Innovation Cues Are Everywhere — You Just Need to Know Where to Look

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. finds inspiration and opportunity from startups, like Jackpot and Farmstead.
A startup company

Ideas can come from anywhere. Other retail channels? Check. Convenience channel competitors? Check. Startups from just about any industry? Check.

A desire to connect with, and learn from, startups drove Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. to launch the Circle K Ventures Fund in 2020. Speaking at the company's Investor Day this past July, Deb Hall Lefevre, chief technology officer for Couche-Tard, explained that through the fund, the retailer would leverage the innovative approach of startups, which has not been typical of the convenience retail industry.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard has stayed true to that vision. To date, the parent of the global Circle K brand has invested nearly $55 million of its Circle K Ventures Fund's initial $100-million pot. Through the fund, the retailer has connected with Farmstead, an online grocery brand; Food Rocket, an on-demand grocery startup; Pensa Systems, an innovator in the automated use of computer vision and artificial intelligence for retail-in-store data and analytics; and Jackpocket, a third-party lottery app.

While these companies may have different missions, they have one thing in common: making life easier for consumers. And isn't that what should drive innovation in the convenience channel?

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