Discounted food, supporting local business, eliminating food waste and an element of surprise - the only thing Too Good To Go, a food app committed to ending food waste, is missing is a market in my stomping grounds of Atlanta (reference “heartbroken” in the dictionary for an apt description of how I felt when I realized this).
The app serves as a marketplace for hungry users looking to score “surprise bags” from restaurants dealing with a surplus of food. Instead of a bakery, for example, tossing away its unsold baguettes and croissants at the end of the night, a bread-loving consumer may pop into the app and purchase the goods at a fraction of the market rate. Too Good To Go calls its commitment to reducing food waste, trading otherwise trashed food for profits for business owners and boosting savings for hungry consumers a win-win-win.
The company started in Denmark in 2016 but quickly moved across international borders into major European markets. In 2020, it made the leap across the pond into North America, debuting in New York City and Boston in late September. In just a year’s time, Too Good To Go has expanded to 11 major North American cities spanning the U.S. and Canada, with Baltimore the latest to join the likes of Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto.
In five years of operation, Too Good To Go has made a lasting impact in the communities it serves, already establishing itself as the world’s largest business-to-consumer marketplace for surplus food. All in all, it’s helped its 43.5 million users connect to more than 108,000 businesses (restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, hotels, etc.) to save 88 million meals, and counting.
With an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food wasted worldwide, accounting for one-third of food produced for human consumption, this social impact company knows it’s facing one of the world’s largest problems. Too Good To Go’s CEO Mette Lykke is hoping that its tangible meals saved for its users can serve as a springboard for bringing a cultural change around the way the world sees food waste.
“Food waste is a huge, complicated issue that spans the globe, and we know that by working alone we can only achieve so much,” Lykke wrote in Too Good To Go’s 2020 Impact Report. “It’s this notion - of shared inspiration, of collective impact, of a movement against food waste, that helped us arrive at our ultimate mission: to inspire and empower everyone to fight food waste together.”
The Impact Report follows the journey of a banana from harvest to supermarket shelf, explaining the complex supply chain and deep human and environmental resources that were poured into a single banana. If a consumer buys that very banana, waits until it's overripe and finds it no longer appetizing, they may be inclined to throw it out considering the low personal financial cost of that 50-cent banana. What the consumer may not consider is all the energy and resources expended into getting that banana to their fruit bowl - the fertilizer produced at a factory with a considerable carbon footprint, the water to spur growth, the fuel used to carry bananas via trucks, ships and airplanes, even what goes into making the sticker that adorns the bananas. The second the banana hits the trash, all the energy emitted is wasted.
Beyond saving meals in these surprise bags, Too Good To Go has challenged itself to become a global resource for food waste, establishing a Knowledge Hub and a range of educational food waste tools for school- and university-aged students. It’s also influencing food waste at a policy level, zeroing in on bringing consistency and clarity to the confusing world of “use by” vs. “best before” vs. “sell by” expiration labels. Food waste due to confusion over date labels is not insignificant - a 2018 European Commission study found that 10 percent of food waste in the European Union can be traced to people misinterpreting these labels. Too Good To Go has been partnering with local and national governments as well as businesses around the EU to harmonize these expiry labels and bring awareness around safe food consumption.
As part of this cultural anti-food waste wave Too Good To Go is generating, the company’s social feeds are flooded with helpful tips and guides to preventing food waste. Even the craftiest food savers have something to gain from perusing its posts, like pouring unused coffee into ice cube holders or turning pineapple peels into iced tea.
So yes, when Too Good To Go does eventually enter the Atlanta market, I can guarantee it will have at least one happy customer. Until then, I’ll continue to refresh its Instagram page for city launches and sip on my new favorite drink: pineapple iced tea.
Image credit: Too Good To Go
Based in Atlanta, GA, Grant is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer passionate about affordable housing and finding sustainable approaches to international development. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.