Zume, Inc. the company engineering the world’s transition to a sustainable food future, launches Zume Source Packaging – the first-of-its-kind packaging technology that uses plant-based materials to create a cost-competitive alternative to plastic when manufactured at scale. The company is also announcing its acquisition of Pivot Packaging, a leader in the sustainable packaging space, and the launch of a 70,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Southern California, the first of several planned manufacturing facilities Zume is building in the U.S.
The UN reports that 300 million tons of plastic waste is generated globally. Of that, only nine percent is recycled, leaving more than 90 percent filling landfills and waterways or to be incinerated, which releases carbon and toxic air pollution. To make matters worse, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation estimates that plastic production is expected to double in 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050, driven in part by global food delivery, which is dependent on plastic containers and bags. UBS estimates the global food delivery business growing more than ten times, from $35B in 2018 to $365B by 2030.
“A more sustainable food future must start with packaging. That’s why we’re teaming with some of the world’s leading food brands to reach our goal of eliminating plastic and styrofoam in fresh foods and food delivery,” says Zume’s CEO and Chairman Alex Garden. “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.”
Replacing One Billion Plastic and Styrofoam Food Containers by 2020
With increasing resource constraints, greater climate disruptions and impending growth of the food delivery industry, more sustainable ways to meet demand must exist. That’s why Zume is teaming with some of the world’s leading food brands to eliminate plastic and styrofoam in fresh foods and food delivery. Zume has initially set a target of replacing one billion plastic and styrofoam food containers by 2020 with the aim of reducing the number of single-use plastics from entering our waterways and landfills.
Zume Source Packaging repurposes agricultural waste from sources such as bagasse (sugarcane fiber), bamboo, wheat, straw, and other organic fibers. The use of agricultural waste significantly reduces water and energy use, and carbon emissions in its production and disposal relative to plastic and styrofoam. After use, Zume’s compostable packaging breaks down into organic material and can be used again to regenerate soil or other organic matter. In essence, the packaging creates a fully closed-loop cycle where the food that is grown creates the input materials for the packaging that carries food to the consumer, and then once used, is used to help grow more food.
Prior to the introduction of Zume Source Packaging, compostable packaging could not mirror the adaptability and durability characteristics of plastic and has been up to 50 to 100 percent more expensive than plastic. Zume Source Packaging addresses these historical challenges by utilizing cutting edge manufacturing technology and material science. The company has a proprietary set of formulas, and forming and finishing processes to create moldable fiber that is intended to maintain the freshness and quality of perishable food compared to paper-based packaging.
The company is driving down the cost of molded fiber by innovating a new flexible manufacturing cell technology production technique that is capable of producing unique shapes with higher yields and faster cycle times than traditional manufacturing methods. The company’s packaging business is protecting this innovation with an aggressive and international IP strategy.
Zume first entered the food packaging industry in 2016 with the launch of the Zume Pizza Pod: the first 100 percent compostable pizza box made of sugarcane. Produced with fibers from sugarcane waste, the Pod helps keep pizza fresh and warm in delivery and provides an environmentally-friendly alternative to cardboard, and was recognized by Dupont as a packaging innovator and Diamond Finalist in the 29th DuPont Awards. With the acquisition of Pivot Packaging, with whom Zume co-developed the Pod, that design is now being transformed into other prepared food containers such as cups, bowls, plates, utensils and serving trays.