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

By Heather Timmons
South KoreaPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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.

Hollys Coffee
It’s no weirder than pumpkin spice.

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 stake in 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.

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