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Experts propose innovative solutions for Vietnamese coffee industry

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HCMC – At a business forum held virtually late last week, experts said that although the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about challenges to the coffee industry, businesses can seek to adapt by exploring innovative ideas for Vietnamese coffee.

Vietnam has consistently ranked among the world’s largest coffee producers and exporters in recent years. Even before Covid-19 and later throughout the crisis, many Vietnamese coffee businesses sought to diversify their export markets, improve quality, leverage the potential of specialty coffee and expand online marketing and distribution channels.

Speaking at the RMIT University’s International Business Forum 2021, RMIT International Business Senior Lecturer Dr Abel Alonso said that responding to the current crisis through value-adding efforts and activities is crucial for Vietnam’s coffee industry. 

Besides the established coffee house culture, many hospitality and tourism activities are making coffee their central product, especially in the post-Covid era.

“Stakeholders in this industry should understand that future development requires an increased focus on value-adding activities and raising awareness of Vietnam’s specialty coffee, highlighted by success stories from other countries like Peru,” he added. 

Based on a couple of recent studies related to Vietnam’s coffee industry, RMIT Tourism and Hospitality Management lecturer Dr Vu Thi Kim Oanh emphasized the efforts made by Vietnamese coffee stakeholders in the journey to bring Vietnamese coffee to the world.

“Many stakeholders in the industry have taken specific actions to contribute to bringing Vietnamese coffee to the world. For example, tour companies, hotels and coffee businesses have collaborated to build an experience model of a ‘coffee path’, ‘from farm to cup’, or ‘from seed to cup’ for visitors,” Dr Oanh said.

The forum was also attended by representatives from industry associations and businesses, including Les Vergers du Mekong, Cong Ca Phe, La Viet Coffee, Lofita Coffee and Tea, Rain Coffee and Hidden Gem Coffee. Drawing from experience in executing diverse business ideas, the speakers provided varied perspectives on internationalization, diversification of products and services, sustainable growth, marketing and management.

Sharing experience from the Les Vergers du Mekong Company, known for its Folliet coffee brand, general director Le Van Dong said that strong market knowledge, a focus on reducing adverse environmental impact and technology application have been key to their sustainable success for the past two decades.

“We manage our supply chain very carefully. For instance, we have designed a traceability app and frequently hold workshops and provide support to farmers so that our international quality standards are maintained. We also use eco-friendly packaging and are piloting organic farming. These are responsible for our competitive advantage and high sales,” Dong said.

Tran Nhat Quang, founder and CEO of Dalat-based La Viet Coffee, highlighted the potential of “in-country export”. While building their factory in Dalat, La Viet combined their production facilities with a coffee shop in one space, so that visitors could enjoy their coffee while learning about the production process and products.

“We have a two-hour tour of our factory and the roasting and brewing experience. We also have a one-day tour, which offers an in-depth experience for international tourists interested in local farming. This tourism model was very successful prior to Covid-19, and we intend to continue with it when travelling begins again,” Quang said.

According to Dr Nguyen Van Minh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Farms and Agricultural Enterprises Association, the coffee industry has been and will continue to be a mainstay in Vietnam’s international business.

“Vietnam is gearing toward a smart, organic and value-adding agricultural sector. The coffee industry is part of this trend. Vietnam can improve the value of its coffee gradually by innovating, applying technology and creativity in new products and attracting prestigious investors,” he said.

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