Move Over Juan, Starbucks Is Here

Posted on Jul 16 2014 - 11:29am by Rico
First Starbucks is located on Carrera 11 con Calle 95 in Bogota.

First Starbucks is located on Carrera 11 con Calle 95 in Bogota.

COLOMBIA NEWS – Associated Press – Make room Juan Valdez, it’s time to meet the black-aproned barista. Today (Wednesday), Starbucks is making its much-anticipated debut in the country synonymous with coffee after years of roasting Colombia’s Arabica beans for billions of java lovers the world over.

The three-floor coffee house in Bogota is the first of 50 that the Seattle-based company plans to open in Colombia. In a nod to the country’s proud coffee-growing tradition, it’s also the only one in the world to serve exclusively locally-sourced coffee.

But will Colombians answer Starbucks’ siren call and ditch a popular local chain bearing the bushy-whiskered coffee farmer’s name?

Colombia’s coffee federation, owner of the Juan Valdez chain, is outwardly welcoming the competition. The arrival of Starbucks it says will boost the market for gourmet java even if sales at its nearly 200 stores in Colombia take a hit over the short term

“There’s room in the market for us both,” said Alejandra Londono, head of international sales for the Colombian chain.

Juan Valdez’s social mission promoting Colombian coffee and contributing to producers’ welfare is likely to keep customers loyal, said Londono.

Since its founding 11 years ago, the Colombian chain has funneled more than US$20 million to a national fund that supports the country’s 560,000 coffee-growing families, some of whom also own shares in the company.

While Starbucks also has burnished its image for corporate responsibility, offering employees in the U.S. generous health care benefits and now online college courses, it’s stayed clear of Colombia, Latin America’s third largest economy, even as it has opened more than 700 stories in 12 other countries in the region. That may have been because it feared trampling on local sensibilities already hurt by the branding of coffee that leaves growers earning just a few pennies from every $4 venti latte sold.

Indeed, a desire to overcome the commodities curse is what’s been driving the federation’s focus on adding value up the retail chain, a strategy reflected in more sophisticated local coffee-drinking culture.