Recycled footwear foam maker Blumaka is planting a stake in the Central American market and giving U.S. shoemakers a nearshoring option.
The California-based insole and midsole producer has signed a five-year lease on a 3,500-square-meter facility in El Salvador, after teasing a launch in the Americas earlier this year. According to Blumaka, which operates factories in Dongguan, China, the expansion will tighten its supply chain by bringing production closer to key markets in the Western hemisphere.
Blumaka products are made with 85 percent recycled ETPU foam generated by footwear industry waste. The company creates new shoe components using a proprietary, nearly water-free manufacturing process. With the opening of its latest outpost, Blumaka said it is working to create new products using locally recycled waste materials to further its circularity goals and expand its range and brand partnerships.
“It’s been a longtime goal to bring foam and full footwear assembly closer to home, and now we have done it, so you no longer have to fly halfway around the world to get Blumaka expertise in developing midsole, outsole, and insole components,” CEO and co-founder Stuart Jenkins said. “Now the cleanest foam manufacturing in the world is on the same time zone and only four hours by plane from the key markets.”
Jenkins said the facility will cut shipping times to the West Coast of the U.S. down to about a week, compared with Blumaka’s China factory which sees ocean freight wait times up to 40 days. Products produced in El Salvador have duty-free status under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), and because the facility is located in Santa Ana’s American Park Free Zone, they will incur zero income or sales tax.
The factory will be fully powered by solar energy and offer workers on-site healthcare, financial services, athletic facilities, and 24-hour security coverage, Jenkins pointed out. It will be able to manufacture sandals, flip-flops, slippers and slides, assemble footwear, and create components like midsoles, insoles and sneaker cupsoles. In a bid to branch out from its footwear offering, Blumaka will also produce lifestyle products like yoga blocks, seat cushions and stand-up desk mats made with 70 percent and 95 percent recycled foam content. Blumaka is working with workplace accessory business FluidStance to develop those pieces.
“Blumaka has always had a long lens to how they have worked with us and the planet,” FluidStance founder and CEO Joel Heath said. “It is rare to find a manufacturing partner that possesses the ability to innovate, develop, manufacture and be sustainable both in materials and character.”
American sneaker brand Psudo, the new factory’s first signed footwear client, wants the Blumaka facility to on assemble its shoes. CEO Michael Rich said Psudo will expand product capabilities with Blumaka as a supply chain partner.
The venture will bolster Blumaka’s sustainability goals, which include converting 400,000 shoe insoles and other foam goods into new products by 2023. So far it has diverted 40 tons of discarded footwear foam from landfill and incineration.