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Starbucks China names new co-CEO, opens coffee innovation park near Shanghai

Starbucks is continuing to gain momentum in China, announcing the appointment of a new co-CEO for the region, as well as the opening of a USD 220 million coffee innovation park near Shanghai.

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The U.S. coffee chain giant has promoted Molly Liu to executive vice president and co-chief executive officer of Starbucks China, effective October 2. Liu has served as Starbucks China’s chief operating officer since 2021, and previously served as the company’s vice president of digital ventures.

Belinda Wong will continue to serve as chairwoman and CEO of Starbucks China.

“Molly is a strong leader who has been instrumental in elevating the Starbucks experience for our Chinese customers and driving industry-leading innovation for our China business,” said Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive officer of Starbucks.

“There remains tremendous opportunity for Starbucks in China, and I’m confident that together, Belinda and Molly, will lead Starbucks through our next chapter, while living our Mission and Values.”

Coinciding with Liu’s promotion, Starbucks revealed details of its China Coffee Innovation Park (CIP).

Located in the city of Kunshan, an hour from Shanghai, the 80,000-square-metre CIP aims to fulfil scaled vertical integration across one market, a first for the company globally, and features a roasting plant using Starbucks most energy efficient technology, a state-of-the-art integrated distribution center (IDC), and an immersive experience centre.

The CIP will have the capacity to supply all Starbucks coffee locations in China, said the company.

Plans for the CIP were first announced in March 2020. Since then, Starbucks has made two additional rounds of investments, making it the largest investment in any Starbucks coffee manufacturing and distribution center outside the United States, worth some RMB 1.5 billion (USD 220 million).

“As one of the largest consumer markets in the world, China presents tremendous opportunities for Starbucks. The Coffee Innovation Park highlights Starbucks foresight in elevating the supply chain through digitalisation and advancing our sustainability agenda, enhancing our unique competitive advantage as we accelerate our global growth,” said Narasimhan.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the China team’s visionary thinking. As Starbucks largest and fastest-growing international market, we will continue to deepen our investment and reinforce our unwavering long-term commitment to the China market.”

Starbucks China said it aims to operate 9,000 stores across 300 cities by 2025, creating more than 10,000 additional jobs annually.