How do I take my coffee? Seriously. And apparently so does the rest of the Middle East.

According to Euromonitor, the Middle East’s coffee market reached $6.5 billion in 2014, which translates to 8% of global coffee consumption. This number is only expected to grow, and the UAE in specific is anticipated to see a 35% increase by 2020.
Robert Jones interview with The Marketing SparkThere is no better person to give insight into the surging Middle Eastern coffee scene than the Managing Director of UAE based Coffee Planet, Robert Jones. This year Jones and his team celebrated a massive milestone of a decade of operation after having started their journey with high-quality roasted coffee and one machine, which won them a trial period with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). This relationship would prove to be a launchpad for the brand to grow from strength to strength over the next ten years. Today, Coffee Planet is available in over 200 gas stations across the country.

Having identified a gap in the market for quality coffee on the go, Coffee Planet focused on providing competitively priced, good tasting coffee at a multitude of different distribution points. “We strived to be wherever the consumer is with our locally roasted premium beans, fresh milk and market-leading equipment,” said Jones in an interview with The Marketing Spark.

The drive to be where the consumer is led the company to develop an extensive foodservice network in addition to its retail division. It serves hotels and offices with the Coffee Planet machines and recently launched single serve capsules.

To best deliver on their brand promise of fresh coffee, the company opened its own roastery in Jebel Ali in 2008, thus allowing it to offer its customers some of the freshest beans on the market by cutting shipping and transportation time. The roastery has already been expanded to double its size in order to cope with the homegrown company’s rapid growth.

This emphasis on freshness has been the brand’s main message as it continues to battle with global brands to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Education is key, and the company uses a multitude of different channels such as social media, the company blog, above and below the line advertising and public relations to teach the region about the importance of fresh beans for the quality level of coffee. They even launched an app for coffee lovers in 2014.

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The reception to this message is growing, and as Jones states, “we’ve started to notice an increased interest in specialty coffee as consumers are acquiring a discerning taste, and this excites us as they begin to appreciate the value of fresh, high-quality coffee.”

In addition to great taste, the brand’s competitive price strategy is an important one to differentiate it from the international coffee giants. According to Jones, the company believes consumers can enjoy great coffee without paying the high prices set by international chains. A 12 oz latte from the local brand will cost you AED 12, which is up to 35% cheaper than its global competitors.

Jones is adamant that small companies do not need big budgets to battle with franchises. “While global brands have the access to large advertising and marketing budgets, I would encourage small businesses to get creative and think outside the box. Encouraging trial of a product to ultimately drive sales can derive from multiple avenues and simple mechanics, which will not require big budgets and can certainly win the hearts and minds of customers.”

And winning the hearts and minds of consumers is definitely something that Coffee Planet has done, as proven by the prestigious Superbrand accolade it was awarded earlier this year. When asked about this success, Jones’s answer was simple: “I’m very lucky to have a great team.”

Photo credits: Coffee Planet