OWL coffee maker turns 60, 'wants to be everywhere'

Mr Te says his firm, home-grown coffee company OWL International, is "not so worried" about the gloomy economic outlook as coffee consumption around the world has always been growing.
Mr Te says his firm, home-grown coffee company OWL International, is "not so worried" about the gloomy economic outlook as coffee consumption around the world has always been growing. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Home-grown coffee company OWL International turns 60 this year with its vision of being a "complete coffee company" percolating nicely on a number of fronts.

The firm has operations in all parts of the supply chain, from distributing Italian beans and coffee machines to opening its own cafes.

"We go into everything and we want OWL to be everywhere. But running a cafe is a completely different ball game, with greater emphasis on customer service," said OWL assistant general manager Richmond Te.

OWL will mark its 60th anniversary by producing 100 per cent freeze-dried coffee for its "Everyday Favourites" range, which is typically produced using spray-drying technology.

"Steam escapes when you use spray-drying technology, so the resulting coffee has less aroma compared to freeze-drying which really 'locks in' the aroma," Mr Te said.

But with additional aroma comes additional production costs, and Mr Te expects producing freeze-dried coffee more expensive as that for spray-dried coffee.

The gloomy economic outlook is not causing too much concern at OWL. "Coffee consumption around the world has always been growing, and we are not so worried because we have everything from gourmet beans to affordable products in the supermarkets," said Mr Te.

"Perhaps people will drink less of one and more of another, but they will still drink coffee."

He said the company is trying to further expand in China as it expects demand there to keep growing, and as a "complete coffee company" it is well positioned to do so.

"In some countries, sachets sell better, and in others, our cafes do well," he said.

"The demand in each sector depends on the country... we are in everything."


Sheryl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'OWL coffee maker turns 60, 'wants to be everywhere''. Print Edition | Subscribe