From farm to fork, food is wasted every step of the way: there are products that are not harvested or that are selected for their quality (or inferior beauty); fruits which deteriorate during transport; supermarket overstock that is thrown away; and restaurant dishes that don’t sell out on time. Consumers aren’t innocent either: I’m sure I’m not the only one who bought kale in a moment of reckless optimism, only to immediately forget it in the fridge. In short, food waste is a complicated problem that requires many solutions.
A potential solution has just arrived in Toronto, in the form of an app already popular across Europe: Too good to go, designed to help restaurants and grocery stores sell – and help people rescue – excess food “before it’s too late”. (The idea is not entirely unique: Toronto’s own Instant food is a similar anti-waste app, but focuses on selling items near their expiration date in large supermarkets.) 12 percent preventable food loss / waste in Canada occurs at the retail stage, according to a recent study by consulting firm VCMI.
How Too Good to Go works for diners: Much like you would order a meal on, say, Ritual, you can buy food at a local restaurant, bakery, cafe, or specialty grocer, for pickup in a specific window. . The app launched with just under 100 partners in Toronto, with Eataly, Greenhouse and Fresh City among the most well-known names.
The price of food is to please the thrifty, usually about a third of the usual cost. The twist: you buy a “surprise bag”, containing whatever is left over in that place at that time.
To check out the process firsthand, I made purchases at three companies shortly after launch. The first stop was the candle juice greenhouse. Advantage: The pickup was quick and easy (as it was everywhere I tried). Downside: The mystery bag ($ 6.99) contained two large bottles of organic cold-pressed juice (normally $ 30) – made entirely from my least favorite vegetable, celery. Takeaway: If you’re picky about what to eat or not eat, this app concept might not be for you.
My second stop, a bakery where I had hoped for their homemade cinnamon buns, yielded a chickpea salad, macaroni and cheese, and slightly less exciting sandwiches. (Retailers cannot reliably predict food waste, hence the surprise effect.) The last place, a delicatessen, provided a bag laden with more ready-made meals than I could reasonably have consumed at home. time.
Overall, the app appears to be achieving its goals: to date, the company claims to have saved more than 84 million meals in 15 countries. (Expect a rollout to other Canadian cities over the next few months.) It doesn’t solve all of our complex problems with food waste, but it’s a starter.