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Blue Bottle taps into Republic of Coffee

Korea is expected to have its first Blue Bottle Coffee shop in the near future.

Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan said he is mulling opening stores here and other Asian regions, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“We’re developing our contacts here,” he said at the World Coffee Leaders Forum held on the sidelines of the Seoul Cafe Show last week. “I’d love to come to Korea, and I’m taking into account the support the Korean market has already given to Blue Bottle.”

Blue Bottle is researching the market and looking for a general manager here, according to the chief executive.

The specific date for a launch has yet to be scheduled.

Meehan said the company headquarters will directly manage its stores in Korea, as it does in other countries.

“Actually, we had a lot of pressure for a joint venture in Japan. A lot of companies wanted licensed approaches,” he said. “We are very passionate about controlling the quality of Blue Bottle, so we like to do things ourselves. We have never franchised.”

He also said the company is not considering selling ready-to-drink canned or bottled coffees here.

The businessman was confident of Blue Bottle’s success in Korea, which is dubbed “Republic of Coffee,” due to the Korean people’s heavy consumption of the beverage.

Amid the intensifying polarization of the nation’s coffee market, small- and medium-sized local coffee shop chains have suffered accumulated losses over the past few years, while Starbucks Coffee has alone seen rapid growth.

“Blue Bottle has grown along with Starbucks in the United States. We think we can survive side-by-side,” Meehan said. “Those who want convenience will go to Starbucks, but people will come to our store for deliciousness.”

Blue Bottle, which has 44 stores in the U.S. and Japan, has been regarded as “Apple of the coffee industry” among worldwide consumers because of its innovativeness.

Nestle, the largest food company in the world, acquired the coffee shop chain for $425 million in September.

After the deal, consumers have been concerned about the quality of Blue Bottle’s specialty coffees, given that Nestle specializes in instant coffees.

However, Meehan said Nestle has not intervened in Blue Bottle’s management so far.

” Nestle CEO Mark Schneider has a wonderful vision of where specialty coffee should be in five years’ time, and he sees the value of Blue Bottle,” he said. ” Nestle is allowing Blue Bottle to remain a standalone company. I don’t report to anybody at Nestle.”

He also dismissed Blue Bottle’s initial public offering on the stock market, saying the company may not maintain the quality if it has to disclose its performance every quarter.

The CEO said Blue Bottle will avoid growing rapidly because rapid growth can be risky.

Founded in Oakland, California, by James Freeman in 2002, Blue Bottle has expanded to locations around San Francisco, including the Ferry Building and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s rooftop garden.

The company is regarded as one of the major players in the high-end coffee market, stressing deliciousness, hospitality and sustainability as its corporate values.

Because of Freeman’s huge interest in Japan, the coffee shop chain has expanded its presence in the country.

Japan will have its eighth Blue Bottle store in Kyoto next year, according to Meehan.





(c) 2017 Korea Times Co. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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