Why are pizza boxes so terrible? This is a question you probably only grapple with between the time you drunk dial your neighborhood pizza place and 30 minutes later when the pizza shows up. But the high-tech pizza makers from Zume, a Silicon Valley start-up that first made noise selling robot-assembled pies baked en route right in the delivery truck, have taken on the problems of the common pizza box and believe they have made a serious improvement.
At its most basic level the pizza box only needs to do one thing: Contain your pizza so it can move easily from pizza shop to pizza delivery vehicle to your coffee table. But the standard cardboard design, now 50 years old, often results in soggy pies (As Wired pointed out, that is because of steam coming off a hot pizza that gets trapped inside the box). To fix this problem, Zume dumped cardboard for sugar cane and other plant-based materials that it uses to make a molded container with ridges to elevate the pie off the bottom of the box. The company calls its new invention the Pizza Pod. Zume co-founder Julia Collins told us in via email that she and her business partner, Alex Garden “based [the Pod] loosely off a Panini press, with grooves to guide any liquid or oil/grease into a center, circular recess, untouched by the pizza. This diversion of liquid ensures the pizza doesn’t risk being soaked by grease or any other moisture after it’s been cut, so it stays hot and crispy long after it leaves the oven.”
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In addition to claiming its pizza comes out of the box tasting fresher, Zume is also touting the environmental benefits of its new design. Because it is made of entirely organic ingredients, it is entirely compostable. The box is also designed with compartments for each slice, which makes a used box easy to fold up and place inside even a small apartment compost bin. That is particularly good news since pizza box recycling (or the impossibility thereof) is a problem that has plagued pizza lovers all over the country.
Collins says the whole idea behind Zume is to use technology to turn food delivery on its head and she’s optimistic about how it’s all working out. She thinks that Zume, its automated pizza makers and its reimagined boxes are poised to move beyond mere novelty in the Bay Area. “As we expand, more and more people will realize we’re a food company first, and our priority is serving the best, more affordable, sustainable pizza to our consumers - with just a little help from our robot teammates.”