Dang Le Nguyen Vu, the man who has built Trung Le Nguyen Corp. into Vietnam’s top coffee retailer, says he has plans to take on Starbucks stateside.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Vu described visions of global expansion and perhaps a public offering for Tung Nguyen, which now has some 60 stores in operation in Vietnam. The company has also increased exports of packaged beans since it was founded by Vu in 1996.
Vu last year told the Wall Street Journal that the company was planning to invest some $800 million over the next 10 years to improve its domestic processing infrastructure, but this is the first mention of the possibility of Trung Nguyen retail locations in the United States. He is reportedly eyeing Seattle, New York and Boston as the introductory markets. Vu has been critical of Starbucks in the past, in November criticizing the quality of the company’s drinks and suggesting that its success was based largely on marketing rather than a good product.
“They sing great songs about sustainable development but at the end of the day, the return on investment is what they care about,” he said at the time. “They don’t grow coffee, do they? We do.”
Here’s more from the Bloomberg report:
To help the company’s U.S. entry, Trung Nguyen will take on partners with coffee-industry expertise that share the company’s vision for global expansion, Vu said. Investors will have options to buy a maximum 15 percent stake, which could gradually increase to 30 percent in 10 years, he said. The company is in talks with “key players” in the industry, he said, declining to name them.
“Just to say you want to be bigger than Starbucks or McDonald’s, it’s easy to say but not very easy to do,” said Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, who covers food and beverage companies including Starbucks. “It’s going to require a lot of money, a lot of people, a lot of know-how.”
Vu said the company’s first U.S. store, which may be rebranded under a different name, will be in an “iconic” location.