Last month Copenhagen-based startup Too Good To Go raised $31.1 million to continue on its mission to enable consumers to buy food from retailers that would otherwise have gone to waste.
The company, which operates in 15 countries (including the UK) and has 30 million subscribers to its service runs a marketplace where restaurants, cafes, bakeries and other food outlets place food items that would otherwise be discarded which can then be purchased at reduced costs by consumers.
It has been a challenging year for the company with the impact of Covid-19 being the major cause of a 62% drop in revenue. Still, the investment is a massive thumbs up in both the company and the food re-distribution concept and it will enable Too Good To Go expand its reach globally.
We spoke to Jamie Crummie, co-founder, Too Good To Go, about the potential of the service, the difference between how Europeans and Americans use it and the impact of Covid-19 on the business.
Where did the idea for Too Good To Go come from? What was the eureka moment?
In my previous career in Human Rights Law I spent some time with Amnesty International. It was there that I became aware of the issue of food waste when I was at an event in 2013 that was purely catered for with food which would otherwise have been thrown away. I realised that there must be a simpler and more accessible way to fight food waste than dumpster diving, which led me to explore the impact technology could have. While coming up with a solution, I connected with like-minded entrepreneurs in Copenhagen and we worked together to create Too Good To Go. The rest is history.
And what has been your trajectory since? What are the key markets that you have grown in?
Since we launched in 2016 our growth has been fast-paced. Initially, our focus was on expanding across Europe – ensuring our presence in these markets was strong. Last year we launched our 14th European operation in Sweden, before turning our attention to the USA. Here we have now launched in New York and Boston, with even more expansion is on the cards for 2021.
You recently raised a $31.1 million round. How do you intend to invest that money?
Global food waste is a challenge that requires many solutions. As a company we will continue to rise to this complicated challenge and make a positive impact on the issue in 2021. We will be using this investment to support the rapid growth of our US operation and will continue to work with our partners across Europe, where we’re saving more than 120,000 meals through our app every day.
You are rolling out in the US now. What are the plans there? What lessons have you learned from Europe which might apply to the US. And are there any key differences between the way that consumers use the app in the US and Europe?
The great thing about our app is that it is a simple model that works and this makes it easy to replicate across markets quickly. The only difference between the US and Europe is that the Magic Bag is called a Surprise Bag.
A survey recently commissioned by Too Good To Go in New York City found that while 88% of New Yorkers are concerned about climate change, only 9% understand the direct impact food waste has on climate change. Renewable energy and recycling were ranked higher in terms of climate impact awareness. The need to connect the dots between food waste and climate change in the United States is the same as that seen across Europe.
What would you say has been the main impact that Covid19 has had on your business?
Covid 19 has had two main impacts for us:
Until last March we had become completely accustomed to full supermarket shelves in the West. We had abundant access to whatever food we liked, whenever we wanted it. Food became a commodity we no longer valued or respected.
The pandemic rocked the world, and with it, our attitudes toward food.
For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve prepared multiple meals a day, every day. For others, it’s the first time we’ve cooked from scratch at all.
Nine out of 10 adults report that they are more aware of how much food they are wasting, and over a third of consumers are throwing out less food compared to before the crisis struck. Piece by piece, our appreciation for food is returning.
All industry sectors have been impacted one way or another. Some businesses found themselves not able to meet demand, whilst others suffered excess stock due to closures in the hospitality sector. In short, our supply chain was thrown into complete disarray.
As a result we have found ourselves being able to offer our app solution to businesses further up the supply chain, while adapting our concept to best help businesses who have found themselves opening and closing with very short notice.
How might changing city centres (a process exacerbated by Covid), with fewer offices and less retail outlets impact on your long term goals? I am guessing that a lot of your current users are office workers looking for bargains for either lunch time or to take home at night?
Our business remains as focused on fighting food waste as was did before Covid. The app model works across the entire food industry from manufacturers, distributors, to small independent restaurants and large multinational supermarkets, which means wherever there is surplus food, we’re ready to help save it from going to waste. Whether that is in city centres or more residential areas.
What was the rationale behind your recent Change petition which attempted to get the UK government to change its restrictions on takeaway alcohol? Is lobbying now central to what you do?
The success of the Too Good To Go app powers our wider efforts to drive a food waste movement, working with schools, industries and governments to build a planet-friendly food system. So whether that is lobbying to ensure that policies are in place to prevent food waste, or partnering with food brands to change behaviour towards date labels, we’ll do everything we can in our mission to inspire and empower everyone to fight food waste together. The future of our planet depends on it.
How will Too Good To Go develop in the future? Is there a technology that might help you streamline your process (blockchain/ ai?)
We know our app works across many different territories so for us the plan is to take this to as many markets as possible. We have an ambitious expansion plan in the pipeline for this year, alongside some exciting campaigns to raise more awareness of the issue of food waste, and this will bring us ever closer to our vision of a planet with no food waste.
For more information about Too Good To Go – check the website here. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms.