An untold number of coffee shops across the globe have temporarily or permanently closed at the height of the pandemic but Vietnam’s TNI King Coffee has bucked the trend, opening its first store in the US early this year and pushing forward with expansion plans.
“Many businesses were affected during the pandemic, but we saw that there was still a huge opportunity for expansion,” TNI King Coffee founder and CEO Le Hoang Diep Thao told Inside Retail.
“We saw a rapid increase in the business, especially in an industry like ours. After all consumers still need to eat and drink,” Thao said. “Coffee sales have been on the rise, especially with our consumer packaged goods segment. The ‘new normal’ with the work-from-home set up led to more consumer purchase of our instant coffee range, from the supermarkets as well as online.”
King Coffee opened its first coffee shop in Vietnam in 2018 and has since expanded to more than 50 outlets in the country and overseas. Last year, the company opened its first overseas store in Seoul, South Korea and in May this year, the company opened its first US store in Anaheim, California.
The woman behind Vietnam’s rising coffee brand previously co-founded Vietnamese coffee conglomerate Trung Nguyen Group with her former husband, Dang Le Nguyen Vu. She embarked on her own journey after their separation in 2017 and a year later, she opened her first King Coffee café. She’s also known as “nu hoang ca phe” (Coffee Queen) of Vietnam.
According to Thao, the business is aiming to increase its US store network to 20 this year and 100 by next year through a franchise model. She said they are also planning to open its first store in Dubai in the UAE and in London in the UK by the end of this year.
“Besides operating coffee shops, we also manufacture and distribute our coffee product range via our distribution network such as distributors and importers in over 120 cities around the world today,” she said.
“Our distribution network and partners help us merchandise our King Coffee product line into supermarkets, convenience stores and general trade stores for our consumer packaged goods segment.”
King Coffee sources their coffee beans in Vietnamese regions Buon Ma Thuot and Cau Dat, which are well-known for its fresh produce.
“The bitter and bold taste of Robusta, sour taste and delicate scent of Arabica, Excelsa and Catimor from the famous lands — they all make a unique excellent taste for King Coffee products,” Thao said. “That’s why the brand is named: Coffee for King.”
It is Thao’s goal to make the coffee industry one of the key sectors of the Vietnamese economy.
“To me, coffee is the treasure of humanity,” she said. “Vietnam is fortunate to have this wonderful treasure from nature, and I am determined to make every effort to make coffee a strategic industry of the country.”
“Globally, we are aiming to develop King Coffee into one of the top 10 coffee brands in the Asian market as well as one of the key players in the agricultural industry of Vietnam in the next five years,” she added.
Attracting a younger age group
Recently, King Coffee has been focusing its efforts on marketing to a younger demographic, as it veers away from traditional marketing and invests in digital.
“To reach our customers, we focused our efforts largely on social media, new media as well as e-commerce platforms,” Thao said.
Thao explained it is part of their new approach to target a wide spectrum of consumers from 18 to 55 years old.
“This is the range of consumers who can either be just starting to love coffee or have years of experience appreciating good coffee,” she said. “We are being bold in our statement because we are proud of the quality of coffee we produce and manufacture and we want consumers to be able to appreciate every sip they take and know that what they are drinking has a deep history behind it.”
King Coffee is also available at several online stores and marketplaces from all around the globe, including Walmart.com, Amazon, Lazada, Shopee, Wildberries, Ozon, Tmall, and JD.com, among others.
“Our online presence spreads across Southeast Asia, America, China, Korea, Russia, and many more,” Thao said. “Our current immediate plan is global expansion. We aim to expand in 279 cities worldwide through our network of new partners.”
King Coffee has also signed up to join exhibits like the six-month long Dubai Expo, one of the world’s largest trade exhibitions, which usually attracts delegates from 192 countries. The expo is due to open in October 2021 to March 2022.
“While there, we will also be planning to open our first King Coffee flagship café in Dubai, our debut in the Middle East. This is a stepping stone for our massive expansion plan in the Middle East,” she said.