Click for Coffee


August 30, 2023 | By Anurima Das

Ali Al Ebrahim, CEO & Founder (left), and Shahood Siddiqui, CTO (right) of COFE

COFE was founded by a group of coffee enthusiasts in Kuwait in November 2018, and has since then rapidly expanded to serve UAE, KSA and Egypt as well. It was started with the intention of shortening the distance between people and their daily caffeine, and soon grew to include a plethora of verticals based on the changing trends in coffee consumption.

Unlike other delivery or logistics apps, COFE is a lifestyle app. The services the platform offers do not take customers away from coffee shops but rather make it easier for them to save time by being able to customize, order and pay online; getting to spend more time with their cuppa. Understanding the trend of coffee ordering and how the brand with its heavy-duty tech backbone is redefining e-commerce for the food service industry we got in chatting with Ali Al Ebrahim, CEO & Founder, and Shahood Siddiqui, CTO of COFE.

Inspiration to do something differently

Ali, when talking about the journey of COFE, explains “COFE is meant to serve every aspect of the coffee industry. Whether it is users who love international franchises, artisanal coffee, specialty coffee or even home brewing, we bring it all together on one platform. When we started out, we focused on pickup, then delivery and now ecommerce. COFE has grown steadily and evolved in response to changing consumption patterns and habits.”

When COVID hit restaurants and stores were closed, there appeared a growing market for home brewing, a trend that has endured much after the pandemic has ended. “From delivering on-demand coffee we began to broaden our services to include beans and other related products in their inventory.” adds Ali. Eventually this led to the birth of COFE Market, the e-commerce segment of COFE App, wherein users can order beans, machines, filters, and a whole lot more for their home brewing needs. With the rise in the movement towards locally produced coffee, COFE has also partnered with the Saudi Coffee Company to support this move towards empowering the local coffee economy and getting behind sustainable farming and sourcing practices as well.

Market insights

According to the 2020 Global Coffee Market report, the coffee industry is forecasted to expand at a CAGR of 7.5% between 2022-2027, making it the second most lucrative commodity market after oil. Specialty coffee shops alone have shown a 60% growth rate in recent years. Some of the biggest deals to be signed involve the acquisition of coffee-centric companies, like the deals for Keurig (USD 13.9 Billion), Einstein Bros (USD1.35 Billion), Costa Coffee (USD 5.1 Billion) and Pret A Manger (USD 2 Billion) to name a few. And while there are marketplace apps for almost all industries; hospitality (airbnb, booking), food delivery (Deliveroo, Talabat), travel (Expedia, Priceline) etc., there is a lack of a specialized coffee marketplace app in the market.

“We, at COFE, understood these variables and created a platform that served those needs. Services such as pickup, curbside, and express delivery through the neighborhood coffee shops are much more popular than on-demand delivery. Even though the brands are on a marketplace platform, their digital storefront, the reward program they offer and their SKUs from store to store are highly customizable. We do not compete with providers in the coffee industry, rather we complement them with our services,” said Ali.

Before COFE, there was no solution providing local coffee shop owners with the tools necessary to reach a broader, more digitally native consumer base. Coffee shops are torn between investing time and money to build their own apps or to be listed on one of the major food delivery apps. Building their app requires financing which distracts them from doing what matters most – serving customers. As coffee drinking has become more customized over the years, small shops fall behind the corporate giants’ franchises. And COFE is helping level this playing field by developing tech and product line-ups to fulfill the demands of the $44 billion worth Middle Eastern coffee industry.

Technology for growth

In an era characterized by the seamless integration of technology into our daily routines, businesses are presented with the imperative to adapt, evolve, and deliver. COFE Technology stands as a beacon in this transformation, offering brands an arsenal of features designed not just to meet but to anticipate consumer demands. One such example is the use of AI tools.

The industry has embraced the growth of AI and has significantly evolved because of the incorporation of its solutions, providing a wide range of opportunities for all parties involved. COFE, adapting to this growing development, launched Siri and Alexa voice ordering commands. This has enabled their customers to use their voices to easily engage with COFE services wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. “The digitalization of coffee consumption has spawned a wave of innovation within the industry. Technology has radically redefined how consumers consume their coffee, from streamlined ordering processes to advanced brewing techniques, comprehensive taste pleasures, and to social media connectivity. As technology advances, coffee consumption will likely adopt digitalization more, making way for enjoyable and interesting far-future developments,” said Shahood.

Highlights

  • Since its inception in 2018, the brand has shown consistent growth, having served over 5 million cups of coffee, from over 500 popular regional and international brands out of 5000+ stores across 4 countries, recording 4.1m app downloads.
  • With the launch of COFE Market in 2021, they have already onboarded 137 roastaries between Kuwait, KSA, and UAE. 150k+ product SKUs have also been acquired and featured on the application.
  • COFE has recently raised $15 million in their most recent investment round led by Saudi’s Waed Ventures backed by Aramco & eWTP Arabia Capital backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and China’s Alibaba Group. The funding received will help them not only strengthen their current tech, but also develop features that they know will tackle existing challenges that both users and vendors may be facing.

While AI-driven voice ordering and advanced analytics underscore COFE’s commitment to innovation, its seamless POS integrations and third-party collaborations underline COFE’s understanding of the dynamic retail ecosystem. As the technological tide continues to rise, COFE Technology equips brands with the tools they need to not just stay afloat but to sail ahead, charting new territories in the vast ocean of digital retail.

Trend watch

When speaking about the industry and the trends to watch out for, Ali says, “The biggest trend today for retail across categories is to understand that their customers are becoming more aware of ethical sourcing. As customers grow more environmentally conscious and attempt to make ethical purchases, they are also becoming increasingly concerned about the influence of their habits on the earth and its people. This has resulted in a huge swing in the coffee sector also, triggering coffee brands and stores to support ethical sourcing and showcase a commitment to make a good influence worldwide. COFE is sensitive to this need, and partners with its vendors where possible to push for these practices”.

In 2024, COFE will focus on expanding its portfolio of solutions offered to coffee shops including supply chain services, while continuing to build on its ecommerce segment. “Given that we sit in the midst of a USD 44 billion MENA market, it is a great opportunity for COFE to tap into the big supply chain gap when it comes to local farmers, roastaries and coffee shops, and create an ecosystem that connects all the various stakeholders, in order to create fertile grounds for the growth of the entire industry, and not just a player or two,” concludes Ali.

As the foundation of the region’s largest coffee equipment, accessories, and beans marketplace, COFE Technology marries operational excellence with technological finesse, ensuring consumers enjoy a seamless shopping experience. It’s not just about hosting a plethora of products; it’s about ensuring each transaction, each exploration, is smooth, responsive, and fulfilling.

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