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Starbucks to open its first shop in epicenter of coffee culture

Starbucks has announced they'll open their first store in Bogota early in 2014, competing against Juan Valdez coffee. Although Valdez was a fictional character used to promote Colombian coffee, the coffee company that bears the name Juan Valdez started about a decade ago in Bogota. (Linda Thomas photo)

Starbucks has been getting its coffee from Colombia in South America since the company’s first store opened in Pike Place Market.

“It’s been part of our everyday life for the past 42 years,” says Cliff Burrows, the Starbucks group president for the US, Americas Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Now Colombia will be a part of the company’s retail life. Starbucks has announced they’ll open their first store in Bogota early in 2014.

While they say they focus on opening one store at a time, Starbucks expects to add about 50 coffee shops across Colombia in the next five years.

“It is a wonderful heritage and a really strong country in terms of its passion for coffee and obviously its well-established coffee culture here,” Burrows says in an interview from Bogota. “It’s the right time for us to become a part of that.”

Burrows says the design of the first coffee shop will respect the Colombian coffee culture and will be “relevant to local market place.”

The Colombian coffee heritage is something older generations of java drinkers might have an image of through the character of Juan Valdez.

Valdez and his donkey appeared in advertisements for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, beginning in 1958, representing the Colombian coffee farmer.

“There is no sun like the sun of Colombia,” the TV commercial began. “Here men such as Juan Valdez hand pick their coffee beans with pride” creating “the richest coffee in the world.”

While that character was fictional, about a decade ago Juan Valdez became a real coffee brand and consumer experience in Colombia – one that Starbucks will now compete with.

By the numbers, Starbucks is much bigger. As of 2013, Juan Valdez has more than 200 company-owned coffee shops. Starbucks has about 20,000 coffee stores in 62 countries. But Burrows acknowledges Juan Valdez is a “strong brand” in Colombia.

“Juan Valdez is rightly proud of what it’s established here,” says Burrows. “We hope to add to that environment by opening up a store here.”

In addition to sourcing their coffee from Colombia, Starbucks will also be roasting it there, serving it in drinks, and selling it in bags to show “respect of the region’s heritage with coffee,” Burrows says.

The company also announced it’s partnering with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and invest a joint $3 million in a plan to help farmers in Colombia increase their coffee yields.

“You start with the technical assistance on soil analysis and often it leads to reducing fertilizers, reducing chemicals, improving water and ultimately the sustainability of the crop and the productivity,” says Burrows.

“It’s a win for everyone because it helps improve the quality, improve the yield and improve the livelihoods of our farmers.”


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