June 29, 2018 Business

Starbucks Stirs Up Serbian Coffee Market

Costa couldn’t take the heat. Now Starbucks is making a play for Serbia’s coffeeholics, starting with the capital.

Last year, Serbia imported around 31,000 tonnes of raw coffee worth 74.6 million euros, making coffee one of the country’s main import commodities. Photo: Pixabay

Maja Zivanovic

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Long or short? Double or single? Hot milk or cold? The possibilities sometimes seem endless.

Soon coffee lovers in the Serbian capital will have another choice to make. Koffein, Kafeterija, Greenet or… Starbucks!

For one day this month, politics took a backseat to the announced arrival of the US brand, which cited Serbia’s long love-affair with the black stuff.

But can Starbucks wean Serbs off the thick, dark Turkish coffee that more than two thirds say they prefer, or will the legacy of centuries of Ottoman rule prove too strong?

“We see big potential in the Serbian market,” Adrian Wnek, PR coordinator of AmRest Holdings, the sole operator of Starbucks in Central and Eastern Europe, told BIRN.

“Serbia, and particularly Belgrade, has a long history of coffeehouses.”

For now, AmRest Holdings says it has plans to open one Starbucks in Belgrade later this year, “and will continue to look for further opportunities.”

Coming just months after the arrival in Belgrade of Swedish furniture giant IKEA, one Twitter user had to lie down in a darkened room.

“My wish and desired living standard was to live in a city with IKEA and Starbucks,” they wrote.

Another, apparently abroad, appeared almost ready to return: “Starbucks: I never thought I’d say this, but I miss you #serbia”.

Serbs prefer Turkish

A glance at the numbers suggests Starbucks should have no shortage of customers.

Last year, Serbia imported around 31,000 tonnes of raw coffee worth 74.6 million euros, making coffee one of the country’s main import commodities.

According to a 2015 survey by the Serbian National Organisation for Protection of Consumers, NOPO, 74.8 per cent of people in Serbia drink several coffees per day.

Only 17.6 per cent have the willpower to limit themselves to one.

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