The numbers say it all: Forty percent of food in the United States ends up in the trash can.
If you want to help reduce your carbon emissions, and get discounts on the foods you love, there's a solution: the Too Good to Go, an app that connects businesses that want to eliminate their food waste and recoup lost revenue by selling their surplus food at a discounted price to consumers.
Stirring up buzz and savings in cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the service is currently available to Miami residents and is expanding to Tampa and Orlando this month. The biggest motivation for users is to limit greenhouse emissions.
Before Sarah Soteroff became Too Good to Go's senior public relations manager for the U.S. and Canada, she was meticulous about limiting food waste. Now, she uses the app every day.
"Because I love deals, and also love food that would otherwise go to waste," she says, adding that a key part of the business is connecting consumers with businesses.
"We provide a way for consumers to purchase food at a steep discount — as much as half-priced. And the business recoups some of the money they would otherwise lose by throwing it away," Soteroff says.
The service is viewed as a win-win for consumers and businesses. Via the Too Good to Go app, users can score anything from chips just past their "best by" dates to one-day-old bread or cupcakes from some of the most desirable eateries in Miami, including El Bagel and Misha's Cupcakes.
"We see Miami as an important city for us to grow in," Chris MacAulay, managing director for Too Good to Go's U.S. markets, tells New Times. "It's one of those cities that we feel has the right combination of food partners and consumers to take advantage of what we are doing. We can make the most impact here, with such a density of businesses and people wanting to save, particularly amid the current climate of inflation."
Businesses — mainly restaurants, supermarkets, and cafés — can list their surplus food on the app. There's no major commitment because businesses can post whenever they have extra food to sell, and there's no option for delivery. People can just pick up their purchases during a company-selected window. On average, customers become repeat customers, too, so it's like free advertising.
Currently, the company has more than 12,000 partners and has saved more than 4.1 million meals. The company launched in Denmark in 2016 and four years later made its stateside debut in New York. Since moving to Miami, the company says it has partnered with more than 170 grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, bakeries, and more, saving Miamians hundreds of thousands of dollars on food.
According to MacAulay, there are more than 70 participating restaurants in Miami, including Talkin' Tacos, Panther Coffee, Pizza Rustica, Misha's Cupcakes, El Bagel, and Just Salad, with bags starting in the $5 range for offerings that would typically be $15-plus.
"We're really just starting to scratch the surface," says MacAulay. "We want to tap into the localized food types – we're thinking Cuban restaurants and more Latino-based food businesses for Miami. We are certainly looking to expand."
As Too Good to Go's popularity gains steam across Florida, MacAulay has some advice for those wanting to secure goodies from their favorite spots.
"Once you get a better sense of who is participating, definitely use the favorite button to track the places you get great "Surprise Bags" from," he says. "You may also need to use your phone's alarm system to check the app at a certain time. Some of these bags go very fast."
Customers use Too Good to Go for different reasons. Soteroff's brother is in college and uses the app to save money, while her parents like to check the app to see what's available as part of their weekly shopping. And if she wants to bring snacks into the office, Soteroff can check to see what's available that morning.
“We’re always updating the variety, and the stores are always being added. There’s always more to see,” Soteroff says. If you want to see what your options are, just add your location to the app, choose the distance you're willing to drive, and you can adjust it based on wherever you are at that moment. You can see what the original cost of the item is and what's available."