Vietnam’s coffee queen has visions of a global empire

“We are striving to make King Coffee one of world’s top five coffee brands and to make Vietnam a global coffee powerhouse,” the wife of Vietnam’s coffee king told Xinhua. Le Hoang Diep Thao is the chief executive officer of Ho Chi Minh City-based Trung Nguyen International Corporation (TNI), part of the Trung Nguyen Group (TNG).

Vietnam’s coffee queen has visions of a global empire

Her husband, Dang Le Nguyen Vu, who has been recognized as Vietnam’s coffee king by Forbes Asia and National Geographic Traveler, is the co-founder and co-owner of TNG, a leading coffee firm in Vietnam, specializing in instant coffee, roasted and ground coffee, cafe trading and coffee export. After the couple successfully brought the G7 coffee brand to more than 60 countries in the world, Thao launched TNI King Coffee and is aiming to conquer the hearts of coffee lovers all over the world, including over 1.3 billion Chinese consumers who are used to drinking tea.

Vietnam's coffee queen has visions of a global empire

“In the last 20 years, we have focused on the coffee business only. We provide full services, from coffee bean plantation to blending and roasting,” Madame Le Hoang Diep Thao said.

“TNI’s coffee beans are finely chosen from the best coffee beans in Buon Ma Thuot (the capital city of Dak Lak central highland province, Vietnam’s coffee kingdom).

Combined with advanced technology, production equipment imported from Europe, and the secret recipe from Trung Nguyen, TNI coffee is distinctive,” the graceful woman, wearing a long, red traditional dress explained.

In late April, Thao put into operation a big TNI King Coffee factory, with an initial capacity of churning out 9,000 tons of roasted coffee beans and 19,800 tons of instant coffee a year, in the southern province of Binh Duong. King Coffee has been exported to many countries in the world, including the United States, Australia, Russia, China, India, South Korea and Singapore, and is expected to be available in 129 other markets in the future.

“King Coffee for the king market,” Thao said, implying that China is world’s biggest coffee consumer. In China, King Coffee has advanced to become one of the four best-selling brands on T-Mall Supermarket, one of three key e-commerce websites of online trade platform Alibaba.

In March, at the 96th China Food and Drink Fair held in the Chinese city of Chengdu, Thao announced that TNI will strive to meet its sales target of $1 billion from the Chinese market in the next few years.

“More and more Chinese young people like to drink coffee and regard it as a casual lifestyle,” Thao stated.

Peter Tsang, Trung Nguyen’s general manager in charge of the Chinese mainland, echoed Thao’s statement, saying the Chinese market’s potentiality is huge and cafes are mushrooming there and becoming indispensable for Chinese youths.

“Most of China’s population is used to drinking tea, but many Chinese people, especially youngsters, like to drink coffee,” he said, adding that Vietnamese coffee exported to China enjoys preferential treatment, including tax incentives.

There are three key factors leading to the success of Trung Nguyen coffee in China, namely Vietnam’s fine coffee beans, the firm’s know-how, and the use of European machines and technologies, Tsang stated.

“We hope that we will attain the sales target of $1 billion in the Chinese market by 2020,” he said.

Now, over 1,000 Trung Nguyen cafes are set up home and abroad. However, two decades ago, Vu, born in 1971, was a medical student with poor parents. Motivated by the aspiration to make a fortune for himself and his country by selling processed coffee, Vu, in 1996, opened a coffee roasting facility in Dak Lak, with a total workforce of only four, including himself and three of his friends.

Having practically no money or experience, Vu struggled to make his business survive while still having to attend classes. Time went by, and so did the money Vu invested in his small production base. His parents had to sell their own house to contribute capital to the base. According to local media, Vu, burdened with financial difficulties but wanting to realize his dream, met Thao, a 20-year-old lady, who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth (her father is a gold jewelry tycoon in Buon Ma Thuot), and agreed to marry.

Vietnam, the world’s second biggest coffee exporter after Brazil, shipped 467,000 tons of coffee worth nearly $1.1 billion overseas in the first quarter of this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Thao expressed her strong belief that TNI King Coffee will be a huge success, especially in international markets, like the previous brand G7. “My greatest vision is expanding the Vietnamese brand all over the world, and for it to be able to compete with multinational companies in the coffee industry,” she said.