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Beverage industry expected to mix up record high sales

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's beverage industry looks set to brew to a record high of NT$43 billion (US$1.45 billion) in revenues this year, thanks in part to the local population's growing love of coffee.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs released figures recently that show the industry took in NT$36.7 billion in sales over the first ten months of the year, shaking things up despite a slow economy to serve a 7.9 percent industry growth from the same period last year.

That compares with a less than two percent growth forecast for Taiwan's overall economy this year.

If it comes true, the prediction of NT$43 billion in beverage sales will be a big gain over last year's NT$40.9 billion. For comparison, in 2007 the industry posted sales of NT$35 billion, according to ministry statistics.

Behind the growth was an increase in the number of outlets. Taiwan's top five coffee chains sweetened the market by adding 135 locations between 2007 and 2013, and now operate a total 593 stores countrywide.

Starbucks Corporation, a U.S.-Taiwan joint venture, added 18 stores this year to reach an October total of 298, while the home-grown Dante Coffee opened two locations to reach 131.

Taiwan relies heavily on imports to fuel its growing coffee-drinking population. The country imported more than US$100 million's worth of coffee beans in 2011, up from US$43 million in 2007, according to the ministry.

In the first ten months this year, coffee bean imports were 0.7 percent higher than the same period last year, coming out to US$85.13 million.

In addition to the growing number of outlets offering freshly brewed coffee, ubiquitous little shops on busy streets continue to serve cold and hot drinks in paper cups.

And in convenience stores and supermarkets, hundreds of domestic and imported beverages are on offer.

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