Starbucks to open its first store in Colombia

Starbucks to open first cafe in Colombia, stronghold of Juan Valdez coffee store chain

Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Starbucks announced plans Monday to open its first cafe in Colombia, where the popular Juan Valdez chain has a very firm foothold.

The Seattle-based chain said the Bogota store will open in the first half of 2014 and be operated through a joint venture between the company's Latin American franchisee, Alsea, and the food company Grupo Nutresa.

Starbucks says it has "aggressive plans" to open cafes across Colombia over the next five years. CEO Howard Schultz said he expected to have up to 50 stories in Bogota and other major cities by then.

Schultz met with President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday and also met with Colombia's coffee federation, with whom he said he discussed increasing Starbucks' use of Colombian coffee worldwide by about 20 percent over the next three years.

The federation created the Juan Valdez chain, which opened its first story in 2002 and has more than 225 shops. Most of them are in Colombia, but it has stores in Miami, New York; Mexico City; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Madrid.

Starbucks is already a customer of the National Federation of Coffee Growers, which comprises 560,000 families dedicated to growing the bean.

Starbucks also announced a $3 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help Colombian farmers boost coffee yields and economic stability. Some Colombian coffee growers are currently involved in protests to demand a renewal of government subsidies secured after previous unrest.

The coffee federation's press office said it had no fear of the new competition. Unlike Starbucks, Juan Valdez only sells Colombian coffee.

In north Bogota, 41-year-old office worker Rafael Reyes said he hadn't tried Starbucks as he hadn't been outside Colombia. But he added, sipping black coffee at a Juan Valdez shop, "we will remain loyal to the Colombian coffee of Juan Valdez."

Starbucks operates in 62 countries and says it has more than 650 stores in 12 Latin American markets.

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Associated Press writer Candice Choi in New York contributed to this report.

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