Vietnam 'star performer' for functional food ingredients

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dsm nutritional products Nutrition

Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing economies in south-east Asia,
is proving to be one of the most attractive markets for producers
of vitamins and minerals.

GDP per capita in 2005 was only $3,000 compared with China's $7,200 yet manufacturers are launching large numbers of healthier foods, say ingredient suppliers. "Vietnam has been our star market for the last five years,"​ said Tom Bruynel, responsible for new business development at the world's biggest vitamin maker, DSM Nutritional Products. "It's the only place in Asia where I see this extent of advertising of health foods,"​ he told, adding that there is "a very good uptake of new ideas"​. The company is selling both its vitamins and its higher end nutraceutical products to Vietnam, which it counts as its fourth biggest market in nutraceuticals after Japan, Indonesia and China. This means it comes ahead of the more developed Australian market, despite the fact that almost a fifth of the population is thought to be living below the poverty line. Yet the Vietnamese spend a large portion of their income on food, and there is a strong belief in the role of diet in health, according to Bruynel. DSM's Lafti range of probiotics has seen strong demand in Vietnam in products for digestive health and those designed to tackle diarrhoea. Lycopene, a nutrient found in high levels in tomatoes that has been shown to have benefits for the heart, has been added to the filling in layered cakes by one Vietnamese company. "They also have a French heritage so that means they have some awareness of olives and red wine,"​ added Bruynel. Purac's Barry Doesberg agrees that Vietnam looks set to become increasingly important for its mineral sales. "Vietnam is an amazing market, it's developing so quickly. Over and over I see a high rate of new product launches there, thanks to the rapid growth as well as the innovation,"​ he said. The country has a sizeable population of 84 million and income levels are growing, he explained. The country's GDP grew by 8 per cent in 2005. "If you can't grow your business there by 20 per cent each year, you're probably losing market share,"​ noted Bruynel. Vietnam is also trying to work on its food safety record, a university expert told delegates at Fi-Asia this week. After one of the highest numbers of deaths from bird flu in the region, as well as an estimated 3 million cases of food poisoning during 2005, consumers are set to invest more in safer, healthier food. Market research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that revenue from the nutraceuticals market in the whole south-east Asia region totalled $2.3 billion in 2005.

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