One time I walked into a Starbucks in China and found that they’re selling authentic Chinese tea such as Biluochun green tea and Jasmine tea in tins. I found it strange, since Starbucks wouldn’t be my place to buy real tea. I don’t think most Chinese would either.
Recently, Marketing Interactive reports that Starbucks tries again to enter the tea market. Now with bottled milk teas sold in supermarkets and online. Is it gonna work? I’ve my doubts.
In 2016, Starbucks also introduced Teavana teas in China as reported by Bloomberg. This line of teas doesn’t really compete with the authentic Chinese teas, but rather competes with the bubble tea chains that that have been extremely successful.
Yet, I don’t think it worked out well. I don’t know any friends who go to Starbucks for an iced tea. I think it’s a mistake for a coffee person to believe that having a coffee background means that they can sell tea. Especially not in China. Taiwanese bubble tea shops probably understand Asian customers better when it comes to commercial tea drinks.
So in my opinion, the success of Starbucks still strongly relies on a strong global brand that represents the coffee culture. And they should stick to it. I’ve yet to see a really creative coffee tailored to the Chinese market, and I hope they do it before it’s too late. Remember, KFC had many years of success due to it’s Western image. The whole menu was completely new to Chinese, and thus entertaining to try. But today, that’s not enough anymore. They’ve to reinvent themselves and perhaps localise more.