the freshness and quality of perishable food compared to paper-based packaging.
The company also is driving down the cost of molded fiber by innovating a new flexible manufacturing cell technology production technique that's capable of producing unique shapes with higher yields and faster cycle times than traditional manufacturing methods, they added.
Zume's other business units include Zume Culinary, which includes Zume Pizza and optimizes cuisines for food delivery customers; Zume Forward, which helps food companies predict demand and deploy food and goods where people want them; and Zume Source, which provides economical and more sustainable alternatives for how food is grown, transported, prepared and packaged.
In late 2018, Zume received a $375 million investment from Softbank Group of Tokyo. Zume, which was founded in 2015, now is worth more than $2 billion, according to media reports.