Too Good To Go (TGTG), a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed mobile app that connects users with restaurants and stores offering surplus unsold food, is launching in California Thursday, its 13th U.S. city.
The launch coincides with the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste and comes one day after U.S. President Joe Biden announced more than $8 billion in private- and public-sector commitments to help combat hunger.
TGTG was founded in Denmark in 2016 by co-founders Lucie Basch and Jamie Crummie with the aim of providing a reasonable alternative to throwing away food. Users are connected with restaurants, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores and ice cream shops selling uneaten products, which are pulled together in "surprise bags" that can typically be had for one-third of the original price.
The app currently has 61 million users, 3 million of them in the U.S., and has partnerships with 154,000 restaurants and stores worldwide. In Los Angeles, TGTG will work with more than 100 partners that include Alfred's, Mel's Drive Inn, Tartine and Laudrée. DiCaprio has invested in the company for an undisclosed stake.
"I saw a TikTok video about someone who got bagels using the app and they lived in New York and I had just moved there and thought it was such a cool idea," says Mariana Labbate, who moved to New York City from Missouri last year and downloaded TGTG to save money as a college student. The app launched in New York in 2020. Labbate had picked up orders from her local bagel place, an Indian restaurant, and pizza shop, among others.
Globally, 17% of food grown is never eaten according to the UN, and in the U.S. some 40% of food goes to waste. Most of that food ends up in landfills, where it's estimated to cause 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane. In addition to avoiding some of that waste, experts say apps like TGTG can help promote sustainability by making people more aware of how they utilize their food.
"If you leave a store with three bags of groceries, you know you're throwing one bag away," says Lewis Ziska, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "What often happens is that fresh food in particular will spoil or not be edible and processed foods like a can of tomatoes may expire. It's particularly an important issue now when you start looking at the cost of food."
Matte Lykke, TGTG's CEO, says she found herself drawn to that disconnect. "I've always been one to save half an egg after lunch just because it makes sense from a housekeeping and financial perspective," she says. "Then realizing how much of an environmental issue it actually is, there was a double motivation there."
TGTG joins a growing cohort of food-waste apps around the world, including Japan-based Tabete, U.K.-based Olio and Singapore-based treatsure. Since its launch, TGTG has started service in 12 U.S. cities - LA will be its 13th - including New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas. Globally, the app says its users have saved over 147 million meals, equating to about 588 million pounds of food. In 2019, TGTG was certified as a B Corp, which means it has met standards for its social and environmental performance.
"Every time we expand into a new area it's exciting," Lykke says. "LA is a special area for everyone outside of the U.S. because we've seen that area in movies our entire lives. So I think everyone across the company is really excited."