At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year – and a big part of this comes from our food and agriculture systems. Plastics are used across the food supply chain – from production to transportation to storage and consumer packaging. Most of it isn’t recycled, polluting soils and waterways and destroying natural habitats. What if we could unlock the power seaweed to make a plastic alternative that restores the ocean instead of harming it?

Meet B’ZEOS, our TFF Challenge Finalist from Norway and winner of the Kirchner Impact Foundation’s “Most Investable” Prize at the 2022 Challenge Finale Demo Day.

This green-tech company uses regeneratively-grown seaweed as a feedstock to make fully home-compostable single-use plastic alternatives, while also unleashing the power of the blue economy. They are replacing single-use plastic packaging with a systemic solution that regenerates environmental ecosystems, sequesters carbon, uses renewable energy, and empowers farmers.

The problem

When single-use plastics were introduced in the middle of the 20th century, they solved a real problem. They provided convenience, safety, and hygiene benefits that were hard to replicate with other materials. Plastic is cheap, light, high in strength, and resistant to corrosion and many environmental factors. 

But, in today’s world, the use of plastic products has gone too far. It only takes a short walk down the aisles of any local grocery store to see that plastic is everywhere – from individual wrappings for all kinds of food items, to plastic cutlery, to water bottles and more.

Further upstream, plastic is used for a variety of purposes in agriculture – such as irrigation, mulching, and weed control, as well as to package and transport food products. It is no wonder that around 275 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated each year.

All of this plastic can take hundreds, or even thousands of years to break down. Very little of it is recycled or incinerated – most of it ends up in landfills, where it leaches toxic chemicals into waters and soils and can cause long-term harm to human and animal health. Producing plastic in the first place is also unsustainable because it consumes non-renewable resources, such as oil and natural gas, which generates enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

“I have one word for you: Seaweed.”

There’s a famous scene in the 1968 movie “The Graduate” where Dustin Hoffman plays a young, idealistic university graduate named Benjamin who is confused about his next step in life. An older, rich man leans over to him with the promise of a booming industry opportunity and says, “I have one word for you: Plastics.” To Benjamin, the older man’s suggestion represents everything his generation didn’t want. Plastics were extractive, artificial, and harmful. Even back then, Benjamin knew he wanted something more.

Enter seaweed.

Seaweed is renewable, biodegradable, and can be efficiently processed into bio-based packaging materials. It produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions during its production compared to plastic, and can be grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers – making it more environmentally friendly than other crops like corn or wheat that are also used for biomaterials. In addition, seaweed has the potential to sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere as well as nitrogen from water, which can help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The B’ZEOSs team asks, “why should we pack food that only lasts 3 days in packaging that lasts for centuries?” Their fully home-compostable solution degrades naturally after two months and because it’s 100% natural, it can be applied as a fertilizer to regenerate degraded soils. B’ZEOS packaging looks like plastic, feels like plastic, performs like plastic – but unlike conventional plastic, it disappears without leaving any traces.

B’ZEOS is the first startup in the world using cultivated seaweed for the production of biomaterials for packaging applications, and source their seaweed from regenerative seaweed growers. They have calculated that 1 tonne of their packaging product can save up to 5 tonnes of CO2.

Just imagine the impact of replacing plastic food packaging with this type of carbon-sucking alternative that is also safe and effective! It’s a win for climate change, for plastic pollution, for regenerative seaweed farmers, and for consumers.

The business

B’ZEOS uses extracts from seaweed to manufacture pellets that can be transformed into plastic-like films, bags and other packaging products. Their technology is clean and sustainable, doesn’t use toxic chemicals, and has low energy consumption. The final result is a bio-based and fully home-compostable single-use packaging solution for all kinds of uses across the food system.

The team has spent more than four years developing their product, and has strong validation and traction in the market. They already have 10 customers and have begun with pilot scale production. Previously they have developed product tests with big names in the industry such as Nestlé.

