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Alimentation Couche-Tard Exploring ‘Future of Convenience’

Circle K Venture Fund has invested nearly $55 million in channel-focused, innovative companies
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LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has invested more than half of the initial $100 million of its Circle K Venture Fund in startup companies that are “shaping the future of convenience,” the c-store retailer has revealed.

Since the fund’s inception in 2020, Couche-Tard has secured equity stakes in several entrepreneurial companies that are forming collaborative partnerships and entering into agreements to test and commercialize their innovations and developing solutions focused on improving efficiency and enhancing the customer experience.

“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,” said Claude Tessier, Couche-Tard’s CFO. “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’s most recent investments are Food Rocket and Farmstead, both U.S.-based companies, offering delivery of grocery, convenience and pantry items. 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.

Other investments include Pensa Systems, Austin, Texas, an innovator in the automated use of computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) for retail-in-store data and analytics, and Jackpocket, Santa Barbara, Calif., a licensed-third party app providing a secure way to order official state lottery tickets.

And over the last several months, as labor challenges have increased, particularly in the United States, the fund has also invested in technology that helps retailers and other groups alleviate staffing issues by tapping into the fast-growing gig economy, Couche-Tard said.

  • Couche-Tard is No. 2 on CSP’s 2022 Top 40 Update to the 2021 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by store count. Watch for the full 2022 Top 202 ranking in the June issue of CSP magazine.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard’s 26-country global network includes approximately 9,300 c-stores in North America, with more than 7,100 in the United States under the Circle K and Holiday Stationstores banners in 48 states, and approximately 2,100 in Canada under the Circle K, Mac’s and Couche-Tard banners. It has a worldwide total network of approximately 14,200 stores.

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