Beyond being the world’s largest business-to-consumer marketplace for surplus food, Too Good to Go is a movement. Not only does it offer a win-win-win solution for food, people and the planet — the company seeks to inspire and empower individuals around the world to take action against food waste.
As a local café prepares to close for the day, employees take stock of the leftover inventory: a couple loaves of bread, half a dozen pastries, some pre-wrapped sandwiches that no one bought during the lunchtime rush. In years past, staff may have noted the unsold items, then dumped them in the trash. Today, thanks to a partnership with Too Good to Go, this food will be in someone’s hands by nightfall.
Founded in 2015 and launched in 2016, Too Good to Go is both a company and an app addressing the world’s food waste problem, one meal at a time. Its goal is to connect people with businesses that have surplus food so that this food — approximately 1.3 billion tons or one-third of global food production annually) — does not go to waste.
The impact of food waste has many different layers: It causes extensive damage to the land and sea, creates unnecessary energy loss, wastes water, is an economic loss, and has a massive carbon footprint.
“Time is ticking. Climate change is real, and mitigating food waste is the best way to fight it,” said Jonas Mallisse, Too Good to Go’s head of expansion in the United States.
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In the cities the company serves, businesses such as restaurants, supermarkets and hotels can add their food surplus to the app. Consumers can view and order the discounted offers available from these businesses but don’t know exactly what they’ll receive until they pick it up. The surprise element adds to the fun, but it’s also good for the environment: Picking up just one Surprise Bag rather than letting the food go to waste saves about 2.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.
Originally launched in Copenhagen, Denmark, Too Good to Go users have saved more than 68 million meals across 15 countries through the app to date. Yet, it is aggressively growing to help mitigate food waste around the world. The Certified B Corporation arrived in the US in late 2020, and US users have saved more than 300,000 meals in just under a year. The service is currently available in several major East Coast and West Coast cities. Ultimately, Too Good to Go plans to operate out of six US hubs, each one based in a different geographical region, to eventually cover the entire country.
The company’s future growth won’t stop there: Mallisse said the company has plans to launch in Canada this summer and continue expanding its service throughout Europe in the near future.
“A lot of our major brands have asked us to expand in Central and Eastern Europe, so we know we have potential partners. We know people want to fight food waste in those regions,” he said. Global reach is the goal, though; and Too Good to Go eventually hopes to operate in Asia, Latin America and Africa, as well.
But beyond being the world’s largest business-to-consumer marketplace for surplus food, Too Good to Go is a movement. Not only does it offer a win-win-win solution for food, people and the planet — the company seeks to inspire and empower individuals around the world to take action against food waste.
“Before we can become an authority when it comes too food waste, we need to make sure we have coverage, that people know about us, and people actually understand they can make a difference with a small action — [including] ordering a meal through Too Good to Go,” Mallisse said.
In many communities where Too Good to Go operates, it is also involved with public affairs initiatives and helps inform food policy on a broader scale. This includes finding ways to address the issue in households, where more than half of food waste occurs.
“If you want to address food waste, you have to change mindsets. We need to inspire people to take action also at home, not only in restaurants and bakeries,” Mallisse said. One of the company’s recent campaigns involved working with policymakers to educate people about the difference between “best by” dates and “use by” dates, which cause confusion for consumers.
Additionally, Too Good to Go works with hunger-relief organizations such as food banks in every city it operates in, to address food scarcity: “Food waste and food security go hand-in-hand, and we have ambitious plans to work with several big organizations at the moment to see how we can make an even bigger impact there.”
At first glance, Too Good to Go may appear to be an app saving delicious meals from the dumpster. Yet, this multi-faceted challenge must be tackled from multiple angles. The company’s extensive partnership network, policy work and campaigns, and expansion plans signal its commitment to address not just food waste but related issues, as well.
“It’s a recent problem, it’s a complex problem,” Mallisse said, “and it’s a problem that we’re not going to solve alone at Too Good to Go.”