Chinese People Don’t Like Starbucks Coffee?
The Wall Street Journal had a mostly well written article about Starbucks in China today, yet one of its points is just way off the mark. Which one? Look at this to find out:
But Starbucks faces a big obstacle: Most of China’s 1.3 billion people don’t care for the chain’s signature product. Coffee is so unpopular in China’s tea-drinking culture that until recently many Starbucks didn’t brew regular drip coffee unless a customer ordered it.
The main problem with this argument is simply the argument. The fact is that many Chinese people do enjoy Starbucks coffee when given a taste. The other fact is that many don’t know what good coffee should taste like, as the only incarnation of it that they have had is the nasty instant stuff.
Chinese People Who Try Starbucks Usually Like It
While Starbucks’ success in China has many causes, one of them is the reality that there are ever increasing numbers of Chinese people who have Starbucks coffee for the first or second time who end up truly enjoying it.
The problem isn’t that Chinese people don’t like coffee. It is that the vast majority of them have never had good coffee. Especially when one is referring to the 1.3 Billion the article is referring to.
Yet the article does make the most important point about Starbucks in China. It speaks to the issue of how important the experience of just being in the coffee shop is to consumers in China. And Starbucks is excellent at this in China. Many of their stores are top-notch, with a number of them being nicer, and sometimes much nicer, than equivalent stores back in the states. The article points out how important this is to Chinese consumers, saying:
The company surveyed Chinese consumers and came up with a list of the top 20 reasons they visit cafes. Coffee-drinking ranked sixth. Consumers said the No. 1 reason they go to cafes is to have a place to gather.
As well as this tidbit:
Most of Starbucks’s 436 locations in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong offer more food and seating than its American stores. About 90% of orders are consumed on the premises. The U.S. average is about 20%, Starbucks says. Crowds peak in Chinese Starbucks during the afternoon. Mornings are so slow that employees spend the early hours restacking displays of coffee mugs.
Addiction to Starbucks not Far Off
So it is certain that Starbucks does not yet have a physically addicted crowd in China… of course, addiction to coffee takes years by some estimates, so the time when early morning rushes to Starbucks become prevalent in China may not be too far off in the future, at least for the earlier customers to Starbucks stores in China.
The proof, really, is in the pudding. Starbucks has done incredibly well in China, and doesn’t look like it is losing any steam in its solitary race to dominate the Chinese coffee market. The time that many Chinese people admit to loving coffee might not be so far from now. The difference, however, may be that Chinese consumers say they love “Starbucks” instead of “coffee”.
Starbucks may not stop until it reaches this point.