Blue Bottle Coffee heading for Korea

US brand Blue Bottle Coffee is expected to open in South Korea soon, followed by other Asian countries including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“We’re developing our contact here,” CEO Bryan Meehan said while attending the World Coffee Leaders Forum at the Seoul Cafe Show.

He said Blue Bottle was researching the market and looking for a GM in Korea, with no specific set yet for a launch.

Meehan said the company headquarters would 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.”

While local coffee chains in Korea have been hit by losses over the past few years, Starbucks Coffee has alone seen rapid growth, reports The Korea Times.

“Blue Bottle has grown along with Starbucks in the US. We think we can survive side-by-side,” said Meehan.

Known for its innovation, Blue Bottle has 44 stores in the US and Japan. Nestle acquired the chain for US$425 million in September.

“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,” said Meehan. “Nestle is allowing Blue Bottle to remain a standalone company. I don’t report to anybody at Nestle.”

Founded in Oakland, California, by musician James Freeman in 2002, Blue Bottle has expanded around San Francisco. Because of Freeman’s interest in Japan, the chain has expanded there and will open its eighth outlet next year in Kyoto.

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