For coffee lovers in China, grabbing a fresh cup of venti cappuccino from Starbucks will soon be as easy as a few quick taps on their smartphone.
Starting Oct. 22, Starbucks will offer delivery in nine new cities in China through Alibaba’s on-demand delivery platform Ele.me. In Shanghai and Beijing, the “Starbucks Delivers” service is already in full swing.
“We set out to earn our right to do coffee delivery the right way in China by leading and up leveling the standards for the entire coffee industry, with no compromise on the Starbucks quality at any step,” said Belinda Wong, CEO of Starbucks China.
As a predominantly tea-drinking culture for centuries, China’s brewing love affair with coffee is getting hotter. At three cups a day, China’s per-capita coffee consumption ranks low, but total consumption growth is leapfrogging at an average annual rate of 16%, significantly outpacing the world’s average of 2%, according to the International Coffee Organization.
Coffee drinking and hanging out at cafés are also seen as part of a trendy, sophisticated lifestyle that more consumers here are pursuing. In fact, as more people switch to espresso from oolong for their morning pick-me-up, China is well on the path to becoming one of the largest coffee-guzzling countries in the world, research by University of Kentucky says.
“Our market-leading scale and the positive customer trial and adoption we have seen in the first month of operations have given us even greater confidence that we will successfully bring this exceptional delivery experience to more than 2,000 stores across 30 cities by the end of year,” Wong said.
To provide the best-quality delivery service, Starbucks has designed a spill-proof lid for both hot and cold beverages, tamper-proofing packaging seals and unique Ele.me delivery containers to ensure the optimal temperature and standards for beverage and food quality and safety.
The latest expanded delivery service is part of the overall Starbuck-Alibaba collaboration announced in August. Another integral element of the joint effort is the establishment of “Star Kitchens” in Alibaba’s tech-driven supermarket Hema. Currently, Starbucks has piloted the kitchen in two Hema locations, one in Alibaba’s Hangzhou headquarters and another in Baodi Mall in Shanghai. Starbucks said the plan is to roll out the service to more Chinese cities over time.
Star Kitchens will leverage Hema’s fulfillment and delivery capabilities, with delivery in as fast as 30 minutes, to further expand the scale and reach of Starbucks’ delivery service, the Seattle-headquartered coffee company said in a statement.