Five of the world’s leading grocery retailers have come together to establish a collaborative venture capital fund, W23 Global.

The retailers are Ahold Delhaize (US, Europe, Indonesia), the Empire Company Limited/Sobeys Inc (Canada), the Shoprite Group (Africa), Tesco (UK, Europe) and the Woolworths Group (Australia, New Zealand).

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The $125m fund will invest in innovative start-ups and scale-ups that deploy technology to enhance customer experiences, transform the grocery value chain and address the sector’s sustainability challenges.

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

In addition to investing in early-stage businesses, W23 Global will seek out entrepreneurs to solve problems in the grocery sector.

W23 Global CEO and chief investment officer Ingrid Maes commented: “With leading grocery CEOs on our investment committee, founders can rapidly develop ideas based on an accelerated understanding of retailers’ needs.”

Grocery retailers’ profits have been hit in recent years by prolonged economic uncertainty and global supply chain issues.