Bogotá, Colombia – Juan Valdez's smiling face and his iconic burro have been synonymous with Colombian coffee for decades. Starbucks, with its Frappuccinos and flavored brews, could soon wipe that smile off old Juan's face.
The Seattle-based chain said its first Bogotá store will open in early 2014 and be operated through a joint venture between the company's Latin American franchisee, Alsea, and the food company Grupo Nutresa.
Starbucks says it has "aggressive plans" to open cafes across Colombia over the next five years. CEO Howard Schultz said he expected to have up to 50 stores in Bogotá and other major cities by then.
Schultz met with President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday and also met with Colombia's National Federation of Coffee Growers, with whom he said he discussed increasing Starbucks' use of Colombian coffee worldwide by about 20 percent over the next three years.
The federation created the Juan Valdez chain, which opened its first store in 2002 and has more than 225 shops. Most of them are in Colombia, but it has stores in Miami, New York; Mexico City; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Madrid.
Starbucks is already a customer of the Colombian federation, which comprises 560,000 families dedicated to growing the bean.
Starbucks also announced a $3 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development to help Colombian farmers boost coffee yields and economic stability. Some Colombian coffee growers are currently involved in protests to demand a renewal of government subsidies secured after previous unrest.
The coffee federation's press office said it had no fear of the new competition. Unlike Starbucks, Juan Valdez only sells Colombian coffee.
In northern Bogotá, 41-year-old office worker Rafael Reyes said he hadn't tried Starbucks as he hadn't been outside Colombia. But he added, sipping black coffee at a Juan Valdez shop, "we will remain loyal to the Colombian coffee of Juan Valdez."
Starbucks operates in 62 countries and has more than 650 stores in 12 Latin American markets.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.