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Eliminating Food Waste in Canada - One Croissant at a Time

Too Good To Go

2. Zero Hunger 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 17. Partnerships for the Goals

Overview

The triple bottom line of sustainability is Environment, Society, and Economy. The mobile application, Too Good To Go, reduces food waste by connecting businesses and consumers to save unsold, “too good” to be thrown away food items from landfills. Since food waste is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, providing a solution to this issue benefits the Environment (SDG 12. Responsible Consumption and Production & 13. Climate Action). The service contributes to the Economy by allowing businesses to generate profits from surplus food as well as providing added exposure and opportunity to earn new customers. Consumers also enjoy accessing quality food for less while helping local businesses and having a platform to facilitate the switch to sustainable consumption habits (SDG 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities). For the benefit of the Society, Too Good To Go Canada has a partnership with a local non-profit organization called Daily Bread Food Bank to contribute to the issue of food insecurity (SDGs 2. Zero Hunger & 17. Partnerships for the Goals).

Author

Nagomi Mukai

Nagomi Mukai

School

York University- Schulich School of Business

York University- Schulich School of Business

Professor

Charles Cho

Charles Cho

Innovation

Too Good To Go exists to tackle food waste, one of the most pressing issues in today’s society. After five years since the business launched in Europe, Too Good To Go started its Canadian operation in July 2021. Expanding gradually but steadily, they are now available in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal with plans to add more cities in near future. Canadian consumers and government officials eagerly welcomed Too Good To Go as a solution to redeem their country from the dishonorable status; Canada wastes 50% of the food it consumes, much more than the global average of 40%. Too Good To Go takes two approaches to eliminate food waste. Firstly, they aim to ensure that the food that is perfectly good to eat does not end up in the landfill. Secondly, they strive to change people’s perspectives on their daily food consumption by providing educational materials and raising awareness of the issue.


Too Good To Go operates a mobile application where businesses like restaurants and cafes can sell leftover products to consumers who enjoy purchasing good quality food for a third of the retail price. Customers download the app for free and browse deals in their neighborhood, make a selection and a payment, and visit the store to pick up the bag at the designated time. Unlike food delivery apps, they will never offer delivery options to minimize the carbon footprint. And what makes the service unique is the “Surprise Bag” function. Except for some basic information like whether it is vegetarian or vegan, users will not know what exactly they are picking up.


It is truly a win-win-win proposition. For businesses, the Surprise Bag functions make the process practical and convenient. It will accommodate the unpredictable nature of food waste by allowing them to put whatever surplus food they have in a bag and add value to it. For consumers, Too Good To Go helps them access quality food for less, empowers them to support local businesses, and assists them to make sustainable consumption choices. Finally, reducing food waste is crucial for slowing down climate change as it is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the company website, $1.2 trillion worth of food is wasted and “if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases”.

Eliminating Food Waste in Canada - One Croissant at a Time

Inspiration

Too Good To Go was founded in 2016 by four people in Denmark. It all began from an idea Lucie Basch, Co-Founder and current Chief Expansion Officer, had when she was working for a global giant food processing company. During her time there, she witnessed a ton of food waste due to minor packaging issues like misspelling rather than quality issues. And because of the volume of food they produced, the amount of waste was immense. And she realized that this issue exists at every level of food-related businesses such as a grocery store discarding bruised apples. Lucie began to work alongside environmentalist entrepreneurs to create a platform that facilitates and encourages people to take action against food waste. Their strategy worked well and Too Good To Go has become the biggest app of its kind, available in 17 countries across the globe.

The interviewee, Sarah Soteroff, found her passion in communication and public policy through her education and her time at several advertising agencies. After years of serving multiple clients at once, she began to seek an in-house role where she could commit and devote herself to one business, and discovered the opportunity at Too Good To Go. She thoroughly enjoys her role as a PR Manager where she can merge her expertise in communication, her interests in social impact business, and her passion for public policy. Too Good To Go is a certified B-Corp with a solid business function. In her own words, the business “has missions that we care so much but we are not fully altruistic. We recognize the needs for profitability behind the missions, because otherwise, we cannot sustain our business and provide services to our clients and customers”.

Overall impact

So far, Too Good To Go has saved over 120 million meals, had 52.9 million users and acquired 141,000 businesses partners globally. They have achieved all 4 of the goals they set towards 2020: 1) Inspiring 50 million people to use the service, 2) working with 75,000 businesses, 3) collaborating with 500 schools to hold events, and 4) impacting regulations in 5 countries to reduce the food waste.

