Research Design and Context

This work is exploratory in nature and involves a qualitative approach, trough in-depth interviews and document analysis. A single case study of the digital platform Too Good To Go (TGTG) has been conducted because of the lack of knowledge regarding how digital transformation can lead companies to adopt circular business models in the food industry. TGTG developed an app that can be used to buy food for a discounted price that otherwise would be discarded. This can be done at restaurants, hotels, bakeries, cafes, and supermarkets. Via the app, a so-called magic box can be bought because the buyer does not know in advance which food products are in the “magic box”. After purchasing the “magic box”, it has to be picked up by the consumer who made the purchase, often within a defined time slot to assure food quality. In this way, the local entrepreneur is supported and generates less food waste and will possibly get new customers (van der Haar & Zeinstra, 2019). Established in Copenhagen in 2015, TGTG has rapidly extended its business to other European Countries overcoming 14 millions of users. TGTG represents the most important reality for reducing the food surplus in the world. As reported in the website of the organisation, 27.081.177 magic boxes have been sold so far, saving approximately 68.000 tons of C02.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data collection has consisted in semi-structured interviews and online document analysis. Two semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the business developer of TGTG in Italy, who has shown her availability to provide new detailed information after a discussion with the top management of Copenhagen. The interviews have been recorded, transcribed, and coded, generating open, axial, and selective codes according to Corbin and Strauss’s procedure (1990). The other source of information were document analysis and direct conversations with the European education manager of the company. Especially, document analysis consisted in analysing the organisation’s websites, including website text, reports, and multimedia sources, and any other online document related to the organisation. These data were collected to corroborate and integrate findings from interviews (De Bernardi, Bertello, &C Shams, 2019; Patton, 2002). Online documents have been analysed with the same procedure of the interviews (Corbin &c Strauss, 1990). Next section will provide the results of the study, especially focussing on how a BM can move from a linear to a circular perspective by leveraging collaborations through a digital platform.


The examination of the case study enabled the authors to shed light on the so-called win-win-win logic followed by the company, where the planet, retailers, and consumers take advantage from the digital platform. Indeed, TGTG ambitious objective is to reduce the amount of waste that in traditional supply chains is generated at every step (see Figure 8.1) and capturing part of its value.

Interestingly, the app acts as a digital platform able to intermediate between the late stages of the supply chain and, particularly, between retailers, which play the distributor role, and consumers. In this way, it is able to drastically reduce the production of waste in those steps where the majority of food is generally discarded (see Figure 8.2). Indeed, through

122 Paola De Bernardi et al.

A Vision of the Traditional Food Supply Chain

Figure 8.1 A Vision of the Traditional Food Supply Chain.

Food Waste Reduction along the Supply Chain after Too Good To Go Intermediation

Figure 8.2 Food Waste Reduction along the Supply Chain after Too Good To Go Intermediation.

TGTG retailers (e.g., bakeries, supermarkets, cafes, shops, restaurants) can offer food that is near to its expiration date or fresh food that remains unsold at the end of the day at a discounted price to consumers. According to Jamie Crummie, one of the founders of TGTG, through his company not only retailers increase their earnings but they are also able to reduce their costs associated to waste management: “We’re placing a value on something which businesses have traditionally had to spend a lot of money to get rid of—by that I mean their waste and waste disposal costs—we’re shifting an established approach” (Crummie, 2019).

A more in-depth analysis of how TGTG works enabled the authors to develop a novel framework (see Figure 8.3) for describing how a digital- based platform can contribute to addressing the sustainability paradigm

The Digital Platform-based Framework for Reducing Food Waste

Figure 8.3 The Digital Platform-based Framework for Reducing Food Waste.

whilst empowering food retailers and consumers to create new value. So, besides innovating their business models in a more sustainable way, the digital platform enables food suppliers to improve their brand images and reputation by leveraging their corporate social responsibility. Moreover, since the app acts as a marketing platform, businesses can both retain a loyal customer base or attract a new one sensitive to discover new foods, look for high discounts, or help facing ecological and ethical themes.

Moreover, the end user benefits from the possibility to collect the food at a selected time or even in real time so that every necessity can be satisfied. To further reduce the use of material, the app incentivises consumers to bring with themselves a bag for collecting the food or retiring it in the form of a “magic box”, since they cannot know in advance what they are going to buy. This choice has been explained by the business developer of TGTG, who stated:

Our users prefer to keep the app less customer-centred, not knowing in advance what there is inside magic boxes. In fact, they are more interested in saving food rather than following their taste. Moreover, due to the nature of food waste, retailers know what is unsold just at the end of the day and we cannot ask them to spend time loading this kind of information within the platform.

In addition to that, there is a real surprise effect when a magic box is opened. According to the interviewee, most of the consumers admitted to being really surprised the first time they opened a magic box from both the food quantity and quality. Additionally, since most of the users are very aware of food waste, few users discard the collected food (van der Haar & Zeinstra, 2019). They usually prefer to share it with homeless people or acquaintances such as friends or relatives. In this way, end- users of TGTG contribute to addressing the triple bottom lines of sustainability: economy, environment, and people.

Finally, the company is so committed to the cause of reducing food waste that it has developed a whole section of its website for describing its efforts in this direction. So, it can be observed how it is financing educational programmes in schools, pushing toward political changes in the countries where it is operative, and sensitising and involving other actors of the food supply chain in joining its cause. Moreover, the company is planning to launch a new massive online open course for promoting food circularity and sustainable practices and in which one of the authors has been involved. More exactly, the willingness to engage and sensitise the broader public as possible is so intimately rooted in TGTG’s vision that, according to the education manager of the company, there were no alternatives rather than structuring it in the form of an open-access course.

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