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Tech-driven Malaysian brand offers 'specialty coffee with an app', turtle-friendly rice straws |

Food and Leisure

Tech-driven Malaysian brand offers 'specialty coffee with an app', turtle-friendly rice straws

Kathleen A. Llemit -
Tech-driven Malaysian brand offers 'specialty coffee with an app', turtle-friendly rice straws
ZUS Coffee Chief Operating Officer Venon Tian and ZUS Philippines Country Manager Correne Chen at the grand launch of its latest store in SM Makati on April 18, 2024. The Malaysian coffee chain store offers Espresso, Americano, Latte and Frappe drinks, which can all be ordered on its app. / Kathleen A. Llemit

MANILA, Philippines — Malaysian brand ZUS Coffee is putting the "zealous" in its name into action as it eyes to open more stores apart from its current 12 in the Philippines. 

Frequent SM Makati passersby and mallgoers cannot miss its location on the third floor as it stands out from afar with its blue kiosk offering specialty coffee for as low as P45 to P160. 

A cup of their espresso and Americano sell for P45 and P65, respectively. ZUS Coffee favorites, Iced or Hot Spanish Latte sells for P95, while the distincly Malaysian-flavored Gula Melaka (named after a sugar from the Melaka or Malacca state of Malaysia) is priced at P95. Their Frappes are priced at P145 to P160. 

Repeat order in just a click away

Its young and hip vibe is a reflection of its quite young business owners. 

Chief Operating Officer Venon Tian is in his early 30s, and he said the average age in their Malaysia headquarters is 30 and below. 

ZUS Coffee is a translation of their core team's zealous outlook on the e-commerce, and coffee just happens to be one of their more popular brands or offerings behind their e-commerce business. 

Tian talked to select members of media including at last Wednesday's grand opening in SM Makati. 

"We're a bit more mischievous, we're a bit more naughty, we're a bit more adventurous. It fits into the whole DNA of how we work, how we come up with flavors, how we run things as well," said Tian. 

Before they even had their first store in Malaysia in 2019, they already had their ZUS Coffee app running for coffee lovers in their city. 

"Personally and some of the co-founding team members, we are all very familiar in terms of tech start-ups. We know how an app works. In fact, we had our app even before the store. So we managed to build the app first before the store," Tian said.

"The whole idea during that time was how do you bring e-commerce into the scene and how we see our self is very much more an e-commerce brand other than a coffee brand."

Tian said that coffee is one of their products, but for them, they are constantly working on fine-tuning the e-commerce aspect of their business. 

They want to make sure that their customers' ordering experience is easy, seamless and convenient. 

"That you're able to one-click order. I'm sure you've read about Amazon where you can just order with one click and stuff. We want to be able to make it happen with coffee as well. We make sure that we're constantly working on the user experience, interface, making it as accessible as possible," he said. 

Their customers can choose to have their caffeine orders delivered or picked-up when they open the ZUS Coffee app.

ZUS Coffee currently has 400 stores in Malaysia. 

Incorporating local flavors

The brand exports its 100% Arabica beans from coffee farmers in Guatemala, Kenya and Papua New Guinea. It is to ensure that they practice sustainability and fair trade by directly buying from coffee farmers. 

Currently in their menu and as seen on their app, they have incorporated Filipino flavors in their buns. They offer Corned Beef Pandesal and Chicken Adobo Pandesal for P90 each. 

He said that they are working with more local flavors, and mentioned about ube being a popular flavor in the country and something that their research and development team is looking into. 

Apart from accesibility and innovation, the brand also works on its sustainability measures. 

It currently uses rice straws, instead of plastic ones. Tian said it was born out of his love for nature. A self-confessed scuba diver, Tian said it made sense that this consciousness for the environment's well-being be incorporated into the business. 

"That one is very accidental. Personally, I'm actually a scuba diver. Thinking about selling too many coffee, why use so many plastic straws? Then we went out to look for whatever is sustainable so we went to look for rice straws," he said. 

Their rice straws are "100% plant-based, edible and turtle-friendly." 

They have received feedback that the straws melt, but Tian said ZUS Coffee firmly stands on its sustainabile effort.

"We've got some complaints here and there because it melts and what not, but we're still hanging on to the idea that it has to be sustainable. Whatever that we do next to replace, for instance, rice straws, has to be good for the environment and hence, we'll be keeping that from then and until now," said Tian. 

By end of this year, they are targeting to open 150 stores in the Philippines. The ZUS Coffee app can be downloaded on Google Play and the App Store. 

RELATED: UK-based chefs create Filipino-inspired dishes

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