45. Footprint

Persephone Kavallines

Founders: Troy Swope (CEO), Yoke Chung
Launched: 2014
Headquarters: Gilbert, Arizona
$380.5 million (PitchBook)
Valuation: N/A
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Footprint is on a mission to end what it calls our "addiction to plastic." The U.S. recycles only about 9% of the plastic we use, according to the EPA. Eight million metric tons end up in the ocean annually. And with the surge in demand for cooking at home and food-to-go during the Covid-19 pandemic, we're using more consumer packaged food and takeout containers than ever.

That's where Footprint is making a difference.

The materials science technology company develops and manufactures alternative solutions to single- and short-term-use plastic. Its sustainable products are designed with the entire product lifecycle in mind, and are made from 100% bio-based, biodegradable, compostable and recyclable fibers. That not only reduces unnecessary waste from entering the environment, it reduces our exposure to toxic chemicals found in plastic.

Founded in 2014 by two former Intel engineers, Footprint is headquartered in Gilbert, Arizona, and employs more than 1,500 people.

The company says its plant-based fiber bowls, clamshell containers, trays, cups and other consumer packaging products have already eliminated more than 61 million pounds of plastic. They're in some of the country's biggest supermarkets, including Walmart, Target, Costco, Whole Foods, Albertsons' Safeway, Kroger, Fry's, Aldi, Wegmans and Trader Joe's.  

And the company is collaborating with major brands, including McDonald's, Sweetgreen, Kraft Heinz, Tyson Foods, Beyond Meat, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin, Panera Bread and True Food Kitchen.

In September, it expanded a three-year-old partnership with Chicago-based packaged foods giant Conagra, which now has multiple product lines of single-serve meals packaged in Footprint's microwave-safe bowls. Footprint says the deal will decrease Conagra's carbon footprint by 34,117 metric tons, equivalent to avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions of driving 84 million miles, or around the planet 3,399 times.

Last year, Footprint expanded its manufacturing operations to Mexicali, Mexico.

Currently, Footprint is working on a "marine-degradable" version of the six-pack holder. Plastic holders often end up trapping or being eaten by ocean-dwelling animals. Footprint says it has had successful tests with Molson Coors Beverage Company and PepsiCo Beverages North America, and is currently optimizing high-volume production.

Contributed by Jodi Gralnick

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