Can the sweet potato latte help a Korean coffee chain conquer the world?

Can the sweet potato latte help a Korean coffee chain conquer the world?

By Heather Timmons November 21, 2013


Gimme a double sweet potato with extra whipped cream.Hollys Coffee/Facebook

Does the world really need another global coffee chain? It’s about to get one, in the form of Hollys Coffee, a South Korean coffee company that is striking out from its coffee-saturated home market. Hollys, which was started in 1998, serves espresso, cappuccinos and other typical coffee shop fare, but the company’s signature drink is its “sweet potato latte,” a 445-kcal hot drink made with milk, sweet potatoes and almonds. They also do a brisk business in “anytime brunch,” which mostly means waffles whenever you want them, sometimes topped with a scoop of gelato.It’s no weirder than pumpkin spice.Hollys Coffee

The company is looking for franchise partners in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Hong Kong, international business manager Koo Hong Kyo told South Korea’s Straits Times. Hollys has already taken baby steps overseas, and has 15 outlets in Thailand, China, Peru and the Philippines. The company got some financial backing for its expansion when Korean private equity firm IMM purchased a majority stakein corporate owner Hollys F&B for 100 billion won ($9.4 million) in July.

While most countries in Asia are enjoying a coffee-drinking boom that outpaces the rest of the world, the South Korean market is already saturated, with 400 Hollys stores, 900 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores and about 500 Starbucks outlets.

Hollys’ franchise partner in China hopes to open 500 stores there over the next seven years, Koo said. The chain will have plenty of competition there too—Starbucks plans to have 1,500 Chinese stores by 2015.

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 (, 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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