WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Innovative app that fights food waste digs into Austin for Texas debut

Innovative app that fights food waste digs into Austin for Texas debut

Too Good to Go app
Through the app you can help save the environment by noshing pastries, tacos, and some 'za. Too Good to Go/Instagram

Here’s some startling food for thought: According to the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability, Austinites waste more than 450 million pounds of food every year, and about 37.5 million pounds every month. But one tech business is hoping to eat into those figures with its food-waste-fighting app, which is now available in the Austin market.

Too Good to Go, the No. 1 app for tackling food waste that’s currently available in 15 international cities and nine major metros throughout the U.S., has expanded into Texas with its Austin entry.

The app, which is available for iOS and Android, connects consumers with surplus goods from restaurants, bakeries, cafés, and grocery stores at the end of each business day, highlighting food items that might otherwise go to waste.

Customers can browse participating locations, then reserve and pay for a “surprise bag” on the app. Surprise bag contents vary daily but products included could range from fresh fruit and vegetables to pizza slices, a couple of extra sushi rolls, a pint of gelato, or an assortment of pastries. Then customers visit the restaurant or store during the pick-up window, which is based on each location’s closing time, to scoop up their goods.

Food partners have the ability to update the amount of surplus they have in real time, based on how sales are going throughout the day, further helping ensure particular foods don’t go to waste. So far, Too Good to Go claims 82.2 million meals have been saved internationally through the app, with Americans responsible for saving 500,000 meals.

In Austin, the first wave of establishments to join the food-waste fight through Too Good to Go include more than 60 restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and grocery stores. Among them are faves like Kung Fu Tea, Austin Eastciders, La Condesa, Word of Mouth, and Quack’s bakery. All participating locations are listed on the Austin map in the app, and customers can now start reserving surprise bags.

“Making stronger strides to combat food waste and better educate our community is important to the future of hospitality and restaurants,” says Rick Lopez, the acclaimed executive chef at La Condesa. “We are excited to partner with Too Good to Go, both as a learning experience and an accountability tool.”

Launched less than a year ago, the app has amassed more than 1 million users and 4,000-plus partners across cities like Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., with Too Good to Go noting the need to raise awareness about food waste’s crucial implications on climate change.

The food-waste problem has only continued to mushroom over the past decades. A recent survey conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by environmentally focused Avocado Green Mattress that delves into the human habits that contribute to food waste found that the average American spends almost $1,500 each year on food they’ll never eat, which represents almost one-fifth (18 percent) of a typical grocery shopping excursion. The top food Texans waste: fresh fruit.

What’s worse, almost three in 10 (27 percent) of survey respondents said purchasing food they don’t end up eating is something they “always” or “often” do, and a staggering 46 percent of respondents usually buy and end up wasting the same food every month because “they think they’ll get around to eating it.” That’s despite the fact that 65 percent of respondents said taking care of the environment is a priority for them.

The survey does note how Americans can break their bad shopping habits and make a positive impact on the problem of food waste, noting that sticking to a grocery list can help, as 38 percent of shoppers are more likely to let food go bad if it wasn’t originally on their shopping list.

“When it comes to food waste, nobody is perfect,” says Avocado co-founder and CMO Mark Abrials. “But in order to consider our environmental impact, not to mention wasted money, we think it’s essential to be thoughtful about everything we purchase — whether that’s food, mattresses, or other goods.”

Too Good to Go is working to get Austinites to do their part in fighting food waste, also providing participating stores and restaurants with the opportunity to profit from fresh food that would otherwise be tossed.

And in Austin, the company is partnering with the nonprofit Central Texas Food Bank to support its mission to end hunger in Central Texas for good.

Following its Austin launch, Too Good to Go will launch in Los Angeles and Atlanta in September, and the company has further plans to grow into many of the largest U.S. cities by the end of 2021.

“We are so excited to launch in Austin, known for its incredibly vibrant, booming food scene,” says Lucie Basch, co-founder of Too Good to Go. “We already have a fantastic group of partners on board, and we hope Austinites will join us in fighting food waste, one delicious bite at a time.”