Too Good To Go, an app that connects consumers with surplus food from local restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores and sells product at a third of the list price, is gaining ground in its mission to fight food waste—one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gases.
The company was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2016, and quickly expanded to 14 countries before coming to the U.S. in September 2020. It has since amassed more than 500,000 app users domestically, in addition to 37 million users globally. To date, the company says it has saved over 70 million meals worldwide through partnerships with more than 87,000 local food businesses.
The B Corp–certified company made its U.S. debut with over 2,200 food shop partners across New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In just seven months, the participation of U.S. app users saved more than 250,000 meals, which the company translates to equal the carbon footprint of 702 flights between New York and London.
This week, Too Good To Go is expanding to the West Coast, as 100 restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and grocery stores in California, Oregon, and Washington have signed on as partners.
Fortune recently chatted with cofounder Lucie Basch to learn more about the company’s goals and objectives, what it was like to expand from Europe to the U.S. market, and where it plans to go from here.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: What inspired you to launch Too Good To Go? What is the company’s mission?
One day I was passing by a bakery, and the baker was throwing away a lot of great products. I asked if I could have them, but the baker said he wasn’t allowed to donate the food. So I paid for it, and he ended up giving me three times more than what I had paid for. That made a light bulb go off. This is something that could happen every evening at every local food store. It’s been five years since that day, and we have now saved over 71 million meals, thanks to this super simple concept.
At Too Good To Go, our mission is to inspire and empower everyone to take action against food waste. By connecting app users to delicious surplus food at restaurants, eateries, cafés, and grocery stores at the end of each business day, Too Good To Go presents our partners and users with an easy, fun and accessible way to fight food waste on a daily basis.
A great deal of Too Good To Go’s success seems to rely on partnerships with restaurants, cafés, bakeries, grocery stores, and other food sellers. How do you go about connecting with these businesses? What are you looking for, and what are the requirements and goals on their end, too?
We have an amazing team of Too Good To Go Waste Warriors on the ground in every city where we operate. We’ve found that by visiting local eateries in person, we can sit down and have great conversations with these businesses about the issue of food waste—and how to tackle it.
We often hear from store owners that they have actually been looking for a solution like ours. The majority of Surprise Bags contain fresh, prepared, and perishable foods—like a few slices of pizza, an extra sushi roll, a mix of pastries, a cup of soup, or a pint of ice cream—that are discarded at the end of that day. The small, consumer-sized volumes of food often can’t effectively be redistributed to food banks or homeless shelters. This is where we fill the gap in the food rescue ecosystem, and our strategy of launching in high-density, urban areas makes it easy for consumers to pick up this surplus.
We want to work with any establishment that is throwing away surplus food at closing time. Our partners choose us because we help their business operate more sustainably with ease.
By creating a solution for those in the food industry that is just as easy as throwing food away, Too Good To Go allows store owners to profit from fresh food that would otherwise be tossed, while recouping operational and food production costs. Many of our partners have also seen new customers who discover their store through the Too Good To Go app turn into regulars.
The app launched a while ago but only came to the U.S. last year. What kind of hurdles did you face expanding into the U.S. market? What has the reception been like?
The response in the U.S. market has been incredible. We were cautiously optimistic when we first launched in New York City and Boston, as we did so during the pandemic.
However, Americans have really embraced the concept of fighting food waste while supporting local businesses and acting sustainably in a fun way. We’ve seen faster growth here than in any of the European countries we’ve launched in to date.
We’re so excited for today’s launch in the Bay Area, and plan to be in many of the major U.S. cities by the end of 2021. We are also expanding to Seattle and Portland in the next two weeks.
Looking forward, where do you want to see Too Good To Go in five years?
In five years, we’d ideally like Too Good To Go to be available everywhere in North America, from big cities to small towns. While we’re currently focused on spreading the word about our app—as well as raising awareness about the massive food waste issue and its implications for climate change—we also want to start thinking about how we can have a greater impact beyond our app here in the U.S.
For example, we’d love to help inform U.S. food policies, especially when it comes to date labeling. We’ve already seen great success with this in Europe and are eager to kick-start the same momentum stateside.
In the U.K., we’ve recently partnered with many influential food brands on a date labeling campaign, which is raising awareness around the differences between “use by” and “best by” dates, and how they often contribute to the issue of food waste.
Similarly in France, we created an anti–food-waste pact where over 40 food and beverage companies, like Nestlé and Danone, partnered with us to reduce the “Best Before” and “Use By” date labeling confusion on their products. We have also worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and mayors in France and Belgium to help inform policy and improve practices around food waste prevention.
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