Global coffee company and coffeehouse chain Starbucks Corporation had forecast China will become its second largest coffee-drinking market by 2015, possibly bumping off Canada. To facilitate this, it plans to open a whopping 1,500 number of stores across China in the next two years, to turn the tea-loving nation into a coffee-loving one.
"This year (2013), we're planning to open 300. It's a crazy time," Belinda Wong, president of Starbucks China, was quoted by Global TV News. "We're very proud and humbled by the fact that Starbucks is being embraced by the Chinese consumer," she added.
Does it mean that China is already open to the idea to exchange the tea for coffee?
"It's not about selling coffee - it's about selling a lifestyle of status and aspiration," Paul French, a China market strategist for research and intelligence firm Mintel, said.
"To be in Starbucks (for the Chinese) is an act of self-expression, of showing you can afford it, can enjoy it - an international expression."
Mr French, in fact, revealed that of the beverages sold at a Chinese Starbucks, few actually taste much of coffee. Most are milky, sweet, foamy and chilled, which conforms to the American company's method to adjust to the cultural taste and difference of the Chinese consumer while preserving its brand integrity.
"It's rare to see anyone buying an espresso or serious caffeine hit in China," he said.
A Starbucks outlet in China
Starbucks China even created a menu especially designed for their patrons in that country, such as Black Sesame Green Tea Frappucino a few summers ago, as well as the Chestnut Macchiato in celebration of the recent Chinese New Year.
Starbucks China, for its patrons, "is a social destination," Ms Wong said.
And because Starbucks outlets in China have become a convergence point for its customers, the stores in that nation are built larger than the North American average, according to Ms Wong.
According to Euromonitor International, China's entire coffee shop market could reach $714 million in 2015.
"Starbucks may be struggling in some international markets but the Chinese are still in a love affair with the brand," Mr French said. "Right now, Starbucks' profits per serving are higher in China than in most other major markets, making (it) a bit of a cash cow for the firm at the moment."
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