Venture

Zume Enters Food Packaging Space With New M&A

Zume CEO Alex Garden knows that most people associate his company with pizza and robot-equipped kitchens.

But the co-founder of Zume Pizza has also quietly been working on a separate endeavor – creating a sustainable solution to plastic packaging for restaurants.

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As a result, Zume has acquired Camarillo-based Pivot Packaging for an undisclosed sum. Pivot provides a “flurry of tech” and machinery that helped Zume create its plastic-replacement boxes, and will help it cater to more markets. Zume has also acquired Pivot’s 10-person staff, Garden told me.

Pivot’s product, which has the aesthetics and performance of plastic, is a fully compostable box made from the fibers of sugar cane, which in other cases is typically burned for fuel which releases carbon emissions. It was developed in 2016 in conjunction with Zume. 

“We take the sugar cane, and turn it into something wonderfully compostable,” Garden said. “Essentially as we scale more, it helps save the world.”

Zume’s fully-compostable pizza box, co-developed with Pivot.

The concept is an upgrade to the traditional pizza box, the quality of which is compromised by heat and moisture.

“Within 3 to 5 minutes, [our] pizza would not be something we would’ve served to a customer,” Garden told Crunchbase News.

Quality, coupled with the environmental consequences of food packaging, were drivers behind the acquisition. The Pivot packaging can extend beyond pizza boxes to include salad bowls, trays and other options, Garden said.

As for a pizza company being taken seriously in this market? Garden’s company has already been backed by millions in venture dollars, as we’ve written about previously.

Garden claims Zume’s technology is garnering interest from one of the largest global airlines, as well as global food brands. (He declined to name specifics at this point).

“I think it’s probably a mistake for tech companies to go and try to sell to food companies without really understanding the business,” he said.

Success in the restaurant business, at least from Garden’s seat at the table, not only includes good food but responsible tech thrown into the secret sauce.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias