In a world of over 7,8 billion people, with a great disproportion in economic availability between people living in the North and South of the world, food waste is a drift we cannot afford. In order to change this scene, recover the fresh and unsold food of the day destined to end up in landfills, a system was created that allows people to buy food at a very cheap price. A win-win solution, born in Denmark in 2015 and spreading throughout Western Europe in a few years, is Too Good To Go app.
To understand how it works and what we can expect in the future, we interviewed Eugenio Sapora, head of Too Good To Go Italy.
How did the idea for Too Good To Go come about?
The idea of Too Good To Go was born in 2015 by a group of Danish students wanting to find a solution against food waste through a simple, flexible and effective model. This is how Too Good To Go app was created: a solution that in a few simple clicks allows businesses to reduce their waste by selling “Magic Box”, boxes containing products unsold of the day, and users to save products still fresh, which otherwise would be wasted, buying them at a third of the original price.
How did you come to lead the Italian market for Too Good To Go?
My path towards sustainability began even before joining Too Good To Go. I have a double degree in engineering, and in my career i have held various roles in the Engineering and Research & Development departments within a big energy company in France. The main focus of all my projects has always been connected to reducing energy consumption of industries in different departments including Food & Beverage, Automotive, Plastics and Chemicals. In 2015 I returned to Italy and founded the startup “Alveare che Dice Sì!”, the Italian branch of the French movement “La Ruche qui dit Oui”, which i directed until January 2019, when i became Country Manager of Too Good To Go Italy and I began to lead the operations of the company, forming a first network of both Waste Warriors engaged in the fight against food waste and of stores, key accounts and entrepreneurs ready to join the model of TGTG.
What are the main points that have the greatest hold on people, leading them to use Too Good To Go?
For businesses, certainly the fact that the app is very intuitive and above all is based on a flexible business model: in fact, they just need to insert the availability of boxes, without having to specify what type of products will be inside, relying exclusively on the unsold products of the day. In this way merchants are not obliged to specify which product will be in the box and this allows them not only to reduce food waste but also to save precious time.
Users, on the other hand, have the opportunity to save food that is still good and fresh at a really affordable price.
How is Too Good To Go’s team composed: how many people are there and where are the locations?
In Italy we are about 80 people, divided between different departments like sales, marketing and customer care, while globally we are about 700 and keep growing. Now, we are in 14 countries in Europe and in the United States, specifically in New York, Boston and New Jersey for now.
How many businesses are present with their products on Too Good To Go? And in which way are selected?
Now in Italy we have about 8.000 partners, while globally there are 45.000. We are an instrument to fight food waste and we want to allow everybody to be able to do it through our app: we don’t have specific requirements if you have unsold products that are going to waste, we are here to help you. Of course, we also monitor closely the behaviour of our partner, in order to be sure everyone is focused on our same mission and purpose.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of TGTG? A similar platform, the high amount of food waste or different reasons?
It all started with the idea of fighting food waste. Today a third of all food is wasted and this has not only economic implications, it is estimated that the value of food waste is equal to $1.2 trillion, but also environmental and social. In particular food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, which are crucial for pollution and global warming, and, in addition to this issue, it is necessary to think about the impact that these topics will have on the food security of future generations.
Therefore, our mission consists both in fighting food waste but also in making everyone more aware of this problem to safeguard the planet and next generations.
How would you convince someone to try Too Good To Go?
Our mission is to fight food waste, so I would definitely point to the fact that many are still unaware of this issue. And if this is not enough, I would focus on the simplicity in the use of the app and on the fact that it can be a help for those who need a convenient “dinner saver” (with a few euros you can bring home fresh meals to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner).
How important is sustainability in Too Good To Go?
Sustainability is one of our fundamental pillars. Our mission is based on the idea of fighting food waste and all its consequences to create a better world for future generations; for us, fighting food waste represents much more than a business based on profit: it is the commitment that Too Good To Go has made towards society and the environment. For this reason, in January 2020 we received the B Corp certification, which officially certifies that Too Good To Go is a social impact company that values much more social and environmental aspects than mere profit.
What do you think about the need to reduce environmental impact? Are there any behaviours or choices that you make and you could recommend to others?
