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Originally published May 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Page modified May 14, 2014 at 8:04 PM

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Starbucks to open stores in Bolivia and Panama

Starbucks’ efforts to expand in the Latin American market speed up as the coffee giant announces store openings in Bolivia and Panama. Its first cafe in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, is scheduled for a midsummer opening, the company says.

Seattle Times business reporter


Starbucks is deepening its drive into Latin America with plans to open its first stores in Bolivia and Panama.

The company said Wednesday that Delosi, its Peruvian partner, will open a licensed store in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz sometime this year.

Santa Cruz is a relatively prosperous commercial hub, but Bolivia remains one of South America’s most impoverished countries, with a gross domestic product per capita of about $2,500. That’s about a twentieth of the U.S. per capita GDP, and the equivalent of about 800 lattes. Nevertheless, the company said there’s room for 10 Starbucks cafes in Bolivia over “the next several years.”

Starbucks also said its Central American partner, El Salvador-based Corporacion de Franquicias Americanas, will open in 2015 a Starbucks cafe in Panama, a fast-rising trade hub that’s quickly morphing into an international finance center.

Colombia’s first Starbucks cafe, in Bogotá, is scheduled to open midsummer, the company said. Starbucks plans an aggressive expansion in Colombia over the next five years.

The announcements highlight Starbucks’ ambition to keep its expansion going by increasingly looking beyond coffeeshop-saturated North America.

Latin America’s booming middle classes, hungry for globalization, present plenty of opportunities for the Seattle cafe empire, but also present challenges as many countries in the region have deeply-rooted coffee cultures of their own.

The Latin foray is also a symbolically charged effort for Starbucks, which has been buying coffee in the region for decades, and now seeks to turn many of these coffee-exporting countries into avid consumers of its beverages.

The company is drawing on its deep relationships with coffee providers to buttress its retail strategy in the region. Colcafe, a subsidiary of giant Colombian food company Grupo Nutresa that helped Starbucks develop its instant coffee, has been enrolled to provide Starbucks’ Colombian stores with espresso, drip and packaged coffee sourced locally.

The stores will be operated through a joint venture between Grupo Nutresa and Alsea, the company that runs Starbucks’ stores in Mexico, Argentina and Chile.

Starbucks has about 740 stores in 12 countries in Latin America. It mostly relies on Latin American partners to run operations from the Rio Grande to the River Plate, but it operates its own stores in Puerto Rico and Brazil.

“We see significant opportunity to grow our retail presence” in the region, Starbucks executive Cliff Burrows said.

Ángel González: 206-464-2250 or On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle

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