Coffee Planet is the largest specialty coffee roaster in the Middle East. Launched in the UAE in 2005, the company has successfully scaled its roastery, retail business and 13 strong coffee shop business. Coffee Planet’s Managing Director Jamie Brown spoke to World Coffee Portal about why the Middle East remains brimming with opportunity as well as its latest foray into the UK market
Jamie Brown, Managing Director, Coffee Planet | Photo credit: Coffee Planet
The Middle East continues to be an opportune market for both domestic and international coffee chains. With an ingrained coffee drinking culture, the region has become a key growth market for boutique café groups and branded coffee chains alike, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait all holding vast potential.
Since launching as a specialty coffee roaster in in the UAE in 2005, Coffee Planet has since opened five cafés in its native market, six in Pakistan and two in the UK.
Jamie Brown, Managing Director of Coffee Planet, the largest specialty coffee roaster in the Middle East, says the Middle East is brimming with opportunities for hospitality businesses.
Brown, who has led Coffee Planet since January 2022, highlights the recent Dubai Expo 2020 trade show, significant international investment in Saudi Arabia, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as key contributors to growth in the Middle East’s tourism and hospitality industries.
“We expect a surge in spending over the coming year. It’s an important time to support consumer-centric initiatives, adapting and collaborating with our target audience is paramount,” he says.
The Middle East has for centuries had a strong culture of coffee consumption. Since the emergence of the first branded coffee chains in the 1990s, appetite for espresso-based coffee and demand for aspirational hospitality experiences has increased substantially.
Brown says consumers across the region have been “riding the wave of the coffee revolution” and now expect exceptional coffee on every visit. He adds there is growing appreciation for premium coffee from a range of origins, and an increase in interest on sustainable and ethically sourced coffee.
Founded with a mission to improve the quality of on-the-go coffee sold in highway convenience stores, Coffee Planet now sources coffee from over 20 countries, distributing a range of single origin products to hotels, catering companies, airlines and offices.
Coffee Planet says its state-of-the-art, Dubai-based roastery has the capacity to meet the growing demands of its loyal client base
The company currently employs over 200 staff and operates 13 coffee shops globally. Its success reflects the increasing opportunities for homegrown and international coffee brands in the Middle East – but also growing competition.
US-based Peet’s Coffee and the UK’s Pret A Manger both recently signed franchise agreements to launch in the UAE, while Danish brand Joe & The Juice launched its first UAE stores in September 2022.
Meanwhile, developing café culture has also helped boost domestic chains. Founded in 1981, Gerard Café now operates 19 UAE stores and expects to launch in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia soon, while Café Arabicca is scaling its reach via an Emarat Bakerias partnership.
Coffee Planet says its state-of-the-art, Dubai-based roastery has the capacity to meet the growing demands of its loyal client base whilst also helping attract new consumers to its branded outlets, online store or retail partner locations.
Brown stresses that the roastery helps mitigate surges in demand from local and international markets, enabling it to satisfy an increasing in-store and digital customer-base.
With demand for premium coffee remaining strong, Coffee Planet adopted new revenue streams to adapt during the pandemic | Photo credit: Coffee Planet
Adapting to Covid-19
Like hospitality businesses the world over, Coffee Planet had to quickly adapt to trading restrictions and temporary store closures during the pandemic while adopting measures such as social distancing, enhanced sanitisatio.
Brown says Coffee Planet had to make tough decisions to keep make the businesses as efficient as possible for a re-launch post-Covid. Although trading restrictions have now eased, Brown says coffee prices have been volatile as a result of supply chain disruption and the rising costs of raw materials.
Nevertheless, with demand for premium coffee remaining strong, Coffee Planet adopted new revenue streams to adapt.
The company experienced a fall in wholesale trade to hospitality businesses and offices and subsequently shift its focus to the at-home coffee market through ecommerce.
"We saw a rise in consumers investing in high-quality products amid increased working from home. This has continued with flexible working,” says Brown.
Coffee Planet also introduced coffee bean subscription services and product bundle offers and grew its social media presence.
Brown says that the UAE is now bouncing back to life following the pandemic and so is Coffee Planet.
“Year-to-date, we are seeing a strong 2022 performance with our previous strongest yearly performance close to being surpassed. This is very encouraging for our business as we look forward to exiting 2022 and sprinting into 2023 with ambitious growth plans,” he says.
Having made a name for itself in the UAE, he states that Coffee Planet is proud to be a homegrown company. The specialty coffee chain opened its first café with DASH Hospitality Group in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Circle in August 2021 and recently launched in Dubai Hills Business Park and Dubai Hills Mall.
Brown says Coffee Planet “will bring a taste of the Middle East to the UK market, offering a different perspective on coffee culture”
Further international expansion is also very much on the horizon.
Coffee Planet, which operates six outlets in Pakistan, is expecting to launch in Saudi Arabia this year and has long-targeted Egypt as an emerging market, although import issues have hindered its entry in the country.
The UK continues to be a key focus for Coffee Planet, with the team recently attending international franchise exhibitions in both London and Birmingham and holding court with keen potential investors intent on building on the brand’s growing international presence.
After opening its first UK store in Cardiff in 2018, Coffee Planet is now in advanced discussions to open stores at both Cardiff Central and Queen Street stations on the Transport for Wales (TFW) rail network.
In addition, negotiations are progressing for a multi-site deal that would incorporate retail and foodservice distribution and café openings in the Midlands and Buckinghamshire.
Brown says Coffee Planet “will bring a taste of the Middle East to the UK market, offering a different perspective on coffee culture - ensuring customers always receive the high-quality offer they have come to know and expect.”
"We remain committed to opening branches in the UK, with preferred locations and innovative trading solutions currently under consideration. Stay tuned for more from the team soon.”