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.
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.