Launched less than a year ago, Too Good To Go Canada is still in the process of building brand recognition. Therefore, Canada’s market-specific goals for 2021 were to have a successful launch in 3 major cities, to have high customer satisfaction rates, and to build long-lasting partnerships with local businesses. January 2022 was their most successful month, despite the cities being under full lockdowns and the brutal Canadian cold weather of minus 20 Celsius. To date, 1,807 stores sold Surprise Bags, 270,139 people registered on the mobile app, 225,155 meals were saved in Canada. These data confirms the growing demand for Too Good To Go in Canada and urges the company to expand its reach.

Business benefit

The source of revenue for Too Good To Go is the small amount of commission fees earned on every sale made on the mobile app. The business becomes more profitable, the more partners sell their leftover food in the Surprise Bag to customers. This business model promotes a positive and healthy relationship between the company and its partners where Too Good To Go is incentivized to minimize the burden on the partner’s end and set them up for success.

For businesses such as cafes, grocery stores, and restaurants, partnering with Too Good To Go has two major benefits. Firstly, they can generate income from the surplus food that would otherwise be thrown away. Though the profit from Surprise Bag may be small, incrementally, there can be thousands of dollars saved per year which is a significant difference for small businesses. Secondly, being on the app provides them with added exposure to a wider range of consumers. According to Soteroff, many Canadian partners told her how the affordable price of Surprise Bag encourages people to give the food the first try, and many happy customers will return to purchase full-priced items. The ability to save surplus food was especially appreciated during the pandemic when consumer behaviour dramatically changed. For example, cafes located in downtown Toronto were experiencing challenges to relearn and adapt to new consumption patterns because their customers were no longer commuting to the offices and grabbing breakfast and coffee before their work. The flexibility of the system of Too Good To Go works wonders for such businesses.

Social and environmental benefit

Too Good To Go takes its social and environmental responsibilities seriously and values investment in activities that help them achieve its ultimate mission. For instance, Too Good To Go strives to contribute to the issue of food insecurity by encouraging partners to donate whenever possible. In every market, Too Good To Go has partnerships with local non-profit organizations, and in Canada, they partnered up with the Daily Bread Food Bank. The platform also allows its customers to make monetary donations to the organization.

Too Good To Go believes that educating people and raising awareness of the issue is essential for a long-lasting impact in reducing food waste. They provide free materials on the website for school teachers and offer educational content through their social media channels for people of all ages. In France, the company has been working with the Department of Education to change the curriculum. Soteroff hopes to assimilate this initiative in Canada in the future.

The conservative regulations in Canada make food donation difficult and force food that is in perfectly fine condition to end up in landfills. In established markets like France, Too Good To Go works with the government and large corporations to change the labelling on food to reduce said waste. Soteroff revealed that they will also soon begin to work with the Canadian government to change how food labelling functions.

Soteroff discusses Too Good To Go’s positioning as follows: “While at the core we’re a sustainable company and a B-Corp, we believe that you don’t have to be a breathing green, sustainable-focused person to reduce food waste because at the end of the day, food waste comes from everywhere”. She continues by stating that while many users are socially and environmentally inclined, it is often not their primary driver. Many users are students on a budget with interests in trying and exploring good food in their neighborhood. Others may use the app to save money on groceries. Making the service simple and convenient for users was the key to success in changing their consumption habits. The company has created an inviting space for everyone to take actions towards sustainability regardless of the level of commitment they are prepared for.

As the sense of urgency to tackle climate change rises, individual efforts to lessen their daily carbon footprint become more essential than ever. Since food waste is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating food waste is extremely important in reducing emissions and slowing down climate change. And because food plays such a vital part in our life, it is necessary to educate people on the consequence of the food waste issue and motivate them to make changes in their daily food consumption habits. From this perspective, Too Good To Go’s business model could be an exceptional example for the future of sustainable businesses.

Interview

Sarah Soteroff, PR Manager

Photo of interviewee

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Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go

Toronto, CA

Business Website: https://toogoodtogo.ca/en-ca

Year Founded: 2021

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Too Good To Go is a mobile application that connects businesses and consumers to save unsold, still-good-to-eat food from landfills. It strives to tackle the global food waste issue by operating a user-friendly platform as well as by educating people and raising awareness of the issue.