MarketingEast Asia

Starbucks invests in sustainable coffee production, unveils Coffee Innovation Park in China  

Aliza Carmona - September 19, 2023

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Kunshan, China – Multinational coffeehouse company Starbucks has announced the opening of its US$220m Coffee Innovation Park (CIP) in China to advance its global sustainability agenda. 

Starbucks’s Coffee Innovation Park is a fulfilment of the company’s first-ever scaled vertical integration ‘from bean-to-cup’ across one market. 

The CIP also holds the distinction of being Starbucks’s most energy-efficient and sustainable coffee manufacturing and distribution centre in the world. With the company making two additional rounds of investments since its announcement in March 2020, the CIP has the largest investment in any Starbucks coffee manufacturing and investments outside of the United States.

Located in the city of Kunshan, an hour from Shanghai, the new coffee manufacturing and distribution centre is designed and built based on LEED Platinum and China Green Building Three Star, leading sustainability standards for carbon emissions, energy and water use, and waste. It houses a roasting plant deploying Starbucks’ energy-efficient technology, a state-of-the-art integrated distribution centre (IDC), and an immersive experience center.

Around 20% of the energy supplied to CIP will be from its 26,000 m2 of installed solar panels. The company is also projected to achieve 90% of recycled waste annually.

Starbucks’ CIP has the capacity to supply all of the company’s locations in China. It will also 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, to develop a variety of unique blends and roast profiles to meet the evolving tastes of Chinese customers.

The integrated distribution centre (IDC) in CIP will serve as the centre of Starbucks China’s distribution network to directly supply thousands of its stores in the region with freshly roasted coffee. The IDC uses advanced automation technologies and a 34-metre-high fully automated storage and retrieval system, which makes it six times more space-efficient compared to a conventional Starbucks warehouse.

However, the CIP is more than just a manufacturing site. It will also feature an immersive Experience Centre that provides a creative and unique interpretation of industrial tourism with an authentic, vivid showcase of the ‘bean-to-cup’ coffee journey.

The experience centre comprises 12 touchpoints where visitors will be transported virtually across the world to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of faraway coffee origins, from China’s Yunnan province to the farms in Costa Rica. They will witness roasting in person and up close as they learn about the latest innovations and sustainability practices at different parts of the coffee value chain.

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO at Starbucks Coffee Company, said, “As one of the largest consumer markets in the world, China presents tremendous opportunities for Starbucks. 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.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of the China team’s visionary thinking. As Starbucks largest and fastest-growing international market, we will continue to deepen our investment and reinforce our unwavering long-term commitment to the China market,” he added. 

Speaking on the launch, Belinda Wong, chairwoman and CEO of Starbucks China, also said, “The Coffee Innovation Park holds important significance for Starbucks in China and globally. It not only showcases Starbucks unrivalled coffee leadership, fulfilling our scaled vertical integration in China ‘from bean-to-cup’, but also sets a new benchmark for sustainability in China’s coffee industry. Its immersive experience center further elevates China’s specialty coffee industry with a multi-sensory showcase of the coffee journey. The CIP is yet another testament that Starbucks’ purpose and commitment to China go far beyond a cup of coffee.”