Food discount apps work with Phoenix restaurants to cut waste and prices | Phoenix New Times

New apps aim to reduce food waste with discounted mystery bags

Apps Goodie Bag and Too Good To Go are now in Phoenix. Here's how to use them to save money and keep food out of the landfill.
New apps aimed at reducing waste, while offering shoppers food at a discount, are now in Phoenix.
New apps aimed at reducing waste, while offering shoppers food at a discount, are now in Phoenix. Too Good To Go
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Two apps aimed at combating food waste at bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores while saving people money have landed in Phoenix.

Goodie Bag and Too Good To Go both launched in the metro area in February. By downloading these apps, users can find discounts from businesses around the Valley that are offering mystery bags of prepared and fresh food that would otherwise land in the trash.

“It’s a really pervasive problem, particularly in the United States where 40% of food produced is wasted,” Goodie Bag CEO Eddy Connors says. “On the consumer side, over 85% of Americans are looking for deals and discounts on food. I think that has hit home for a lot more people in the current economic climate that we’re in.”
click to enlarge Too Good to Go app on an iPhone.
Too Good To Go works with over 100 metro Phoenix restaurants and grocery stores.
Too Good To Go

How the apps work

Though distinct, separate businesses, the apps work similarly – download, set up an account and browse the available “mystery bags.” Once the user selects a bag, they purchase it in the app. The user then has a window of time to pick up the items from the business.

In both apps, the user can see the full value of the items and the discounted price – anywhere from one-third to half the regular cost.

Too Good To Go was founded in Copenhagen in 2016, entering the U.S. via New York in 2020 before landing in Phoenix earlier this year. So far, Too Good To Go has partnered with over 100 businesses in the metro area and has sold more than 22,000 meals.

“Our goal is ultimately to reduce the impact of food waste on the environment,” says Too Good To Go spokesperson Sarah Soteroff.

In addition to partnering with bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants, Too Good To Go also has partnerships with grocery stores, which are the most popular among its European users and an area Soteroff says the company hopes to grow.

“We want people to have options where they can get lower-cost food," she says. "Grocery stores provide a great option for that."

In the Valley, Too Good To Go currently offers mystery bags from Whole Foods Markets.

click to enlarge The Goodie Bag team.
Goodie Bag was launched in 2023 in Boulder by Luke Siegert, left, and Eddy Connors, second from left.
Goodie Bag
Goodie Bag was launched in Boulder, Colorado, by Connors and Luke Siegert, University of Colorado roommates turned entrepreneurs, in 2023. Goodie Bag opperates in cities around Colorado, in Charlotte, North Carolina and Phoenix.

To date, Connors says Goodie Bag has sold nearly 20,000 mystery bags. Here in Phoenix, they’ve partnered with about 30 bakeries, cafes and restaurants, providing 850 bags that have saved customers about $10,000, Siegert says.

“Our model is really catered toward independent shops,” Connors says.

Among those are Suss Pastries, Mis Raices Cafe and Slices on Mill.

Businesses using either app can decide how much or how little to share about what to expect in a mystery bag. Some will post exactly what's included while others will offer a broad listing of items that could make it into a bag.

“While it’s a mystery to the customer, they do know the store they’re getting it from,” Connors says. “(The business) can hint to the customer what they might get.”

Bags often go quickly on both platforms, but the app-makers each have recommendations to ensure you get discounted items from the places you want.

Goodie Bag will send push notifications when locations users flag as “favorites” add bags.

“Every time a user gets a notification that’s literally a partner hitting the button, letting our customers know they have something for them,” Siegert says.

click to enlarge Woman holding a bottle of juice.
The food offered through the app Too Good To Go is a mystery, but businesses can offer hints to users.
Too Good To Go
Too Good To Go likewise has a “favorite” function, and Soteroff recommends checking the app a few minutes after a pickup window closes to get the next day’s offerings.

For those with food allergies or dietary restrictions, both platforms allow users to filter searches based on those or other preferences. However, both suggest keeping searches broad. Soteroff notes some places may offer a variety of options – such as a bakery that may offer bags of vegan items.

The representatives from both apps say that these discounted foods do more than reduce waste. Phoenix shoppers have seen grocery prices go up 31% since 2018. That inflation is part of the reason – along with an array of independent businesses and people interested in sustainability – that these platforms recently expanded to the Valley.

“As recent grads, we can relate to the struggle of trying to get good food at a good price,” Connors says.

This process also helps eateries make some revenue on items that would otherwise go unsold and to a landfill.

“It also helps businesses learn a lot about foot traffic, what people are buying,” Soteroff says.

With sustainability in focus during Earth Day and beyond, representatives for Goodie Bag and Too Good To Go concede they have lofty goals as they grow.

“We really do want to have every food-selling business across the country on the app because that’s the way we’ll have a real impact on reducing that food waste,” Soteroff says.
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