Axios recently reported that Americans waste over 100 billion pounds of food every year, or about 40% of its food supply. That’s more than just a mind-boggling quantity of food; it’s one that puts unnecessary strain on our entire supply chain. But a new partnership between consumer goods conglomerate Unilever and Too Good To Go, the app that lets you buy steeply discounted restaurant leftovers, gives us hope that we’ll be able to cut down on some of that waste and keep perfectly good food from sailing straight into the dumpster.
A press release from Unilever explains that the Too Good To Go pilot program, which recently launched in the Netherlands and Denmark, lets customers in those locations order boxes of Unilever products that are close to their sell-by date; because the customer is “saving” these foods from becoming waste, the boxes are offered at a “considerable discount.” And unlike Too Good To Go’s usual setup, where you pick up the food from restaurants yourself, these Unilever boxes are delivered to your home.
Granted, assembling and shipping such boxes for home delivery does result in carbon emissions, but it manages to put a small dent into the amount of food waste that could potentially have occurred. Whenever I’m grocery shopping I always swing by the ultra-discount shelf to see if any about-to-expire food is 50% off or more. There, I often find canned goods, condiments, and packaged items on my shopping list. If the United States had a similar program to this Unilever/Too Goo To Go collaboration, I’d be all over it.
Considering the success of the program so far, I’m hoping it’ll make its way stateside. Though the boxes currently contain only Unilever products, the press release says, “together Unilever and Too Good To Go are calling on other food companies to join us, so we can work to reduce food waste together.”
And in case you think any of this food is questionable, a reminder: “best by” and “sell by” dates on food packaging are more of a suggestion than gospel, as we’ve explained in the past.
As part of the new partnership, some Unilever brands (Hellmann’s, Knorr, and others) have added a label saying, “look, smell, taste — before you waste,” reminding customers to rely on their senses to determine whether or not packaged goods have actually gone bad. Chances are very good the food is still fine.
I’m not naive; initiatives like this are just as much a marketing opportunity for companies like Unilever and Too Good To Go as they are revenue-generating programs and food waste solutions. But hey, inflation has made it so that we’ll take a discount where we can find it—and if this really is a viable way to cut down on food waste, it’s as good a place to start as any.