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Courtesy of Too Good To Go

November, 6th 2020

Have you ever come across a magic bag that allows you to save delicious food and 2.5 kg of CO2? Too Good To Go tackles food waste by incentivizing every player in the supply chain to take action. Together, we dive deep into the systemic changes required for more sustainable production, and how Too Good To Go is shaping the future of the food industry.

Words By Natsumi Amano

Too Good To Go fights food waste primarily through a free app connecting users with stores and restaurants that have a surplus of food at the end of the day. Customers choose a restaurant or store, they order a “magic bag” of food at a reduced price and then go and collect it. The app allows people to do something good and get something in return. In fact, it is a win for everyone; consumers get delicious food at a great price, our partners reduce waste and gain customers, and this all benefits the environment through waste reduction. Win-Win-Win! What’s great is that each saved meal means that less CO2 is released into our environment. When food ends up in landfill, to decompose or for incineration in furnaces, a huge amount of greenhouse gas is released, which harms the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

It all started when one of the company’s founders, Jamie Crummie who is based in the UK, was working in hospitality and saw perfectly good food, food which was just ‘too good to go’, tossed away.. It struck him that food waste is a huge issue and that there must be a simple way of solving it. Whilst him and his friend started brainstorming, they connected with some like-minded entrepreneurs in Copenhagen. From there, the four of them clubbed together, and Too Good to Go was born.

Fighting food waste together

Does your company get the impression that public awareness for environmental justice is a key contributor to the growth of the company?

Yes, 100%. Conscious consumerism has become a real deal in the last few years. If you go back to when we launched in 2015, it was a very niche concept in society, but it has since become a lot more mainstream. People are more conscious about what they are buying and how they are buying even from when we started. This has helped us drastically in getting our main customer base, accelerating the expansion of our company. We are now in fifteen countries, having recently launched in the US. As our first expansion outside of Europe, this was a huge moment for us, especially as the US is one of the biggest culprits of food waste. On the day we launched in New York, we already had 150 businesses signed up. Overall, we have seen that our business model works and that exponential growth is largely driven by the increasing consumer awareness for such issues.

That is the real power of what we are doing; we are pulling two segments of society together, consumers and businesses, to solve the issue collectively.

What do you think makes your company stand out from competitors?

Firstly, for us, the number of commercial businesses tackling food waste is a huge plus. We are very aware that food waste is created in many different sectors of society. No single solution is going to solve this issue. The more people talk about it, educating each other, and helping to reduce it across the board, the better. In reality, hospitality businesses, retailers, and producers have an awful lot of pressure to be more sustainable in this political climate. What sets us apart is flexibility in terms of being able to work closely with businesses and ensuring that we are providing them with the tools they need.

If we get a big brand on board, it drastically increases demands on our app store. When companies that local communities know and love join us, it fuels their desire to save food from going to waste whilst simultaneously supporting them. Be it a huge supermarket or your local deli that you pop into every now and then, you might not really interact with them until you see them on the app; suddenly you’re going in to rescue their food and you have a conversation with them. That is the real power of what we are doing; we are pulling two segments of society together, consumers and businesses, to solve the issue collectively.

Courtesy of Too Good To Go

Courtesy of Too Good To Go

What is the extent of the company’s social impact?

We see our impact through what we call our “movement”, which expands across five platforms or sectors: our app, households, businesses, education and politics. Collaborating with businesses, schools, households and political figures enables us to educate all the different stakeholders in our society, showing them what they can do to help. In terms of politics, we want to influence the government to include food waste on their agenda on local, regional, and national levels because unless this issue is addressed by the government, it will be very difficult to solve.

About 70% of food waste occurs on a household level. One of the issues that we identified is that, in Europe, 10% of its total food waste occurs due to the confusion over dates on labels. We have four different dates but only one of those is a safety measure: “Use by” is all about safety, “Best before” is for quality, “Sell by” and “Display until” is for store stocks. In the UK, people get very confused about what the different dates mean, so end up throwing things away to be extra cautious. We want to draw attention to this confusion to instigate change. This is also a huge issue for businesses, especially ones that have canteens. We work with a number of businesses to educate employees as well.

The final one is schools. We make a constant effort to educate the next generation about food waste. Our agenda is to empower them with the knowledge that we ourselves didn’t have when we were growing up so that they can avoid the mistakes we have made. We teach them what each of us can do to mitigate the issue. Having this awareness from a young age is very powerful as it becomes ingrained in their mindset. In fact, at the beginning of this year, we held our very first poetry competition for primary school children. We had over a thousand entries, and all of them wrote poems about food waste, what it meant to them, and how they think we can solve this. Campaigns like that go a long way in bringing food waste to the top of everyone’s agenda and making people realize that it is just as harmful as that plastic bottle you just threw in the bin.

The food waste problem doesn’t end at shops and restaurants, so our work doesn’t either.

The majority of people do not know that food waste is a significant contributor to climate change. Where do you think this disconnect comes from?

In 2019, we conducted a survey that found that over two-thirds of British people are unaware of the link between food waste and climate change. I think the problem with food waste is that sometimes it can feel too big of an issue to solve and people do not necessarily realize how much of an impact their daily actions can have. 

The default thought process for most people when throwing food away is probably, “Well, it’s my money I’m wasting.” What they don’t think about is all the other resources this wastes. There is a certain ignorance towards the true value of food because in general, food is readily available and relatively cheap, so in a sense, people only measure food as a monetary thing. Not as much value is placed on groceries than on, say, luxury household items that you take care of and that you would not discard so easily. What we need is to continue to educate people, to point out that food waste is harming the planet and that we can all take action to avoid this. Sometimes, all it takes is one small step, like using our app to change your behaviour as a consumer and become less wasteful. It is that mindset shift that is going to start the change. 

Courtesy of Too Good To Go

What do you think the world needs more of?

I think the world needs more people to be aware of how their actions impact the planet, and this comes back to food waste. If people realized how much damage is being done by the sheer volume of food thrown away, then we would be miles ahead in solving the issues we face in our times. Besides, food is a foundation of our life and something that is familiar to every one of us. This opens windows of opportunities for us to see the bigger picture through food waste, and can help us imagine the world that we want to leave behind for future generations. For instance, go back a couple of decades and the societal view on food was completely different because it was not as readily available. You can look back to World War Two where rationing was in place and people were brought up to eat everything on their plate, where they wasted none because all the resources they had held great value. That is a mentality we all need to have.