Fascinating technology

DiCaprio-Backed Food Waste Startup Launched in California | Technology

Too Good To Go (TGTG), a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed mobile app that connects users with restaurants and stores offering leftover unsold food, launches Thursday in California, his 13th U.S. city.

The launch coincides with International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day and comes a day after US President Joe Biden announced more than $8 billion in private and public sector commitments to fight hunger.

TGTG was founded in Denmark in 2016 by co-founders Lucie Basch and Jamie Crummie with the aim of providing a sensible alternative to food waste. Users are connected with restaurants, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, and ice cream parlors selling uneaten produce, which is collected in “goodie bags” that can usually be purchased for a third of the original price.

The app currently has 61 million users, including 3 million in the United States, and has partnerships with 154,000 restaurants and stores worldwide. In Los Angeles, TGTG will work with more than 100 partners including Alfred’s, Mel’s Drive Inn, Tartine and Laudrée. DiCaprio invested in the company for an undisclosed stake.

“I saw a TikTok video about someone getting bagels using the app who lived in New York and I had just moved there and thought that was such a cool idea,” says Mariana Labbate, who moved to New York from Missouri last year and downloaded TGTG to save money as a college student. The app launched in New York City in 2020. Labbate had picked up orders from his local bagel, Indian restaurant, and pizzeria, among others.

Globally, 17% of food grown is never eaten according to the UN, and in the United States about 40% of food is wasted. Most of this food ends up in landfills, where it is estimated to cause 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions like methane. As well as avoiding some of that waste, experts say apps like TGTG can help promote sustainability by raising awareness about how they use their food.

“If you leave a store with three bags of groceries, you know you’re throwing one away,” says Lewis Ziska, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “What often happens is that fresh food in particular is going to spoil or not be edible and processed food like a can of tomatoes can expire. That’s a particularly big issue now that you’re starting to look at the cost of food.”

Matte Lykke, CEO of TGTG, says she found herself drawn to this 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 this is, there was a dual motivation there.”

TGTG joins a growing cohort of food waste management apps around the world, including Tabete in Japan, Olio in the UK and Treatsure in Singapore. Since its launch, TGTG has begun serving 12 US cities – LA will be its 13th – including New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Austin, Texas. Globally, the app says its users have saved over 147 million meals, which equates to around 588 million pounds of food. In 2019, TGTG was certified B Corp, which means it meets social and environmental performance standards.

“Every time we expand into a new area, it’s exciting,” says Lykke. “LA is a special area for everyone outside of the United States because we’ve seen this area in movies our entire lives. So I think everyone in the business is really excited.”