Woolworths wins four top retailers for joint investment in innovation

Ahold Delhaize, Tesco, Sobeys (Empire Company) in Canada and South African Shoprite Group have joined the venture capital activities of Australian Woolworths Group. Under the name W23 Global, the companies have founded a new venture capital company based in London. Woolworths Australia has been investing in retail technology start-ups with its capital company W23 since 2019. The companies now want to jointly invest 125 million US-Dollars in new technologies in the core areas of customer experience, supply chain and sustainability.

The five giants are all among the Global Top 50 retailers – but have almost no overlaps in their sales territories. Only in the Czech Republic are both Ahold Delhaize and Tesco represented. With the exception of Sobeys – the number two retailer in Canada – all companies are market leaders in their home countries. Their common goal is to drive developments in technologies that promise to transform the grocery retail industry for the future and meet the challenges of the sector in terms of sustainability. Each of the companies now has an equal stake in W23 Global. The respective CEOs form an investment committee.


Ingrid Maes, who has been responsible for the Woolworth Group’s innovation fund W23 Australia since 2019, also heads W23 Global as CEO and Chief Investment Officer. She brings more than 25 years of experience in the consumer goods industry and food retail to her new role. In a press release, Ingrid Maes explains: “Our goal is to provide our investors with unique access to transformative innovation in food and sustainability globally.” She goes on to say that founders with leading food industry CEOs on the investment committee could develop ideas in the short term based on a better understanding of the needs of the retail sector.

Focus on three key topics

W23 Global wants to prioritise investments in start-ups that develop technologies in the three key areas of customer experience, supply chain and sustainability. The fund aims to promote solutions that make shopping faster and more personalised for consumers, as well as connecting stores and online channels more closely. A second focus is on creating more efficient value chains in food retail that benefit everyone involved. Last but not least, the companies want to promote innovations that help the industry to operate sustainably at all stages from producer to consumer. These could be technologies to reduce emissions and waste, packaging innovations or those to improve product traceability and transparency.

In addition, W23 Global wants to look for entrepreneurs who are solving problems that are currently not being adequately addressed. The fund company complements the direct innovation and investment strategies of its partners. The fund’s portfolio companies are free to contract with any client, be it a W23 Global partner or otherwise, on the terms they choose.

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Joachim Pinhammer

Joachim Pinhammer supports retail and technology companies with consulting and marketing expertise. He was Senior Analyst and Research Director Retail Technology at the London-based analyst group Planet Retail. Prior to that, he was the global marketing director for the retail division of Wincor Nixdorf (now Diebold Nixdorf). Joachim Pinhammer is a regular speaker at events organised by Messe Düsseldorf (EuroShop and EuroCIS), the EHI and further industry conferences. His reports are regularly published by trade magazines and online retail industry media.

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