March 20, 2019 / 1:12 PM / 5 months ago

Starbucks sets up $100 million fund to invest in food and retail startups

FILE PHOTO: A Starbucks logo hangs outside of one of the 8,000 Starbucks-owned American stores that will close around 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday as a first step in training 175,000 employees on racial tolerance in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp is investing $100 million in a newly created fund that will be managed by Tesla Inc investor Valor Equity Partners to promote companies developing new technologies and products for the food and retail industry.

The fund, Valor Siren Ventures Fund, will later seek to raise an additional $300 million, the world’s largest coffee chain said on Wednesday, ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.

“We are inspired by, and want to support the creative, entrepreneurial businesses of tomorrow with whom we may explore commercial relationships down the road,” Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said in a statement.

Starbucks is the latest U.S. food company to invest in startups. The largest U.S. meat producer, Tyson Foods, started a fund called “Tyson Ventures” in 2016 to invest in businesses that focus on developing plant-based protein, while a clutch of other food and drink brands including Kraft Heinz and PepsiCo Inc have also set up similar funds.

Starbucks reaffirmed its longer-term revenue and profit targets and said it would buy back $2 billion in shares, as part of a commitment to return $25 billion to shareholders through 2020.

The annual shareholder meeting comes as the coffee chain counters sluggish performance in its U.S. business through a revamp of its stores and introduction of fresher food and cold brews that has driven market-beating same-store sales in the past two quarters.

The company’s shares are up about 11 percent since the beginning of the year, compared with a 13 percent gain in the S&P 500 Index.

Valor Equity is an early stage investor in Tesla and its portfolio includes investments in Chicago-based Roti Modern Mediterranean and Wow Bao.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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