Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has invested more than half of its initial $100 million of its Circle K Venture Fund in startup companies that are developing "forward-looking solutions focused on enhancing the customer experience in its stores and beyond, improving efficiency and making its customers' lives a little easier every day."
The fund launched in 2020 and the company has since acquired equity stakes in several businesses that that is says "are shaping the future of convenience, forming collaborative partnerships, and entering into agreements to test and commercialize their innovations."
The initiatives are part of the global convenience giant's efforts to meet the needs of a dynamic customer base.
"The evolution of our customers' convenience needs has accelerated over the past two years since the start of the pandemic, and these investments and partnerships allow us not only to participate in the growth of these innovative teams, but also to explore ways to add real value for our customers, shareholders, and team members," Claude Tessier, Couche-Tard's CFO, said in a release. "As we move forward on our strategic goals, the Fund supports cutting-edge solutions with the potential of improving the customer journey and the experience of our team members in our stores, to create new ways of delivering our products and presenting our offerings, and to change the very nature of convenience."
The fund recently announced investments in Food Rocket and Farmstead. These U.S.-based companies offer quick delivery of well-priced grocery, convenience, and pantry items at competitive prices. Couche-Tard "is working with these two partners on piloting commercial programs, by testing and learning the best approaches to compete in the fast-expanding world of delivery and distribution for its urban and suburban customers."
Earlier investments include, Pensa Systems, which focused on automated use of computer vision and artificial intelligence for retail-in-store data and analytics, and Jackpocket, the first licensed-third party app in the U.S. that provides an easy and secure way to order official state lottery tickets.
The company is also exploring ways to shape the customer journey beyond its physical stores. These efforts include leveraging technologies that enable in-store teams to focus more on customer service and workforce efficiency. The fund has invested in "technology that helps retailers and other groups alleviate staffing issues by tapping into the fast-growing gig economy."
Quebec-based Couche-Tard operates in 26 countries and territories, with close to 14,200 stores, of which approximately 10,800 offer road transportation fuel. Approximately 124,000 people are employed throughout its network.