| South Korea

Blue Bottle Coffee continues global expansion with South Korea debut

California-based coffee shop continues global expansion with site in Seoul’s fashionable Seongsu neighbourhood scheduled for 2019

Photo: Nestlé 

Blue Bottle Coffee has announced it will enter South Korea’s booming coffee shop market with a Seoul site due in the second quarter of 2019. The US-based coffee chain, in which food and beverage giant, Nestlé, secured a majority stake in 2017, will jostle for market share among some 85,000 coffee shops in South Korea, which has among the highest density of cafés per capita in the world.

"We feel very close to our South Korean guests, having known them for years in our cafes in the U.S. and Japan and on social media" said Bryan Meehan, CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee. Founder of the company, James Freeman, said the new store “would be like no other Blue Bottle anywhere in the world."

Seoul, which has a thriving specialty coffee industry, will be a safe bet for Nestlé as it seeks to grow Blue Bottle’s business internationally. The South Korean capital has seen a boom in specialty coffee concepts in recent years, with younger consumers rapidly adopting cafés as go-to third-place destinations.

Blue Bottle is a forerunner of a burgeoning group of 5th Wave artisan coffee shops in the US. The Oakland-based chain started with a single store in 2002 and has grown to 56 stores in the US with a further 10 in Japan following its Tokyo debut in 2015. Boutique coffee shop competitors, including Bluestone Lane, Intelligentsia and Stumptown, have all secured significant investment in order to scale their boutique artisan coffee concepts. But Blue Bottle Coffee the first such chain to expand internationally, with Nestlé taking a hands-off approach to managing brand development in order to preserve its independent specialty coffee shop credentials.

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