Too Good to Go app: The “Magic Boxes” helping to fight food waste in the Netherlands
31 Oct 2019 --- In a bid to combat food waste and loss in Europe, the app and social disrupter Too Good To Go allows consumers to purchase a “Magic Box” with a surprise assortment of food products from participating stores that would have otherwise been thrown away. A study conducted at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) found that the three main drivers for using the app were reducing food waste, the surprise element of the boxes’ contents and saving money. This study comes at a time when the pressure is on to find more sustainable consumption methods, and could provide evidence about how to encourage people to embrace waste-reducing alternatives to grocery shopping.
“This is the first research project we have conducted on the impact of Too Good To Go’s Magic Boxes that consumers pick up,” Sanne Stroosnijder, Business Development Manager at WUR, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
The study’s focus group discussions took place in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This city was selected as the app has been active in this area for over one year. The quantitative research among over 600 Too Good To Go users showed that reducing food waste is the main motivation to participate (35 percent). Other reasons include the surprise element (26 percent) and the reduced price (20 percent). Users seem very motivated not to waste anything – only 8 percent of the respondents throw away their leftovers from the Magic Box. Most users prefer to share them with family and friends, use the next day or freeze for later.
The majority of participants could still recall their first magic box experience, indicating the concept has a high impact. In most cases, the users were positively surprised by the content, both in terms of quality and quantity.
The study’s participants listed several possible improvements, including wider pick-up times for the Magic Boxes, the choice between meat and vegetarian boxes, as well as recipes included in the box.
How it works
Using the free downloadable app, consumers can choose stores from which to purchase a “Magic Box,” filled with unknown food items that otherwise would have been tossed that day. Each listing indicates a price per box – around a third of the original market price – as well as how many Magic Boxes are still available per store, and in which time frames consumers can pick up the boxes.
Too Good To Go has over 17 million users in 13 European countries, including one million in the Netherlands. Participants in the research noted they valued the ease-of-use of the simple search and pay functions of the app. Other positive factors include the choice of pick-up location, often in their own neighborhood, and the mystery element: what will be in the box?
“We would love to see more companies get actively involved in preventing food waste, especially in the primary production,” Stroosnijder says. WUR is one of the founders of the United Against Food Waste foundation (Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling). The initiative of more than 65 companies and organizations in the Netherlands aims to halve food waste between now and 2030.
An ambitious yet reachable goal
“In the Netherlands, specifically, reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030 is an ambitious yet reachable goal,” says Stroosnijder.
Given the Dutch nation has a population of 17 million, Stroosnijder argues that the app is already quite mainstream, considering Too Good To Go already has a million users in the Netherlands.
Focusing on a national approach
Both United Against Food Waste and Too Good To Go directly address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. WUR is indeed heavily invested in creating a more sustainable food environment in the domains of agri-food production, the environment and sustainability.
“When it comes to reducing food loss and waste in the Netherlands, United Against Food Waste is quite active in building that ecosystem and bringing together companies and organizations. We don’t do this on our own. Our coalition of 65 companies, organizations and knowledge institutes is rapidly growing, which includes large corporate companies but also small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as socially disruptive companies such as Too Good To Go. Other start-ups and scale-ups are also involved, which brings new technology and innovation to the market and can have quite an effective impact on the reduction of food waste,” Stroosnijder maintains.
Too Good To Go and its users are making one more step in the right direction toward eliminating food loss and waste – but only on the retail and consumer level. Major progress on a production level in the food industry is still vital to ensure food loss and waste reduction, according to an FAO report.
Too Good To Go isn’t the only entrepreneurial initiative in the game. The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Food revealed the twelve finalists of its 2019 Food Accelerator Network (EIT FAN) program who focus on innovative processing technologies, functional foods and health, alternative proteins, smart farming, food waste reduction and the harnessing of waste side streams.
Costa Coffee expanded its partnership with Too Good To Go from nine to 100 stores across the UK. With this figure now at 100 stores covering London, Edinburgh and Cardiff, the results have seen 10,355 Costa Coffee meals collected through the app, building on Too Good To Go's continental success. Outside of the grocery store, Too Good To Go collaborated with food giant Unilever to develop the concept of “often good after” food labeling on product offerings under the Knorr and Hellmann’s brands in Denmark. This goes to show that food waste reduction has many facets, and that food loss and waste requires an interdisciplinary approach to its problem solution.
By Anni Schleicher
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