Afternoon Coffee: Target Invests in Tech for Factory Inspections, Chinese Exports Drop in December

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Minneapolis-based Target led a $3.7 million investment round for Inspectorio, a company that helps retailers monitor factories through inspections and data analysis. The seed round of funding, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune, also included smaller contributions from Matchstick Ventures, a Minneapolis-based venture capital firm, and Techstars Ventures.

"They have a lofty purpose and ambition about bringing transparency to the supply chain and sourcing world," Casey Carl, Target's chief strategy and innovation officer, said of Inspectorio. "That aligns very well to our approach and philosophy around where we want to take our sourcing practices and making sure we are doing everything within our power to build up trust and credibility and to pass that on to consumers."

Shifting Global Trade

Exports from China fell sharply last month, with one notable exception. Exports to the U.S. actually increased 5%, the Wall Street Journal reported. Weak demand in major markets and the prospect of a more protectionist Trump administration were the main drivers.

A New Pact for Fuel Exports

Kansas City Southern, Watco Cos. LLC and WTC Industrial announced a joint venture investment to aid and expand the exportation of liquid fuels from the United States to Mexico, Progressive Railroading writes. Energy reform legislation from 2013 that opened Mexico’s energy markets to foreign investment is allowing the JV to proceed, starting with an initial $45 million investment.

Prices Rise for Your Morning Fuel, Too

And finally, the fuel that most working humans run on is getting more expensive. Droughts in coffee-producing countries have driven coffee futures up 30% in the last 12 months. In response, J.M. Smucker Co. is raising the prices of packaged coffee products sold in the U.S., including the Dunkin’ Donuts, Folgers and Cafe Bustelo brands.

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