China’s growing demand for coffee continues to draw some of the world’s top coffee roasters and chains. Currently, though the tea-loving Chinese population consumes less than five cups of coffee per capita per year — compared to more than 400 in the US and 300 in Japan — the likes of Starbucks, UCC and Dunkin’ Donuts are investing heavily in expansion in the country, betting that consumption among the Chinese urban middle class will grow steadily in the years ahead. At the moment, Starbucks is perhaps the most successful foreign coffee brand in China, with 570 stores in 48 cities. According to a recent company statement, Starbucks believes that China will become its second-largest market in the world within the next two years, and plans to have more than 1,500 locations in the country by 2015. For its part, fellow American brand Dunkin’ Donuts currently has about 150 locations in China, with plans to open another 100 stores within the next two to three years.
But changing middle-class lifestyles and a growing thirst for coffee aren’t just making giants like Starbucks optimistic about China. This week, Italy’s illycaffee announced plans to open its first cafe in the Chinese Mainland within the next year, with Chief Executive Andrea Illy telling the Wall Street Journal that China may become one of the top five coffee markets worldwide in just one generation. Said Illy, “I see China as a growth market. I think it is important to be there early and to be present since the beginning.” British chain Costa Coffee, too, has continued to expand rapidly in the China market, opening 22 new locations in the first quarter of this year and increasing its locations in the country to 186.