Wednesday , September 28 2022

Vietnamese coffee industry game changer: King Coffee CEO


Le Hoang Diep Thao, CEO of King Coffee, has brought Vietnamese coffee to the world by participating in Expo 2020 Dubai, writing business books, and contributing to a world record for Vietnamese robusta.

Le Hoang Diep Thao, CEO of King Coffee. Photo by Quynh Tran

Le Hoang Diep Thao, CEO of King Coffee. Photo by Quynh Tran

King Coffee recently participated in Expo 2020 Dubai. What did you gain from this event?

King Coffee has a presence in 120 countries and is still on its way to expand further on the world map. Expo is a 170-year old event that takes place every five years, gathering businesspeople from more than 190 countries. This expo showcases all the remarkable events of a country’s past, present, and future. This is an extremely great opportunity for King Coffee to reach more than 190 countries at once.

Appearing at Expo 2020 Dubai, King Coffee has represented the coffee industry and Vietnam’s agriculture. We have cooperated with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to organize activities to promote Vietnamese coffee to the world for six months (October 2021 – March 2022), especially the event of Vietnam National Day (Dec. 30, 2021) and Vietnam Coffee Week (Jan. 1, 2022).

As a major coffee brand, we participated in coffee-related activities during this event. All visitors really enjoyed our coffee, which impressed them by quality.

When we introduced Vietnamese coffee during Vietnam Coffee Week, visitors were surprised by egg coffee, Ede coffee, iced-milk coffee… They enjoyed learning how to use coffee filters, and discovering the philosophy of softness, lightness, sophistication to create a perfect cup of coffee compared to using compact espresso machines.

The exhibition is already halfway through and we have left our mark and accomplished our targets.

-How has King Coffee connected Vietnamese businesses to Dubai Gateway?

At Expo Dubai, King Coffee aims to promote coffee culture and development strategies for the coffee industry, and at the same time, widely inform businesses in other industries in Vietnam, who also consider this a great opportunity to go global.

We worked with Viettravel to engage most associations in all industries, supporting them to participate in this expo. Up to now, hundreds of Vietnamese businesses have gathered here. Expo Dubai makes it easy to set up an online exhibition channel, allowing businesses that are unable to attend offline events due to Covid-19 to participate, and promote their images. Meanwhile, we can follow all the events on social media channels and grab opportunities from Expo.

Vietnamese coffee brand on display at the event. Photo by Ragheesh

Vietnamese coffee brand on display at the event. Photo by Ragheesh

Expo also organizes a National Day for participating countries. If a country has a potential industry, enterprises in that country might be invited to gather on National Day to find collaboration opportunities.

Since October 2021, we have done a wonderful job of connecting businesses in Dubai, and at the same time, promote our country. Dubai is an iconic city with a significant impact in 22 Arab countries. By having a presence in Dubai, businesses would enjoy many opportunities to access this market.

First autobiography

What excites you the most at Expo 2020 Dubai?

I have a clear goal in everything I do. When I decided to attend Expo 2020 Dubai, I thought about what would make King Coffee stand out and shine there. I started writing the book “The Queen of King Coffee” from the beginning of 2021, in order to release it at Expo Dubai. Without travel or business trips during the pandemic, I had more time for the book.

While publications regarding the Vietnam War are widely available, English-language books about Vietnamese culture, people, and business opportunities in Vietnam are scarce. Therefore, I decided to launch a book to introduce Vietnamese coffee and the country’s coffee culture to the world. This event drew the attention of the international media. Expo Dubai organizers also promoted this book on their media channels, reaching 192 countries.

CEO Le Hoang Diep Thao at the book launch event. Photo by Raghee

CEO Le Hoang Diep Thao at the book launch event. Photo by Raghee

The book was released on Dec. 29, 2021. More than 100 newspapers around the world have reported on King Coffee and the book. I am very happy to tell the story of Vietnamese coffee. I also published the book on Amazon, and it has received positive feedback from readers. When someone places an order, Amazon prints the book and delivers it to the customer.

As planned, the book will be translated into several languages, first in Arabic to reach 22 Arab countries. When I released the book in Dubai, local businesspeople wanted me to take part in many activities to talk to women, young people about starting a business, not just the book. They want to translate the book into Arabic to make it reach more people.

They are impressed with the image of women running startups, not only in the coffee sector but also other industries. The book offers them a lot of information. In fact, women are being encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and obtain freedom in doing business. I expect my book to motivate them to be more confident.

Will the book be available in Vietnamese?

The book is expected to be released in March in Vietnam, followed by Vietnamese and English versions in June 7 in the U.S. Many readers in the U.S. told me they were looking forward to the premiere.

The Vietnamese book is not a translated version from English but a different one. The book is a guide for startups and women to balance life and business, as well as female leaders’ responsibilities and aspirations for their country.

