An app newly launching in Victoria aims to pair consumers looking for cheap eats with cafés and shops with surplus food that might otherwise go to waste at the end of the day.
Too Good To Go.com, which launched in Vancouver in 2021, allows businesses to post “surprise bags” of food that might have gone to employees or been thrown out and sell them on the app for one third of the original price.
Consumers can set their food preferences on the free app and look for green dots near them indicating surplus food available.
Businesses identify a category for the food, such as baked goods, fruits and veggies or prepared foods, but they don’t have to get specific about what’s in the bag, said Sarah Soteroff, senior public relations manager for Too Good To Go in North America.
“We believe in a planet with no food waste, and we believe it’s entirely possible,” Soteroff said.
The company was founded in Denmark in 2016, and operates in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Soteroff said businesses and consumers quickly embraced the app in Vancouver after it launched in July 2021, likely because there’s a vibrant food scene and a strong focus on sustainability in the city.
Many of the businesses that sign up say they were previously giving surplus food to employees or putting it in the green bin for composting, Soteroff said. Some were using creative methods to recycle food, such as using leftover bread to make bread pudding or use in beer, she said.
“If you have something that you know people are producing the same types of food every day, a lot of the time there isn’t a way to be able to upcycle that or to recycle it to employees,” Soteroff said.
The company encourages businesses to donate anything they can to charity, but Soteroff said there are limitations to what can be donated. Sometimes charities only accept large quantities, or don’t have someone available to pick up surplus food each day for donation.
“A lot of charities don’t take just one-off donations of three or four croissants. They might take 200, but a lot of surplus food doesn’t come in that bulk quantity,” she said.
There are 60 businesses in Victoria signed as of the app’s launch on Thursday, including Discovery Café and Yonni’s Doughnuts, 2% Jazz Coffee and 12 7-Eleven locations.
Kara Mudry, director of operations for Discovery Coffee and Yonni’s Doughnuts, said when she was approached by Too Good To Go, her first thought was: “Why not?”
“The idea of being able to recoup some of our costs made a lot of sense, and being able to utilize those doughnuts instead of them going to waste seemed great,” she said.
The company has been piloting the program for a few weeks, offering up bags of doughnuts and muffins a few days a week, and Mudry said she has been surprised by the quick uptake by customers. “Every day that we put them up, people purchase them.”
They continue to donate roughly the same amount of doughnuts as they were previously, but now Mudry is becoming more organized with day-old products to ensure anything that was going to end up in a green bin can be sold through the app, she said.
Sam Jones, owner of 2% Jazz Coffee, said he was shocked when he posted his first bag on the app and it sold in two minutes. Jones said he’s putting products on the app that he would have previously sold as day-olds, something he prefers not to do, because he wants baked goods to be enjoyed fresh.
Knowing that he has an option to sell off surplus products, Jones said he’s willing to make more when bakery cases are running low. “Now I can keep my case nice and full and I know that if there’s any extra someone’s going to eat it, and I’m going to get my costs covered for it,” he said.