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Grocers Across the Globe Unite to Create Venture Fund for Retail Innovation

W23 Global supports startups that deploy technology to transform grocery retail and address sustainability challenges
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Grocery Innovation
W23 Global CEO and Chief Investment Officer Ingrid Maes

Five of the world’s leading grocery retailers have come together to establish a pioneering collaborative VC fund, W23 Global. The fund will seek to invest in innovative startups and scaleups that deploy technology to enhance customer experiences, transform the grocery value chain and address the sector’s sustainability challenges.

W23 Global investor partners include Ahold Delhaize (US, Europe, Indonesia), Tesco (UK, ROI, Europe), Woolworths Group (Australia, New Zealand), Empire Co. Ltd./Sobeys Inc. (Canada) and Shoprite Group (Africa).

Each retailer is an equal funder and partner in W23 Global, while their CEOs will sit on the investment committee.

“W23 Global is a pioneering international VC fund with a uniquely powerful proposition for both our investors and portfolio companies,” said W23 Global CEO and Chief Investment Officer Ingrid Maes. “At a time when innovation is reshaping retail and value chains across the economy, we aim to offer our investors incomparable access to transformative innovation in grocery and sustainability across the globe.

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“W23 Global will also work with its investors to identify common unaddressed challenges and identify entrepreneurs best placed to innovate new solutions," she continued. “Our ambition is to offer our portfolio companies faster pathways to global scale, without being exposed to a venture fund anchored by a single strategic investor. With five of the world’s leading grocery CEOs sitting on our investment committee and access to our broader ecosystem, our founders can test and develop their ideas quickly based on an accelerated understanding of retailers’ needs."

W23 Global complements its partners’ continuing direct innovation and investment strategies. The fund’s portfolio companies will be free to contract with any customer, whether a W23 Global partner or otherwise, on whatever terms they decide.

W23 Global will seek to invest in startups and scaleups deploying technology to:

  • Benefit consumers by driving faster, more personalized and connected experiences across stores and online;
  • Create more efficient grocery value chains to the benefit of all stakeholders;
  • Address grocery’s biggest sustainability challenges from farm to household, including emissions and waste reduction, packaging innovation, product traceability and transparency, healthy choices and biodiversity.

“As pioneers in retail innovation for more than 150 years, Ahold Delhaize has consistently led the way in investing in the customer value proposition,” said Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller. “We look forward to enhancing our efforts by partnering with other industry leaders and maximize our collective impact. Together with best-in-class startups and scaleups, we strongly believe we can further drive retail innovation, foster sustainability, and deliver greater value to communities worldwide.”

“Innovation is helping Woolworths Group create better, faster and more personalized experiences for our customers, while ensuring we always have what they need in store and on-line," said Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci. "It’s also fundamental to the great progress we’re making in minimizing our environmental footprint. That’s why we’re committed to bringing the world’s best retail innovation into Woolworths Group, and a key strategy is supporting entrepreneurs, many of them in our own backyard of Australia and New Zealand, to start and scale ideas that can solve our biggest challenges for the benefit of our customers, team, suppliers and the environment.”

Empire Co. Ltd. President and CEO Michael Medline added : “We are thrilled to be part of this unique partnership and work with other global leaders in grocery retail to drive innovation that will both benefit our customers and address key issues facing our industry.”

Ahold Delhaize USA, a division of Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, operates more than 2,000 stores across 23 states and is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. companies consist of its local brands, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Co., Hannaford, and Stop & Shop; Retail Business Services, a U.S. support services company providing services to the brands; Peapod Digital Labs, its digital and e-commerce engine; and ADUSA Distribution & Transportation. Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based Empire’s key businesses are food retailing through wholly owned subsidiary Sobeys Inc., and related real estate. With approximately CAD $30.5 billion in annual sales and CAD $16.5 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 131,000 people. The company is No. 19 on The PG 100.

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