If the English book represents the world’s view of Vietnam, the Vietnamese version describes the viewpoint of a coffee business leader.

The Queen of King Coffee will be translated first in Arabic to reach 22 Arab countries. Photo by Ragheesh.

“The Queen of King Coffee” will be translated first in Arabic to reach 22 Arab countries. Photo by Ragheesh.

What do you expect from this book?

I was a business leader for more than 20 years, but I didn’t let people get to know me. This was good for my family before, but not so good for me when something went wrong.

I think a female leader should balance her reputation and personal life to proactively play the right role, which will strengthen the business.

Everyone may know my important decisions to establish the Trung Nguyen and G7 brands, the journey to make them successful not only in the country but also around the world.

For me, every challenge can be dealt with. When you know how to overcome it, you can strengthen your position.

Do you have any ideas for your next book?

Because I am a coffee aficionado, the next book might be “The Master of Coffee” by a coffee specialist. In order to promote Vietnamese coffee, I also have to do many other things. King Coffee will have a chain of coffee shops around the world, and its products will be available in supermarkets all over the world. I want to introduce the very unique and different ideas and culture of Vietnamese coffee to the world. Surely it will be worthy of world recognition.

World record for Vietnamese Robusta

Why are you so devoted to coffee?

I was born and raised in a coffee region. Since I was a child, I witnessed the coffee price drop after bountiful crops, and vice versa. Coffee prices were very low and precarious. The farmers had no idea what the outside world was like. In the coffee ecosystem or global value chain, the farmer segment generated very small value.

At that time, in my knowledge, there were many well-known coffee companies in countries that did not grow coffee like Sweden, the U.S… I always wondered why they could do it but we couldn’t?

During 1975–1986, coffee was considered a luxury commodity. I clearly saw that coffee was in great demand, so why not make coffee popular? While coffee had so many benefits, like boosting creativity and concentration, efficiency at work, why didn’t we give coffee a chance to live?

More than 20 years ago, we hardly saw coffee in supermarkets, but today coffee occupies six shelves at Coopmart. Visitors to Vietnam give priority to buying Vietnamese coffee to bring home because of its good quality. That is a good foundation to promote Vietnamese coffee, as well as King Coffee, in the world market.

In October 2021, The World Records Union recognized Vietnam as the largest producer and exporter of Robusta coffee. How did this affect Vietnamese coffee?

It is a historic milestone because Vietnam’s coffee industry had endured several hundred years to achieve a world record.

I believe Vietnamese coffee has all the conditions to achieve a world record. Although facing many difficulties in persuading associations or state agencies to consider coffee a national asset, I am still determined to push for the World Records Union to recognize Vietnam as a the largest Robusta coffee producer and exporter in terms of output and productivity, along with heritages of the unique and distinctive art of brewing (Ede coffee, racquet coffee, filter coffee), the art of blending and enjoying diverse, creative and unique coffee through drinks and dishes (egg coffee, iced milk coffee…). When I announced this record at Expo Dubai, all the visitors burst into applause and paid special attention to King Coffee.

It is worth mentioning the World Records Union has recognized specially prepared Vietnamese coffees like iced milk, egg coffee, and Ede coffee. Here, we are mixing different types of coffee together to create a more tasty, unique cup of coffee, all without the use of flavorings and chemicals. The recognition of the art of blending is useful for coffee makers to improve their products.

In addition, I see many other opportunities to spread awareness and responsibility among the coffee business community, including using reputable branded products. That paves a way to create sustainable development for the coffee industry.

What are your expectations for the development of Vietnamese coffee in 2022?

Despite Covid-19, the coffee industry still grew in 2021. Although coffee shops had to close, the products were still delivered to the door. People usually consumed 1-2 cups of coffee per day, but 3-4 glasses during the pandemic. The global coffee industry grew by 4 percent last year, also in Vietnam.

I think Vietnam needs to quickly develop strategies for the coffee industry, to take advantage pf huge opportunities in the next five years with the law of supply and demand. If we don’t, other countries will do better, and surpass us. This is a very good time for Vietnam to reflect, prepare a solid strategy to create a game changer for the whole coffee industry.

What do you usually think during the Tet holiday?

Leaders need to pay more attention to their employees at any time, especially in this pandemic period. They should be concerned about how to keep employees safe, fully vaccinated, and unaffacted by the pandemic. Motivation from the leader also helps employees have a more positive mindset, thereby maintaining operations.

Tet is a time that brings family together. I miss my father very much, who passed away more than 20 years ago. My Tet grew warmer with him. The street around my house would be lit by fireworks. Everyone drank champagne, congratulated each other. He taught me to understand myself, the value of living life. Dad also taught me little things. I miss my father very much and miss Tet holidays with him. Now my family often tells stories about him at gatherings. When all members are united, the family always feels warm and happy.

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