Dubai’s Coffee Planet brews up global expansion push

Coffee Planet, the Dubai-based coffee roaster, has set its sights on wider expansion across Europe after a successful launch in the Netherlands.

Workers pack roasted coffee at the Coffee Planet roastery warehouse in Jebel Ali. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper
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Coffee Planet, the Dubai-based coffee roaster, has set its sights on Europe after a successful launch in the Netherlands.

The company, which recently went into partnership with the Dutch Jumbo supermarket chain to sell its brand of coffee across 350 outlets, has now received interest from Germany and Belgium.

“Europe is a fairly big challenge for us. It is a highly developed and competitive market, more so than here,” said Robert Jones, the managing director at Coffee Planet.

“However, we’re competing on quality. We’re providing a fantastic product with a great looking brand that is very modern and fresh. There are age-old coffee brands in Europe that are very typically Italian and stuck in their ways. We’ve tried to revolutionise that and give a fresher look and take on what coffee can be.”

To many in the UAE, Coffee Planet is synonymous with the ready to go machines in petrol stations. The machines serve from 10,000 to 20,000 cups of coffee a day, accounting for almost half of the company’s business.

Coffee Planet supplies 175 petrol stations in the UAE, working with Adnoc, Enoc and Eppco.

“We brought in the best machines from the US and created this concept of coffee on the go. Everybody drives in this country and we asked ourselves where is the best place to get in front of people and that was convenience stores and gas stations,” said Mr Jones.

This concept has been franchised across nine markets including Oman, Malaysia and Pakistan.

“We’ve brought the elements of quality, convenience and speed together. A lot of people in this country are in a rush, everybody is late and everybody expects good quality. Once people started to realise that you can get a fantastic cup of coffee from the machine, they loved it,” said Mr Jones.

THe price has also helped. A 12-ounce cappuccino costs Dh12, up to 40 per cent cheaper than big-brand coffee shops.

“The UAE has seen $122 million in modern coffee shop growth over 2007-2012, driven by major international chains looking to grow their local presence,” said Elizabeth Friend, an analyst at Euromonitor International.

“Specialist coffee shops growth in the Middle East has been driven by international operators. Starbucks leads the category in [the UAE and Saudi Arabia] with shares of at least 20 per cent.”

However, Euromonitor International forecasts the number of local, small coffee roasters is likely to increase in the coming years as consumers become more educated about coffee and more interested in single-origin or fair trade and organic varieties. Coffee Planet joins Raw Coffee, Orbis Coffee and Boon Coffee in roasting their beans in Dubai, providing a fresher brew for customers.

The rise in competition has prompted Mr Jones to focus on other sections of the business – supplying to hotels and restaurants, experimenting with branded coffee pods, chilled coffee drinks and expanding its premium line of single-source coffees.

Coffee Planet is also focusing on expanding its retail presence in the UAE. It has cafes in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, and plans to open a cafe in Qatar in a couple of months.

The UAE’s coffee habits differ from other markets in the region. Lattes and cappuccinos are the best sellers, making up some 70 per cent of the market, whereas in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, lighter coffees and brewed coffees do better.

Saudi Arabia is the largest coffee importer in the region importing 42,000 tonnes of coffee a year with its coffee consumption market valued at $355m, followed by Lebanon at $324m. The UAE ranks at $90m, and is expected to grow to $112m by 2017.