The portfolio company of TA Associates seeks to grow its presence in the region as part of a broader global expansion
Bubble tea served in glasses
Photo as seen on the company website

Bubble tea brand Gong cha, one of the world’s most recognised Taiwanese tea brands, is actively seeking additional franchisees across Europe. The company is aggressively seeking to further grow its presence as part of a broader global expansion.

Gong cha was founded in 2006 in Taiwan, and the brand name translates to ‘tribute tea for the emperor’. It was acquired by US-based private equity firm TA Associates in August last year, giving the bubble tea brand a cash injection for expansion.

TA Associates invests in profitable, growing companies with opportunities for sustained growth, and has invested in more than 500 companies around the world.

The firm has raised $33.5 billion in capital since its founding in 1968 and is committing to new investments at the pace of over $3 billion each year.

The company has fueled Gong cha’s European growth plan by attracting top industry talent to its management team across all disciplines.

Einar Gustafsson recently joined the company as chief executive, Americas & Europe, to quickly scale-up the brand’s presence in these markets.

Gustafsson was previously managing director at Bakkavor Asia, an integrated food manufacturing company, specialising in chilled, prepared food, and helped build Bakkavor’s presence in China.

“I am excited to share the Gong cha opportunity with interested potential franchisees,” said Gustafsson. “Gong cha is a leading brand in a fast-growing category, and the unit model economics are very attractive. With a fairly straightforward operating model and relatively low upfront capital requirements, a Gong cha franchise investment is compelling.”

The company argued that data from Allied Market Research show that the European bubble tea market is over $300 million in size and growing at 9% per year.

A traditional Taiwanese brand

A staple throughout Asia with a loyal following since the 1980s, Gong cha bubble tea has become a daily treat for in-the-know consumers across the world.

The go-to-market model is mostly take away, offering bubble tea through delivery as well as in-store pickup. Despite the global pandemic, new stores have continued to open around the world, including a new store in Liverpool, England. Gong cha now has stores in 19 countries with over 1,300 locations.

Gong cha’s flagship products include Pearl Milk Tea and Brown Sugar Milk Tea, and the company regularly offers seasonal products, such as Mango Milk Foam Slush and Crème Brulee.

The company claims to using only the highest-quality, premium tea sourced from the finest tea estates of the Alesha region in Taiwan, serving freshly-brewed, customised bubble tea in 600 combinations, offering customers a new bubble tea experience with every visit.

Another key addition to the team is James Sollars who joined the company as chief operating officer of Gong cha Europe – he is responsible for leading the company’s expansion in the region.

Sollars spent more than 20 years with Pret A Manger, leading that company’s entry into the US and China.

There are more than 1,300 Gong cha stores in 19 countries, including Taiwan, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Date published: 2 December 2020

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