Too Good To Go There’s an app that helps reduce food waste and saves you money
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At Vita Health Fresh Markets, like so many other food retailers and restaurants, wasting food is a scourge to their business.
The company has undertaken all sorts of ways to deal with that – upcycling produce into freshly made soups and salads, making spoiled produce available to farmers for livestock feed and providing some for people to use as compost.
So when company president Mathew Holtmann heard about a new app that was launching in Winnipeg called Too Good To Go he was keen to try it.
The easy-to-use service allows stores to package food that is getting close to the end into “surprise bags” sold to consumers for one-third the retail price and available to pick up during specified hours of the day.
“I could not see a reason not to try it,” Holtmann said.
It’s only been live in Winnipeg for about a week — it is the 10th Canadian city after being introduced to Canada last summer — but the Danish-based company has already attracted close to 100 Winnipeg stores and restaurants to participate.
With a focused mission on eliminating food waste — which is responsible for 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally — the operation has been getting good traction everywhere they operate.
The app does not do much segmentation, but consumers can see if an offering is from a bakery or a pizza shop or a grocery store so they can have some idea of what the “surprise bag” contains. The app posts how many offerings each store may have and the time window in which to pick it up.
The stores have the flexibility of not having to commit to what they sell on the app until they know, for instance, what fresh product is not going to be able to sold that day for full price.
Holtmann said that while Vita Fresh Markets has only had limited experience, it is very simple to use.
Consumers pay on the app and just have to come in and pick it up.
Sam Kashani, the company’s head of operations in Canada, said, the company has a singular focus on social impact and looks at the entire value chain to provide that.
“The vision is around democratizing the fight against food waste” he said. “We want to get everyone involved.”
Too Good to Go is a certified B Corp — which means that it is not solely about the bottom line. The company collects a small fee for every transaction.
“Our app is a tool for Canadians to help reduce food waste,” Kashani said. “There is lots of indirect investment around advocacy awareness and at-home recipes on our website. Bringing food waste to the top of mind for Canadians is a key initiative and task so that we can help reduce food waste to help impact climate change.”
“The vision is around democratizing the fight against food waste… We want to get everyone involved.” – Sam Kashani
In Europe it is involved in lobby governments around the date labelling issue.
“Lots of food in Canada is wasted simply because of best before date labelling,” Kashani said. “It creates confusion. Our mission in Canada goes well beyond the app.”
He said, “In the coming year we want to educate Canadians about messaging that says, ‘If in doubt, throw it out’. That’s the kind of language that compounds the food waste issue.”
The company partners with local food-oriented charities and the app prominently features a button to allow for donations to Harvest Manitoba.
Vita Fresh Markets donates about $200,000 worth of food to food banks and soup kitchens every year but Kashani believes there is not much concern about stores diverting food to the app that might have otherwise been donated to food banks. (A spokesperson at Harvest Manitoba was unavailable for comment.)
Globally, an astounding 40 per cent of food is wasted. In Canada it is closer to 60 per cent.
With inflationary pressure driving up prices on just about everything in the grocery stores, it means food insecurity is becoming even more widespread.
Holtmann said that the timing for a tool like this is right. He noted that while interest had been building around dealing with food waste before the pandemic, some of that momentum has been lost after businesses shut down during the public health crisis and that disruption distracted people from that issue.
“Too Good to Go aligns with a lot of thing that are resonating with consumers at the same time,” Holtman said. “Consumers are trying to find value, we’re all trying to minimize waste and from a business perspective the more we are able to minimize waste, the better we are able to keep price down for the everything else in the store.”
”We’re all trying to minimize waste and from a business perspective the more we are able to minimize waste, the better we are able to keep price down for the everything else in the store.” – Mathew Holtmann
In its first year of operation in Canada Too Good to Go has facilitated the sale of more than 700,000 “surprise bags” saving consumers about $8.4 million and about 3,500 bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and other food stores across the country have earned close to $3 million selling food they might otherwise have thrown out.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.