French app Too Good To Go is coming after American food waste

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When she began her career at Nestlé, in close contact with the company’s production plants, Lucie Basch was stunned by the volume of food that was thrown away every day. “I realized that every day we throw away a third of the food produced in the world. I wanted to make people aware of this issue and connect them through an app. The idea of the start-up then germinated: an application that could connect local merchants with unsold goods, to citizens who would pay a bargain price to collect them at closing time. Each user pays between 3 and 4 euros to receive a “surprise basket” filled with products worth three times that price. And the app pays 1.09 euros for each basket. After developing the initial concept in Denmark and Norway in early 2016, the app moved to France. France had just passed the Garot law, part of the fight against food waste, a unique opportunity that allowed Basch to officially launch Too Good To Go in June of 2016.

The results have been a clear success: The app has been adopted by a large percentage of major food retailers, as well as bakeries, convenience stores, and well-known chains such as Paul, Sushi Shop, Ladurée, and Lenôtre. In just four years, it has attracted no less than 15,000 retailers in France, and has been launched in 14 European countries. “We save 100,000 baskets a day. Since the launch, this represents a total of 45 million baskets.”

Basch’s new objective: the United States, where the mission is even broader, since 42% of food produced is thrown away. Too Good To Go took advantage of the International Day of Awareness against Food Waste on Tuesday, September 29, to make its launch official in New York. Here, each pop-up basket costs $5 and entitles you to $15 worth of merchandise, from which the application collects $1.39. The start-up has opened an office on Broadway, near Canal Street, and has a team of about 30 people in charge of canvassing the city’s merchants. 250 businesses have already responded, including Brooklyn Fare stores, and it is now targeting major players in food distribution.

The start-up, which has raised 24 million euros since its creation, will finance its American development thanks to its success in Europe. It has the particularity of engaging in no marketing or advertising, and relies instead on word-of-mouth, which has been effective on the Old Continent. In addition to New York, Too Good To Go also launched in Boston on October 6. It now plans to expand across the country, first on the East Coast and then on the West Coast. The goal is to save more than 3 million meals in the United States next year, and then to have as much impact as in Europe by 2022.

But Too Good To Go is more than a start-up; it aims to be the platform for a global movement to fight food waste, and aims to generate initiatives. Thus in France, the group is organizing a major national campaign to raise public awareness of the difference between the “best before” dates, a simple quality factor, and the “consume by” dates, a hygiene factor, which is responsible for 20% of food waste. The campaign will take place starting October 16.

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