I think that every person can make a difference, even with a small gesture such as trying to cook no waste recipes, doing grocery shopping in a conscious way and in general trying to reduce its own carbon footprint for the sake of our planet and environment. In my everyday life I try every day with these small actions to “lead by example” and be sustainable in my choices.
Too Good To Go is in 14 European markets and your focus now is on the East Coast of the United States: what is different between these markets and how do you plan to disseminate in the US?
In the United States 40% of food is wasted: as Too Good To Go we want to make an impact and we couldn’t and can’t ignore this data. This drove us towards the US, a market so much different but at the same time very similar to the European one. Distances are so much bigger but at the same time our model is proving to be effective also in this market, with already hundreds of partners joining our Movement through New York and Boston. In the US there are a lot of different associations and companies fighting food waste (such as Food for All, Transfernation and Food Rescue US, A/N), also some apps similar to us: food waste is a giant problem and every reality ready to fight it can do its part.
What kind of changes have you noticed with the pandemic?
As for everyone, the first lockdown was not easy, we also suffered from the difficult situation because we had a significant decline of our activity, caused by the closure of most shops and businesses. During the second half of 2020, however, we have seen an exponential growth in the number of new businesses joining the app and in the service in general: considering the uncertainty due to closures/openings, Too Good To Go proved to be an ideal choice to avoid waste and, at the same time, attracting new customers.
What projects did you plan and what others can we expect? To do it, do you have any feedback with users and partners who ask or desire something specific?
There have been several, both national and global. For Christmas, we focused on raising awareness against waste of traditional Christmas products and dishes with the campaign “Share-Freeze-Remix”, in order to fight food waste that increases during holidays. Also for the 29th of September, the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, we went live with campaigns to focus the attention of the public on this issue.
Both consumers and partners are eager to learn and share information about food waste: it can seem a well known issue but there is still a lot to do about it.
What are your priorities to spending money raised with the recent funding of € 31 million?
The expansion in the United States for sure, we are planning to spread our action and movement across the country in the next months.
Are you working on new services or features? Can you tell us something about them?
Obviously the app is always being implemented in order to offer everyone, both shopkeepers and users, the best experience. We have recently been focusing also on manufacturers, those producers that have products close to the expiry date and can’t find another way to make the arrive to the market. Thanks to Too Good To Go we are being able to save also the products from this step of the supply chain.
How did the Italians react to the arrival of Too Good To Go?
Since the beginning the feedback has been very positive, not only on users’ side, we have reached 1.700,000 Magic Box sold in less than two years of activity, but also stores seem very interested in the project. Everyday we receive lots of requests from businesses that want to become a part of our network against food waste.
How many cities are covered today? What difficulties are there in developing in smaller towns?
Actually we had very positive feedback in Italy: in almost two years, more than 8000 partners use the app in more than 40 (big) cities, with over 2 million registered users. The difficulty concerns basically the mentality of businesses and users, who are not always receptive to the food waste topic as a real problem: this is a common issue not only in Europe but also all over the world, and for that reason Too Good To Go invested a substantial part of the app revenues in information projects and awareness campaigns. Our plan in Italy for 2021 is focusing more and more also on medium and small cities, with the goal to be completely able to offer our means against food waste to everybody.
What role can Too Good To Go play to influence people’s mentality regarding the reduction of food waste?
Our goal is also to raise awareness so that fighting this problem will become a common goal. For this reason, in addition to our core business as app against food waste, we have integrated a department within Too Good To Go called “Movement“- Movement against food waste, that promotes all-round initiatives against waste, along the supply chain and towards consumers, to raise awareness and help to identify the best actions to fight food waste.
What are Too Good To Go’s medium and long-term goals?
For Too Good To Go Italy our focus is the expansion into smaller cities. Two years after the launch and having conquered almost all the main Italian cities, our goal is to expand into neighboring areas in order to create a real anti waste network. On a global level, expanding upon other countries is certainly one of our main objectives, in addition to raising awareness on the issue of food waste.
Will there ever be a gourmet version of Too Good To Go?
Restaurants can already be part of Too Good To Go: high cuisine and the peculiar Italian restaurant model with its express-made dishes are of course less subject to food waste because every course is prepared after a specific request and cooked in that precise moment. In other countries there are already many restaurants using the app, and also starred restaurants.