Lisburn firm hoping to double workforce after signing deal in China

Martin Symington, managing director of Pure Roast Coffee in Lisburn, signing the joint venture agreement with William Wong of China Resources, Shenzen.
Martin Symington, managing director of Pure Roast Coffee in Lisburn, signing the joint venture agreement with William Wong of China Resources, Shenzen.

Lisburn-based Pure Roast Coffee is hoping to double its workforce over the next 12 - 15 months after signing a deal that will see it help develop a network of high-end coffee shops across China.

The first of the coffee shops opened recently in a major shopping mall in Shanghai, with a second shop scheduled to open its doors in the city of Hangzhou within the next few months.

The Pure Coffee branded coffee shops are the outcome of a business partnership between Pure Roast Coffee and Beijing-based China Resources, a Fortune 500 company and one of China’s biggest business groups. The state-owned enterprise has around 5,000 stores throughout China and Hong Kong.

The business relationship has recently been extended by the Chinese company taking an equity holding in Pure Roast Coffee and the formation of an equity joint venture to develop the coffee business across China.

Established as one off the UK’s premier coffee roasters by Belfast man Martin Symington, Pure Roast Coffee has flourished in partnership with some of the UK’s largest coffee operators and online retailers.

The award-winning company currently employs 10 people in Lisburn and a further 10 at an associated company in England.

Mr Symington, the firm’s managing director, said the plan is to roll out 50 coffee shops in Ole supermarkets across China during the next year - a move which could see it double its Lisburn workforce over the next 12 - 15 months.

“The new coffee shop in the store is a hugely impressive and an immensely exciting development for us,” Mr Symington said. “It’s a tremendous showcase of our premium coffee in China, now the world’s most dynamic marketplace, a market with a rapidly developing ‘coffee culture’.

“Another high point for us was the recent supply for use in the UK Prime Minister’s recent trade visit to Shanghai. The attendees, inclusive of Government officials and business leaders, were treated to our high-end coffee at the breakfast meeting.”

He continued: “In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping unveiled the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative with the hope of creating a deep and lasting economic and geo-political relationship between China and the rest of the world. I decided to venture into the nation and it’s a decision that’s proven correct in both a commercial and a personal sense.

“There is an old Chinese proverb that says: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Like every business, my working with China started with introductions and lots of networking. Upon endless meals and handshakes and getting used to chop sticks, time zone differences and misinterpretations in the languages

“I’ve also benefited enormously from the advice and support of Invest Northern Ireland both here and in China, along with the legal input from MTB Solicitors in Belfast.”

Pure Roast Coffee, which has its coffee roasting plant at Lissue Industrial Estate in Lisburn, is supplying premium coffee and also providing expert advice in the development of the coffee shops being established in the network of Ole supermarkets owned by China Resources. Ole supermarkets specialise in the sale of western products including food.

As well as supplying premium quality coffee beans, Pure Roast Coffee is also providing beans and ground coffee for purchase in the shops.

China Resources, headquartered in Shenzen, was formed in 1948 and now operates in seven major sectors including retailing and foodservice through its Vanguard company. It has around 5,000 retail outlets across China, including key cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.