B’ZEOS have optimized their seaweed bio-material production process from material compounding to manufacturing, carefully calculating every step to ensure the quality of the final product in terms of mechanical properties, gas barrier properties, and end-of-life. The business model that B’ZEOS is pursuing is to become a seaweed pellet supplier – offering right-sized pellets that can be directly used in conventional machines to further process into final packaging products.

The uniqueness of B’ZEOS is in their formulation and processing expertise, which is focused on seaweed-based materials. The team is able to create different seaweed-based formulations depending on the final product their customers want to have, such as rigid or flexible packaging, films of different thicknesses, and different applications like wrapping or thermoformed trays. Developing different types of enhanced formulations is B’ZEOS strategy to open a vast and compelling IP portfolio.

At the moment, B’ZEOS secures their seaweed supply from one of the top regenerative seaweed growers in Europe (France and Norway). The team has made sure that their supplier is working with high sustainability standards, and as they scale they are working to train more suppliers in Canada and Indonesia. The team also has strong partnerships with technology centers across Europe and close relationships with corporations.

B’ZEOS will be ready to be in the market within the next two years, and they plan to have a test shop in the next year. They have a massive and growing market opportunity to grab: consumer trends show that 70% of consumers are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging and 48% would avoid retailers without sustainable packaging. EU regulations on single-use plastics ban fossil-based plastics, and the UN is embarking on a Treaty to end plastic pollution. On top of this, as fuel prices increase, the cost of raw materials for packaging is increasing. The global flexible food packaging market is projected to reach €50bn and at least 5% of this could be the portion for this promising startup once they are able to scale their business.

Backstory

Nature and environmental conservancy has always been a concern for the B’ZEOS team. Guy Maurice, Founder & CEO, had the opportunity to spend several years volunteering for NGOs in Africa and South America, where he witnessed firsthand the sheer amount of waste that is generated every day, and that plastic waste was one of the primary pollutants to the environment. Working in waste management, he also came to the conclusion that we cannot count on practices like recycling to fix this.

After ending one of his volunteer jobs in Panama, he attended a wedding at an eco-friendly bar in New York City. While having drinks and watching all of the straws people use once and just throw away, he thought to himself, “what if we could eat this straw instead of throwing it away?” That was a decisive moment for him where the spark of the idea for B’ZEOS started. In fact, the company’s first initial proof-of-concept was an edible straw he spent over two years developing. Even though B’ZEOS was the first company to talk about edible straws made from seaweed, their idea didn’t have too much luck in the market. It was still a great learning opportunity for him, providing valuable insights and experiences that he could apply to create the game-changing technology and product offering they now have.

Co-founder Adriana Kyvik joined the team 3 years ago, bringing to the table deep science, sustainability, and operations expertise. She was a strong match and compliment for Guy given her background, motivation, and resilience. This team thinks that the motivation behind working in plastic alternatives is not only about the statistics or news about plastic waste. They keep fighting because: “You have to feel it and be mad about it, in order to have the motivation to keep going day in and day out and against all obstacles to change something”.

B’ZEOS is on a mission to revolutionize the industry with their regenerative bio-materials and want to completely replace the need for single-use plastic. They want to create a positive impact and long-lasting transformation to our environment, and create jobs that are extremely valuable for the future humanity.

But what about the name? Despite what you may be thinking, it is not an ode to Amazon’s billionaire Founder Jeff Bezos. The company name comes from a combination of the following words: Be: Zero waste, Edible, Ocean-origin, Sustainable.

What’s next?

B’ZEOS efforts at the moment are focused on getting more traction by doing tests of their seaweed-based films and trays in stores for product validation, end-consumer feedback, and partnerships consolidation. The team is also actively raising funds that they will use for product & business development, IP portfolio expansion, capital expenditure and manufacturing.

B’ZEOS was part of the 2022 TFF Academy cohort, our personalized start-up acceleration program, where they developed their pitch, business model, fundraising strategies, and storytelling. We also introduced them to relevant industry contacts and helped them build the product roadmap for the next few years.

If you want to find out more about B’ZEOS, partner with them, or meet the team, please reach out to Luisa at luisa@thoughtforfood.org.