Dateline Southeast Asia

Gaining a picture of Vietnam’s tastes through its new product launches

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Vietnam is in the midst of near-10% annual growth in overall food sales, according to Innova research, which names rising affluence and an ongoing expansion of the country’s mass grocery retail industry as the main catalysts for this increase.

According to Innova, Vietnamese consumers, especially those who are young and affluent, are preoccupied by brands and demand greater convenience. In particular, western products have been experiencing highly successful launches in the country when backed by investment in marketing and promotions.

Although traditional products still remain dominant, international influence is being seen in imported goods from Europe, America and other Asian countries in growth categories such as snacks, ready meals, bakery and dairy.

Indeed, in 2014, Innova observed that the highest growth segments, in terms of the number of product launches, were bakery, ready meals, dairy and snacks.

In this regard, bakery came top, with the number of launches increasing by 53% over the previous year, and 16.2% of all products coming from this segment— up from 10.6% in 2013.

Of all bakery sub-categories, bread and bread products, and savoury biscuits and crackers, at the expense of sweet biscuits, were the fastest growing in terms of share of total bakery launches.

Nevertheless, cakes still remained the largest sub-category, representing 34% of bakery launches tracked in 2014. While new products featuring chocolate flavours have been common, those in local flavours such as green bean and green tea are still popular.

Bread and bread products occupied the second largest bakery sub-category, with market volume for these increasing by 20.4% from 2010-13.

In 2014, the number of snacks launches witnessed 21% year-on-year growth, with nuts and seeds represented the largest share, featuring a combination of locally produced and imported goods. Most local product launches have been in classic, plain flavours.

Meanwhile, dairy product launches witnessed a 22% year-on-year rise in 2014, with cheese and milk drinks continuing to see most new products—at 36% and 16% of dairy launches respectively.

Cheese was the largest category within dairy, representing 36% of new launches, typically comprising premium, European-style cheeses.

However, the fastest growing sub-categories in terms of new activity were yogurts, and fats and spreads, which  gained by seven and three percentage points within the overall category.

Ready meal launches grew on average by 43% per year from 2010-13, with prepared and plain pasta and noodles the fastest growing and most sizeable categories This is largely due to these products having a long shelf life and being convenient to prepare.

This demand for convenience has also translated to traditional staples such as noodles and rice, which are increasingly being launched in ready formats in both plain and prepared varieties. Such new products include varieties of easy-to-prepare noodle meals, including noodles with separate seasoning sachets

In addition to the traditional noodles, predominantly imported Italian-style pasta products such as macaroni and penne have gained a growing presence on the Vietnamese market.

In terms of on-pack communication, most new-product positioning claims were for no additives/preservatives, halal and traditional. In dairy specifically, a significant number of recent product launches furthermore focused on health claims relating to digestive health and fat and protein content.

Most claims on new food and beverage launches were related to clean label, and in particular the no additives/preservatives claims, which appeared on 10.4% of launches in 2014.

Halal claims were seen on 9.3% of product launches, followed by traditional claims, at 8.7% on both local and imported products.

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Philippines and New Zealand establish food safety pact

The Philippines has signed an agreement with New Zealand to strengthen co-operation in food safety between the countries.


The arrangement, signed by officials from the Philippines Food and Drug Administration and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, builds on the principles of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, said the Kiwi food safety minister.

Signing of the food safety arrangement demonstrates our interest in growing trade and our commitment to deepening the excellent relationship between our countries​,” said Jo Goodhew.

New Zealand’s ambassador to Manila, David Strachan, said business would benefit from the agreement, adding: “The arrangement would facilitate greater engagement between our agencies with responsibility for food safety through increased engagement between experts, information sharing and cooperation in areas of best practice​.”

The pact aims to promote the free flow of information on food safety policy and standards between the two countries while recognising of the equivalence of measures they adopt. It also contains academic elements to boost co-operation and sets out testing systems for exports between the Philippines and New Zealand.

Moreover, the countries have agreed to establish an action plan outlining joint work programmes on the basis of the cooperation.

According to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, the Philippines is one New Zealand’s five main export markets for dairy products, and represent about 15% of overall goods trade.

The AANZFTA free-trade agreement entered into force for trade between New Zealand and the Philippines in 2010 and by the end of this decade more than 99% of New Zealand’s trade to the Philippines will be duty-free.

Vietnam targets food poisoning reduction as a priority in 2016

Food safety officials in Vietnam have highlighted the prevention of food poisoning outbreaks among its priorities for 2016.



Vietnam recorded 171 food poisoning cases in 2015, which affected nearly 5,000 people and killed 23. This represents a slight decrease of 22 cases compared to 2014, according to the Vietnam Food Administration, which operates under the health ministry. 

The number of cases occurring in households have been controlled, while the figures for factory and school canteens have followed a downward trend, the administration said. 

Nguyen Thanh Phong, who headstone VFA, investment will be channelled to increase officials and equipment deployed in detecting and preventing the sale of contaminated produce, which is central to many of Vietnam’s food poisoning outbreaks. 

He said that special food safety inspections will be piloted in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, while campaigns to raise awareness will continue. 

Thai skipjack prices expected to continue drop due to EU quota

Thai skipjack tuna prices fell in December to their lowest level since 2009 due to an expected increase in catches following the end of a ban on fishing aggregating devices in the West Pacific.


Prices since bounced back by 5% as a result of higher demand following an increase in the European Commission’s duty-free import quota for 2016 to 25,000 tonnes of frozen, pre-cooked loin—an increase of 13% year on year. 


However, this quota was used within the first eight days of the year as tuna already stored in transit, and waiting for the quota to be applied, caused prices to increase from mid-December. With the duty free quota fully exhausted, demand is likely to fall as a result.

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