Duy Anh Foods currently already exports its rice-based products to 58 countries all over the world including Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Canada and more, but it is hoping to achieve a lot more growth now that the worst of the COVID-19 trade restrictions appear to have died down.
To do this, the firm intends to focus on two key aspects of high quality and novel product innovation, and for the latter it has chanced upon using fruits as a unique ingredient in developing its latest range of products, with one of these being the award-winning watermelon vermicelli.
“This was initially an idea towards reducing food waste, as the watermelon vermicelli was developed during the peak of COVID-19 when international borders were closed, and in Vietnam a lot of watermelon was not able to be exported and was just going to waste,” Duy Anh Foods Director Le Duy Toan told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent ThaiFex-Anuga Asia 2022 show where the firm also won an innovation award.
“We had to experiment with the watermelon and rice flour many, many times in order to get the vermicelli to a suitable consistency and taste for packing and consumption – but it has worked out well.
“Cooking it actually gives out a watermelon smell, and it is chewier than average rice-only vermicelli too.”
At the moment, although watermelon is able to give an added element of extra protein to the vermicelli, Le highlighted that consumer interest is still quite centred on the novelty aspect.
“It’s still that feeling of trying a novel product, something that few others have tried before that really appeals to them,” he said.
“But that said, overall we do see the direct addition of fruits and vegetables and herbs into our products as a good direction for innovation and novelty development, as these also allow for the creation of healthier food products whilst giving consumers more choice and drawing more interest.”
Apart from the watermelon vermicelli, Duy Anh Foods has also developed a dragonfruit rice paper under its Mr Rice branding, which has also received a lot of attention due to its bright pink colouring.
“Dragonfruit is itself naturally pink, and using this to make the rice paper makes for the natural pink colouration of the rice paper as well, and consumers really like that they can wrap their desired ingredients in this pretty pink wrapper,” Le added.
This product has the added advantage of being an even stronger draw for younger consumers who are always on the lookout for vibrant, uniquely coloured Instagrammable foods and beverages to post on their social media.
Not suitable for all products
Fruits are commonly used as a flavour in various sweet products, but it is much less common to see this integrated into traditional staple or savoury-oriented products like vermicelli or rice paper, so this is still a somewhat niche category.
Le said that this is for good reason too, as although using fruits as an ingredient sounds like a flawless idea, it is not in fact suitable for all types of innovation.
“First is that not all products can be made to have fruits incorporated, certain types of noodles may just not be able to get that texture or sizing required to meet consumer acceptability,” he said.
“The converse is also true, where not all fruits are suitable for this type of innovation, but as this area is quite new to us we still need to do a lot of R&D to make sure we are not missing out on good opportunities.
“Overall though, we do maintain that keeping up product quality even in tough times is what needs to be upheld no matter what, because this is the key to bringing back repeat consumers – so if a company stoops to using inferior ingredients, it may be able to make profits one time, but one time only, and not be able to go far, which is definitely not our goal.”
Duy Anh is targeting expansion into more markets this year, with its current focus being Senegal in Africa, a market looking for shelf-stable products that are convenient to prepare.