At a time of rising food prices and a deepening climate crisis, Jamie Crummie has created a global phenomenon which helps customers rescue unsold food from businesses, saving it from going to waste.
Whilst attending an event during his year abroad, Jamie Crummie (Law 2014) witnessed food waste bins being filled with no effort to reuse or recycle – and he wondered at the damage being caused.
A little digging provided some astonishing answers: “Forty per cent of food produced in the world is wasted at a cost of £20 billion per year,” Jamie said. “For context, the annual police budget in the UK is £2.5 billion.”
With 10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from food waste (Eurostat 2022), Jamie was motivated to act.
With the support of the SPARK programme – the University’s business start-up service – Jamie launched Too Good To Go in 2016. The mobile app enables users to purchase unsold food from restaurants in a “surprise bag” – before it hits the bin. As of April 2023, Too Good To Go has over 100 million app users across 17 countries, and has saved 195 million meals around the globe.
For aspirant barrister Jamie, entrepreneurship was not part of the career plan. But during his study abroad year in Australia the volume of food waste troubled him, and things began to change.
“I’ve always been someone who challenges,” Jamie said. “Knowing something isn’t right isn’t enough. After Australia, I returned to the UK and worked with a Leeds catering company who repurposed food – curry, casserole, stew, it was great. Speaking to them really inspired me. I became more informed about the problem.”
Paradoxically, alongside the issue of food waste, there exist severe food shortages; four million UK school children go to school hungry each day and ten per cent of the world’s population go to bed hungry each night.
Jamie and co-founder Christopher Wilson (English and Spanish 2014) set out to redistribute food before it hit the bin. Alongside like-minded entrepreneurs in Copenhagen, they created an app – which initially began as a web shop – on which businesses list surplus food each day. Customers then purchase a “surprise bag”, named accordingly because they don’t know what they will get – for just £5.
“It’s a three-way win,” Jamie explained. “The customer is getting £15 worth of food for £5 while discovering new food and businesses. The business recovers the cost of ingredients and reduces waste, while attracting new people to the business. And food waste is being reduced dramatically, helping to protect the environment.
“I was an activist when I set out, not an entrepreneur,” Jamie said. “My parents used to take me along to picket lines and marches. I set up Too Good To Go to help address social and environmental issues, and I can see the parallel between activism and social entrepreneurship now.”
Too Good To Go takes a fee per meal rescued, which helped to create a viable business – but only if the business customers signed up in the first place. “We were foot soldiers at the start, knocking on doors and trying to build a brand, and we’re very grateful to those early adopters who helped us gain traction and get the bigger brands on board.”
They joined the SPARK incubator – a programme available to alumni up to seven years after graduation – which provided advice in areas such as accounting and law, mentoring, grant funding and workshops. “SPARK kick-started our growth. Pitching to the programme was invaluable experience, because it was very similar to pitching to business owners and investors down the line, and we were able to get live feedback and improve.”
The brand continues to grow; with the rise in global food prices globally, Too Good To Go provides an invaluable solution to those struggling with the cost of food.
For Jamie and the team, however, there is still work to do. “We’re vision driven. We’re trying to create impact on a bigger scale and reduce food waste – so alongside the app we also provide educational material for schools, we’ve done work in public affairs, we’ve spoken at COP conferences and within the EU, advocating for greater legislation around food waste.
“We’re doing all we can, but ultimately we all need to play a part. And that starts with reducing our waste.”
Five ways you can reduce your food waste, by Jamie Crummie
- Only buy what you need to eat – Often, we don’t eat all that we purchased. Life gets in the way of dinner time plans. Plan ahead, and try to only buy what you’ll need.
- Use the freezer – The freezer is effectively a pause button for freshness. Ensure the fridge and the freezer are running at the right temperatures to ensure food stays fresher for longer. That’s 5 and -18 degrees Celsius respectively.
- Look, smell, taste, don’t waste – Don’t just judge food by the best before date. Too Good To Go’s ‘look, smell, taste don’t waste’ campaign encouraged people to check foods properly before throwing them away – and is part of their work with schools, industries and governments to build a planet friendly food system.
- Use Too Good To Go – To help rescue food that was destined for the bin.
- Get creative in the kitchen – Find recipes which make the most of food you might throw away. From lemon rind to stale bread, there are countless ways we can make delicious meals from foods we’d normally throw away.