Too Good To Go founder Jamie Crummie: 'It's a win:win solution for businesses not wanting to throw food away'

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Too Good To Go co-founder Jamie Crummie

We have all been guilty of forgetting about a mouldy bag of salad at the back of the fridge or cooking slightly too much food and chucking the rest.

On their own, these efforts can be harmless yet combined they paint a much darker picture.

Each year, over 10m tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK, which is estimated to be worth £17bn a year. One of the main culprits is the nation’s restaurant business, which is often left with no choice but to throw away fresh food it hasn’t sold that day. But this food, from sushi rolls to freshly-baked dough represents a huge loss to the businesses, the environment and the mouths of hungry potential customers.

This malpractice urged Jamie Crummie and a group of entrepreneurs across Europe to set up Too Good To Go, a food sharing app which sells food going out of date at a reduced price to nearby customers. By downloading the free app, customers can search nearby areas and purchase a ‘magic bag’ filled with a selection of food which would have otherwise ended up in the waste bin.

“I realised not everyone wants to go dumpster diving to save food, so started asking if there was a way before it gets in the bin to make it reach more people,” Crummie says. “We started to ask how we can stop food waste being an issue and what are the things we can do is to get people engaged and raise awareness.”

Crummie has always been motivated by social and environmental justice, but it wasn’t until he began working in events that he properly came into contact with food waste. He would often attend large catering events for over 1000 attendees and witness huge amounts of good quality, edible food waste going to landfill.

Happy customers

So in June 2015, Crummie and his co-founders began to lay the foundations for Too Good To Go as a website. “It was totally self-funded and not particularly fancy- back in 2015 we did think no one would use an app so the product started as a not very good website.

“We see it as a win/win solution for businesses not wanting to throw food away. There’s an emotional and physical connect to that food and no one wants to see it being thrown away. We use a very low operational and time efficient model that allows businesses to relay some of the costs.”

Customers check the app by searching within their location for any restaurants offering food. They then schedule a time to pick up the goodybag and pay through the app, where the money is held by Too Good To Go before it is paid to partners minus a fee.

Too Good To Go works with businesses and schools to educate them on food waste. Its core user base is between 25-45, but is increasingly seeing older generations use the platform, and is now being pitched as an affordable way to treat the kids to what Crummie calls a ‘Kinder Surprise’ of food.

It predicts that it costs around 97p per plate of food in waste disposal costs, so not only are businesses recovering the costs of ingredients but are also lured in by a potential waste disposal saving.

The app now operates in over 110 different towns and cities in the UK and 11 countries across Europe including France, Germany, Spain and Italy. It now hosts 1,627 partner stores across the country and has so far saved over 629,450 meals.

So as well as connecting customers to restaurants, Too Good To Go also aims educate and alleviate the disconnect between climate change and food waste. Crummie continues: “We are trying to bridge that gap and raise awareness in the consumer mindset as well as businesses to see that connection. We can then start having more respect for food and understanding in the long term.”

New flavours

Crummie is keen to market the app as an exploration for customers to try new foods and flavours and not just reduce food waste. “Ethical spending in general is really on the rise and it falls into that sphere. It creates a conversation where large retailers are taking on borad what we want as consumers and committing to changing the way that they interact with food waste.

Plenty of businesses are finally waking up to their wasteful practices and now work with organisations such as FareShare to redistribute food to those in poverty. Could Too Good To Go there potentially be taking from these vulnerable people and instead offering it to those who can afford it?

Crummie’s previous experience at Amnesty International means he is well-rehearsed in the complexities of poverty and social injustice, and immediately dismisses the claim. He says: “Feeding people is never going to cure poverty, I think that’s something we need to understand. All it does is offer a first response to help some of these charities and the amazing work they’re doing.

“Businesses shouldn’t be throwing food away, nor should us as households. It’s [Too Good To Go] about making people aware that food waste is happening as we can be in denial about it. When food waste is having such a devastating impact, we are trying to raise awareness and engage people.”

Getting people engaged in a topic that isn’t as visibly as other environmental concerns can be a challenge. Unlike issues such as plastic waste, where there is an obvious cause and effect, most of the impact of food waste is caused in the production and distribution of the food.

Too Good To Go has therefore taken on an informal and chatty approach to marketing and customer communication to create a more genuine connection. Crummie says: “There is a challenge to create that emotional and physical connection with consumers and food and see the impact of what throwing food actually causes.

“When you look at climate change in general, you can very much fixate on the doom and gloom. But what we’re trying to do is drive engagement by being fun and actually empowering people to take action against something. Rather than focussing on user set up, why not enjoy this relationship with food and enjoying and discovering new flavours.”

Food waste is now certainly on Defra’s agenda, given this year has seen the introduction first Food and Waste Champion, Ben Eliot, who will work with businesses and advise Defra on proposals for a food waste fund. Major brands including Nestlé, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have also signed a food waste pledge to have food waste by 2030.

Crummie naturally welcomes the movement, but wants to see a more developed policy. “A voluntary agreement is a step in the right direction but it would be great to see something much more concrete which would ensure these things were going on.

“If companies are complying to certain standards, then they should be held accountable. We should also champion those who are doing the right thing.”

So is this happening at the moment?“Probably not,” says Crummie. “We can see there’s a shift but we’ve got to make sure this momentum continues and that real change happens.”

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