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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tapping into Vietnam’s potential market

By Dennis Khng

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Vietnam stands out as one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, making it a pivotal market for European pork producers. With its promising growth trajectory, Vietnam is poised to be a key focus for intensive cultivation in the years to come.

“We are excited to be here!” exclaimed Ohiane Villa, project coordinator at Eibens, as she addressed the crowd in front of the expansive European Union (EU) Pork Pavilion at Food & Hotel Vietnam 2024, held from March 19 to 21, 2024. Eibens, a market intelligence and communications agency, has partnered with European Pork to showcase its unique characteristics to the burgeoning Vietnamese market.

Leveraging the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which came into force in 2020, the EU Pork Pavilion secured a substantial 60-square-meter exhibition space in this 12th edition of the event.

Spearheaded by Interporc and Filporc, the Spanish and Portuguese Pork Producers Associations, the EU Pork Pavilion spotlighted the distinct, flavorful, and high-quality attributes of EU pork, emphasizing its safety and sustainability.

Prominent sustainable standards, including traceability, ethical animal welfare practices, and environmental responsibility, are also central features of EU pork. As the global business community increasingly embraces sustainable practices and standards, such key attributes are expected to enhance the positioning of any business.

The Pavilion engaged with potential business partners such as importers, distributors, traders, chefs, and HORECA (Hotel, Restaurant, Catering) professionals.

Representatives from Interporc and Filporc expressed enthusiasm about the presence of the EU Pork, Smart Choice Campaign at the Food & Hotel Exhibition in 2024. They highlighted Vietnam’s status as one of the largest meat markets by volume in the ASEAN region, projecting strong growth in the coming years. This underscores the importance of Vietnam for European pork producers, who are keen to intensify their efforts in cultivating this market. Interporc and Filporc, representing exporters from Spain and Portugal, aim to leverage the tradeshow to forge meaningful business connections, expand their market knowledge, and capitalize on its potential.

At their bustling booth, skilled chefs and a professional ham carver showcased tasting dishes and presented ham carvings for sampling to the intrigued crowd. In terms of cuts of meat, “ribs and tenderloin are popular, but soft-tasting cuts near the pig shoulder, like secreto and pluma, are also growing in popularity in Vietnam,” said Villa, a Spaniard based in HCMC.

“Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in this region, and HCMC, being the largest commercial city in the country, holds great potential. We believe it is the right moment to promote and grow the Vietnam market,” noted Villa.

She observed that while the Vietnam market is not very familiar with European pork, pork is a very popular meat among Vietnamese and the expanding middle class here is more open to trying new things. That is where an informative, promotional campaign will really help, she added.

Aside from promoting EU pork at the tradeshow, Interporc and Filporc, the Spanish and Portuguese Pork Producers’ Associations, are also aiming to hold Master Classes in HCMC and Hanoi this year.

A key networking opportunity
The show at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center (SECC) featured 21 group pavilions representing 27 countries and territories, alongside over 300 companies spanning the food and drink, hotel, restaurant, bakery, and foodservice equipment sectors.

Beyond being a prime networking platform and avenue for business development, the event hosted engaging competitions such as the Vietnam Culinary Challenge and the Vietnam Barista Competition. Moreover, attendees joined enlightening seminars covering diverse topics like Sake Appreciation and Innovation and Development in Food Packaging.

Growing the sake market
At the fair, a significant number of Japanese Sake companies, in collaboration with the Japan Sake Organization and the National Tax Agency of Japan, seized the opportunity to showcase their specialties.

Wataru Hosokawa, director of Overseas Business Development at Amabuki Shuzo brewery, proudly presented the unique Amabuki Pink Lady. This sake, distinguished by its captivating rose hue, offers a crisp mouthfeel and a slight sweetness. Crafted with ancient black rice and innovative flower yeast, it stands out as an intriguing addition to the diverse range of sakes featured at the event.

Traditionally, Sake brewers utilize Sake yeast cultured from strains extracted from sake mash. However, Amabuki Shuzo employs flower yeast, resulting in a broader spectrum of aroma and taste profiles. This unconventional approach yields highly distinctive flavors and aromas, exemplified by the fruity and sharp abelia profile or the sophisticated fragrance and robust flavor of Marigold, ideal for warmed sake.

Another standout offering showcased was the Amabuki Cloud. Characterized by its cloudy, creamy texture, this sake delights the palate with aromatic notes of crisp lemon and refreshing tangerine, offering a unique departure from conventional clear-colored sakes.

“We know Japanese cuisine is very popular and established in Vietnam, but I believe there is still lots of potential for growth, especially in the area of Sake,” said Hosokawa with a smile. “At this event, my aim is to spread the knowledge of Sake and the love and appreciation of Japanese culture.”

“Many Japanese brewers are targeting HCMC and Hanoi, and so are we. But we also believe there is great potential in Danang, because of its fast development and growing number of foreigners living there,” he observed. His brewery has primarily been selling its Sake in HCMC and is confident there is room for expansion as the country develops.

Steeped in tradition yet forward-thinking, Amabuki Shuzo brewery has embraced various sustainable operational practices to complement its business expansion. It recycles the lees from fermented rice, or “Sake kasu,” in a variety of ways. Recognizing its high nutritional value, Amabuki sells Sake kasu as animal feed, uses it as an ingredient in pastry and confectionery, and even incorporates it into Sake-based cosmetics. Last but not least, it recycles it to make Shoju, another traditional Japanese alcohol.

Tapping into tea trends
The bubble tea scene in Vietnam is dynamic and competitive, with chains from Singapore to Korea, Taiwan, and China all vying for a slice of the expanding Vietnam pie. Fueling and leveraging this growth is Vietnamese company Global Ingredient Group Corporation (GLOFOOD), which supplies food ingredients such as syrups, non-dairy creamers, tea and nuts, as well as jellies and trendy Boppa tapioca pearl balls that, in its latest version, are crunchy and juicy.

GLOFOOD serves as a distributor for Dutch dairy company FrieslandCampina and English syrup company Sweetbird. Its syrups are creatively used to make a wide variety of coffees, teas, and cocktails, among other beverages.

“Our focus is on food ingredient quality at an affordable price,” emphasized Nguyen Thi Thuan, Product Innovation and Marketing manager at GLOFOOD. “We back this up with quality certifications such as the Halal certificate and certificates from the Vietnam Health Ministry,” she added.

With a national presence from Hanoi to HCMC, GLOFOOD has been closely monitoring the country’s beverage trends. “After Covid, we experienced a downturn where people focused on cutting costs, paying less while targeting better value. Now, customers are more willing to pay more for better quality products.” The company also supplies food ingredients for pastries and bakeries and intends to further expand this segment moving forward.

“Vietnam has a young population that is willing to spend and follow trends, and that has allowed the HORECA recovery rate to be much better than in other countries,” she observed.

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