US beverage giant Coca-Cola Company, in a long-term plan to diversify from soft drinks, will serve coffee and tea-making expertise from its first Asian specialty outlet, company executives said yesterday.
The Atlanta-based firm, whose flagship drink is Coke, launched its Far Coast brand of premium brewed beverages at its Singapore "concept store," two months after unveiling the product globally in Toronto.
A third Far Coast outlet will open in Oslo in the first quarter of next year.
I.B. Bopanna, Coca-Cola's regional director for premium brewed beverage, said the concept differs from Starbucks and other specialty coffee retail chains.
He said Far Coast is directed at restaurants, cinema operators, convenience stores and other business customers who want to offer gourmet coffee and tea but lack experience in this area.
The Far Coast facility offers prospective clients a look at the range of beverages and drink machines on offer by the company.
"It's a cafe in a box ... this is truly a sort of a lab if you will, for us to test our whole concept and it is also a live presentation to our customers," said Bopanna.
"So we bring them here, show them what the product is, show them how the system works and then help them to recreate this," he said at the outlet on Singapore's Orchard Road shopping and tourist strip. "So from that point of view, we don't see ourselves as a competitor to Starbucks."
But he said consumers seeking a taste of Far Coast are welcome to stop by the 162m2 Singapore outlet for a caffeine fix or a cuppa.
Boppana said Coca-Cola is always looking at new opportunities to complete its beverage portfolio.
"We have juices, we have waters, we have energy drinks and so on ... this is our first foray into the fresh brewed category," he said on the sidelines of the launch.
The Singapore concept store is the launchpad for the beverage giant to expand in the Asia Pacific region where rising affluence, driven by rapid economic growth, has increased consumers' thirst for cappuccinos, lattes, chai teas and other specialty hot drinks.
Bopanna declined to say which other Asian cities will eventually have a Far Coast concept store but said the company was targeting urban areas "which are fairly advanced and where the opportunities are ripe for us to enter and target the right consumers for these specialty brewed beverages."
He described the concept as "pretty much a work in progress for the next six months."