Starbucks has no formal online delivery in China, where Alibaba-backed competes with Tencent Holdings Ltd-backed Meituan-Dianping as the country’s two biggest food delivery platforms.

Schultz, however, said he was close with Alibaba’s Ma and suggested the two could work together to boost Starbucks’ online distribution in China.

“There’s no doubt that no brick-and-mortar retailer anywhere in the world, let alone China, can exist as a stand-alone business without having a significant, integrated e-commerce mobile application,” he said.

“I have been very dear and close friends with Jack Ma for many, many years… and suffice to say there will be news coming that will relate to our plans for accelerating and integrating mobile commerce at a higher level into our core business.”

Current trade tensions between the United States and China were creating a negative atmosphere between the two countries, he added, though he downplayed the impact on the chain.