VIET­NAM ON THE MENU

A ris­ing mid­dle class and 7.9 mil­lion hun­gry tourists are help­ing fuel the de­mand for premium food and bev­er­age prod­ucts in Viet­nam. Nada Young pin­points the op­por­tu­nity for Kiwi ex­porters.

Exporter - - CONTENTS -

Nada Young pin­points the F&B op­por­tu­nity.

Viet­nam is a unique mar­ket within South­east Asia. Hav­ing been forced to pro­tect its sovereignty so fiercely dur­ing the Viet­nam War, the coun­try and its peo­ple be­came self-re­liant and it wasn't un­til 1975 that im­ported goods slowly started trick­ling back in.

To­day, im­ported food and bev­er­age prod­ucts are still largely com­mod­ity based. By far the big­gest ex­port com­mod­ity from New Zealand is dairy, worth NZ$296 mil­lion dol­lars in 2015 (source: Sta­tis­tics New Zealand).

Fruit, the sec­ond big­gest F&B ex­port by value, was a dis­tant NZ$24.7 mil­lion by com­par­i­son, fol­lowed by seafood at NZ$13.4 mil­lion and meat at a mod­est NZ$5.9 mil­lion.

There is a long way to go be­fore these ex­port sta­tis­tics start to match some of New Zealand's more his­toric ex­port mar­kets such as Sin­ga­pore, where two-way trade has been ac­tive since around the time of Sin­ga­pore's lib­er­a­tion from Ja­pan in 1945.

‘Mod­ern trade' as we know it is still in it's in­fancy in Viet­nam. The ma­jor hyper­mar­ket chains in Viet­nam such as Metro, Big C, Lotte and Gi­ant are not widely dis­persed (Big C, one of the big­gest chains, only has 32 stores) and the se­lec­tion of premium im­ported F&B prod­ucts is sparse.

There are some smaller niche play­ers such as An­nam and Citi­mart su­per­mar­ket that of­fer a rea­son­able se­lec­tion of im­ported items, but as a sales chan­nel for New Zealand ex­porters they are not sig­nif­i­cant.

The real op­por­tu­nity for New Zealand's F&B ex­porters lies in the food service sec­tor.

Ho­tels and restau­rants are hap­pily en­joy­ing a bustling trade as the num­ber of for­eign vis­i­tors con­tin­ues to grow. The to­tal num­ber of in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals reached an im­pres­sive 7.9 mil­lion last year and 2016 fig­ures are al­ready up 20 to 30 per­cent com­pared to the same pe­riod last year ac­cord­ing to the Viet Nam Na­tional Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tourism.

While tourists will find plenty to de­light the palate in the lo­cal cui­sine, few are ea­ger to eat Pho for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. Most ho­tels of­fer Viet­namese and Western-style break­fast buf­fets and one can usu­ally find a good se­lec­tion of Euro­pean dishes on the menu at four and five star ho­tels.

The rapidly grow­ing Euro­pean style din­ing scene in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is also a wor­thy chan­nel to ex­plore. As dis­pos­able in­comes rise and the con­stant stream of Viet­namese stu­dents re­turn home from their stud­ies in coun­tries like New Zealand and Aus­tralia, the de­mand for in­ter­na­tional cui­sine has no­tice­ably in­creased. It's not un­usual to find New Zealand lamb and Cen­tral Otago Pinot Noir on the menu at such es­tab­lish­ments.

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