In conversation with Charles Kutner, a native of Los Angeles, California, now Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Boncafé (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
Originally established in Singapore in 1962, the Boncafé brand came to Thailand in 1991. What were the initial obstacles the company had to overcome?
Well, I only began with Boncafé in 2004, but since the beginning the biggest challenge is Thailand itself, which has traditionally been an instant coffee market. Even today, to a degree, the market still skews more towards instant coffee, but that is changing—at a very fast rate! Everyday there are so many coffee shops opening, both in Bangkok and across the country. Fresh coffee has also become a must in the modern office today, and is expected by employees in both Thai companies and multi-national corporations.
When did Boncafé set up the manufacturing facility in Chonburi, and what is it capable of doing?
We have been roasting in Thailand since the company was established here. We sell coffee in so many numerous packaging styles that our output fits almost all possible uses. We have just added a large roaster which will increase our capacity substantially. In addition, we are the only roaster in Southeast Asia with automated coffee capsule production.
Are all your beans sourced from within Thailand?
From the outset Boncafé has always had a focus on supporting Thai farmers and the Thai coffee industry and continues to do so today. The reality though is Thailand does not have enough coffee to supply the demand, and the market is changing, especially in demand for higher quality Arabica beans.
Where can people find Boncafé products?
As the nation’s leading fresh coffee brand our product line is available from all major retailers across the country. Plus, we have 17 branches across the country where consumers and restaurants/owners can see our complete line of coffee machines and coffee blends.
Can you explain a bit about the coffee machines that you import, distribute, and service?
We carry a wide range of coffee machine in all price ranges. We import from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and China. The most famous brand we supply is La Marzocco, a very premium espresso machine from Italy used in the finest coffee shops around the world. Today it’s even used in the home for those that want the best cup of coffee. We also carry a brand called Jura, a Swiss designed line which is also very popular, but more so in the office and home environment. As of now we service the machines through our 17 branches across the country.
Could someone wanting to open up a new café come to you for everything they’d need?
If someone is opening a coffee shop we can provide the machinery as well as full training at no cost. This includes teaching baristas how to make all coffee recipes, and also non-coffee beverages. Any drinks that a coffee shop sells we can teach them how to make them.
Tell us about the Boncafé Academy and the barista training.
Our focus has always been to educating and training our customers. The Boncafé Academy is the largest coffee training programme in Thailand, and possibly Asia. We hold over 50 workshops every month across the country, educating thousands of restaurant and coffee shop owners.
How are things different now that you are part of the Massimo Zanetti group?
Boncafé was purchased by the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group in 2015. The benefit has been having access to great expertise globally with major operations in Europe and the US. The biggest difference is the opportunity to work with global brands like Segafredo, from Italy, and Hills Bros. Coffee (a major coffee brand in Japan and the US). So, our customers have even more choice today.
What’s your personal favourite type of coffee?
I like a long black. It gives me the opportunity to try and experience the difference in flavours of coffees from different regions. But it wasn’t always like that for me. It used to be a simple cappuccino or just a brewed coffee with cold milk. Well, I am American after all!
Interview by Bruce Scott
21F, Muang Thai-Phatra Tower 2
Ratchadaphisek Rd, Huay Kwang
Tel: 02 693 2570