A Denmark-based company has launched a unique program in Kingston to help local businesses and consumers prevent food waste.
Too Good to Go, founded in Copenhagen in 2016, first launched in Canada in July 2021 in major cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Now the company is working its way across the country, connecting grocery and convenience stores, restaurants and any business that offers food items for sale with consumers interested in purchasing items that would otherwise be thrown away, at a third of their retail value.
“We are the world’s largest marketplace for selling surplus food,” Sarah Soteroff, public relations manager for Too Good to Go in North America, told the Whig-Standard on Monday.
Businesses can upload “surprise bags” of items for sale at one third of their original value onto a web- or mobile-based application. Consumers can filter by store, restaurant, or category to find items available for purchase, including prepared meals, groceries, baked goods and more.
“We put a value amount, and you’ll get any number of items within that value amount,” Soteroff explained. “If you see something listed at $7.99, you’re getting something three times that amount of food in the amount. You pay the reduced rate, the store recuperates some of what would have been lost revenue that they would either have to throw away, or give away or turn into something else. We take a small fee and then the consumer pays a reduced amount for a great amount of food.”
According to statistics gathered in 2022 by the National Zero Waste Council and published by Love Food Hate Waste Canada, a national campaign aimed at helping Canadians reduce their food waste, 63 per cent of the food that Canadians throw away could have been eaten.
In Canada, that food waste amounts to nearly 2.3 million tonnes of household food — approximately $20 billion worth — being thrown out.
“Our goal is really to reduce food waste across Canada and globally, but the secondary benefits are for the consumer to get a low cost on food and for the business to be able to recover some revenue,” Soteroff said. “We know their margins are really tight.”
Currently, 25 Kingston businesses have signed up to the app to sell their surplus food items, with more being added. There is no fee for uploading items, and no fee for downloading the app, but Too Good to Go takes a flat fee for each surprise bag sold.
“Literally anywhere that sells food has surplus food, so literally anyone can be on the app,” Soteroff said.
In just under two years, the company claims to have saved two million meals in Canada. With the cost of food in 2023, the impact will be felt, Soteroff said.
“For consumers, we’ve been able to save them more than $25 million on food that they’d otherwise pay full price for,” she said.
Since its launch in 2021, Canadian businesses have earned more than $9 million on food that would otherwise have lost revenue, Soteroff said.
“Food waste is a huge, massive global issue,” she said. “Canada is an even bigger culprit for food waste. Around the world, 40 per cent of all the food we produce goes to waste. In Canada, that number is 58 per cent.”
That number was arrived at by Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charitable organization, during a year-long research project from which the organization produced the 2021 Avoidable Food Waste technical report and road map, in partnership with Value Chain Management International.
That report found that nearly 60 per cent of food produced in Canada is thrown out each year, with 32 per cent of that being edible food that could have been used.
That waste accounts for 56.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, Second Harvest found in 2021, with food waste and loss making up approximately 60 per cent of the food industry’s environmental footprint.
With food insecurity on the rise in Canada — 6.9 million Canadians live in a food-insecure household, according to 2022 data from Statistics Canada — saving money on groceries is a way to address the increased cost of living and inaccessibility to food. Too Good to Go helps consumers do that, Soteroff said.
“As we are seeing prices increasing, seeing inflation going up, the cost of living is really getting unmanageable,” she said. “if you want to think of ways that you can make money back, saving food is a huge way to do that.”