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Starbucks names co-CEO for its second biggest market; opens innovation center

Starbucks’ new China Coffee Innovation Park is a roasting plant and also serves as a training center and visitor destination.

Starbucks Coffee Company continues to focus on China, naming a co-CEO for the region and opening a nearly one million sq.ft. “coffee innovation park”  near Shanghai.

The coffee giant has tapped Molly Liu as executive VP and co-chief executive officer of Starbucks China, effective October 2, 2023.  Since 2021, she has served as Starbucks China’s chief operating officer, where she oversaw the company’s accelerated expansion to more store locations while invigorating coffee beverage innovation with the successful launch of new platforms.   China is Starbucks’ second biggest market after the U.S.

Prior to being COO, Liu, who joined the company in 2012,  served as the company’s VP of digital ventures, where  she set the foundation for the company’s digital flywheel in the market, most notably with the launch of “Starbucks Delivers” and “Starbucks Now” digital ordering services, which have grown to contribute  48% of China sales. She also established the Starbucks Rewards program and turned it into a leading loyalty program with more than 20 million active members.

Belinda Wong will continue to serve as chairwoman and CEO of Starbucks China, with the company aiming to operate 9,000 stores across 300 cities by 2025;

“Molly is a strong leader who has been instrumental in elevating the Starbucks Experience for our Chinese customers and driving industry-leading innovation for our China business,” said Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Starbucks. “There remains tremendous opportunity for Starbucks in China, and I’m confident that together, Belinda and Molly, will lead Starbucks through our next chapter, while living our mission and values.” 

Coffee Innovation Park

In other news, Starbucks announced the opening of its first-ever Coffee Innovation Park (CIP). The facility, located in the Chineese city of Kunshan, an hour from Shanghai,  has been designed to be the chain’s most energy efficient and sustainable coffee manufacturing and distribution center in the world.

The new facility features a roasting plant deploying Starbucks most energy efficient technology, a state-of-the-art integrated distribution center and an immersive visitor experience center. It imports high quality Arabica green beans for roasting, packaging, storage, and distribution, while showcasing the ‘bean-to-cup’ coffee journey to visitors and providing coffee related training — all in one location.

With capacity to supply all Starbucks coffee locations in China, including as the company continues to grow, the CIP will use advanced eco-friendly technologies to blend and roast high quality Arabica green beans sourced from more than 30 countries around the world, including China.

“As one of the largest consumer markets in the world, China presents tremendous opportunities for Starbucks,” said Narasimhan. “The Coffee Innovation Park highlights Starbucks foresight in elevating the supply chain through digitalization and advancing our sustainability agenda, enhancing our unique competitive advantage as we accelerate our global growth.”

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