‘Gourmet coffee prince’ Liu Minghui aims high

‘Gourmet coffee prince’ Liu Minghui aims high

Staff Reporter

2013-04-22

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An ad for Aini Coffee. (Photo/CFP)

Liu Minghui, founder of high-end Chinese coffee company Aini Coffee, is continuing his pursuit to promote beans grown in southwestern Yunnan province and raise the company’s profile overseas. Aini Coffee opened its first store last year at the Pu’er Simao Airport, selling coffee machines and coffee beans grown in the Yunnan city of Pu’er. Liu is now seeking to create his own brand in the competitive market of coffee shop chains and instant coffee, focusing on a niche market selling high-end beans to independent coffee shops, offices and families. Opting to avoid direct competition with established brands, the company no longer supplies to Walmart and Carrefour. Liu instead advertises his products online through Taobao and Amazon.One of the biggest challenges for the company, however, is a lack of public confidence in domestic products, said Liu. The situation has got worse in recent years after a series of food scandals, he addedm most notably the infant formula scandal in 2008, in which six babies died and many thousands were poisoned.

“Every time news of a food scandal breaks, it’s like rubbing salt in the wound,” he said.

Problems processing coffee beans and a preference among local farmers to grow beans for instant coffee are also stumbling blocks that hinder Yunnan’s coffee sellers. It is also difficult to attract talent and experienced individuals to the remote province, said Liu.

Liu’s biggest coup, however, was setting up a joint venture with global chain Starbucks last year. The joint venture is estimated to be capable of producing 20,000 tonnes of coffee beans a year.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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