The project aims to promote exports by ensuring that Vietnamese products are directly sold into major distribution systems of countries in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia that signed free trade agreements with Vietnam.
In a recent interview with the Vietnam News Agency, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa said Vietnam recently signed many free trade agreements, adding the integration process required enterprises to enhance their competitiveness.
Thoa said local businesses have made great efforts to expand their markets, adding that many Vietnamese products with high quality and reasonable prices were favoured by consumers.
"For example, Vietnam is currently the world's fourth-largest footwear producer. Vietnamese agricultural products and food also have a strong foothold in many foreign distribution systems," she said.
According to the Phap Luat TPHCM (HCM City Law) newspaper, Vietnamese food and foodstuffs have been successful in penetrating some foreign markets via the export channels of the supermarket system, which has made remarkable efforts to take local goods to world markets.
Nguyen Thi Thuy, Deputy General Director of Saigon Co.op that owns the Co.opmart supermarket chain, said they exported more than 80 containers of food and foodstuffs to Singapore last year, such as dragon fruits, fresh coconuts, pangasius fillets and many other processed food products.
"In the future, Saigon Co.op will continue to support domestic enterprises to export more products to this market," Thuy told Phap Luat TPHCM (HCM City Law) newspaper.
A representative from Lotte Mart Vietnam said currently 24 Vietnamese enterprises exported their products to the Republic of Korea via the distribution channels of the Lotte Mart supermarket chain, with more than 100 types of products.
Vietnamese products accounted for seven to 10% of the products sold at the Lotte Mart supermarket chain in foreign countries, he said.
The most common products were dragon fruits, coconuts, durian and dried fish and squid as well as raw and processed coffee, he told Phap Luat TPHCM newspaper.
He said Vietnamese producers were increasingly manufacturing high-quality products with reasonable prices, but the consumption in the Republic of Korea remained relatively low.
Therefore, the company was trying to enhance customer awareness about Vietnamese goods and was focusing on advertising some key Vietnamese export products such as fruits, seafood, confectionery and snacks, besides tea, sauces, spices and handicraft products, he said.
Le Van Khoa, Vice-Chairman of the HCM City People's Committee, told Phap Luat TPHCM newspaper that some large supermarkets in HCM City recently participated in trade promotion activities, especially trade fairs, in foreign markets such as Singapore, the Republic of Korea and some European countries.
They held the fairs to connect enterprises with distribution channels and foreign partners, and to encourage customers to buy Vietnamese products, Khoa said.
Ly Truong Chien, Deputy Head of Consulting Committee of the Vietnam Marketing Association (VMA) and a member of the International Committee Management Consultant (ICMC), told Phap Luat TPHCM newspaper that in foreign markets, most of the Vietnamese products were mainly consumed by overseas Vietnamese.
However, overseas Vietnamese consuming these exported products was anyway a stepping stone for Vietnamese food manufacturers to gradually approach foreign customers, Chien said.
Explaining the low consumption of foreign buyers, Chien said Vietnamese food and foodstuff producers who exported their goods to foreign markets focused mainly on selling the goods favoured by the Vietnamese community.
They had not paid adequate attention to the tastes and preferences of the foreign customers, Chien said.
For example, Chien said, many mam tom (fermented shrimp paste) manufacturers and nuoc mam (fish sauce) suppliers were trying to enter foreign markets. Many Vietnamese people enjoy these sauces, but their challenging taste and smell do not easily appeal to foreigners.
Okihiko Ishikawa, a Japanese businessman who has spent more than 10 years working in Vietnam, said he could hardly get used to the unpleasant smell of mam tom, which he called a pungent sauce.
"I'm a durian-hater, too, as I cannot stand its smell, which is quite stinky and persistent. However, my wife is a huge fan of the fruit. I'm really annoyed when she stores durian in the fridge," Ishikawa said.
But he said he enjoyed bun cha, a Vietnamese popular traditional dish made of grilled pork, rice noodles and a dipping fish sauce as well as other ingredients such as sugar, chilli, pepper and lime juice, besides garlic.
Ishikawa said he really enjoyed the savoury taste of the dipping sauce.
"Whenever I return to Japan, I often buy a lot of Vietnamese fruits such as limes, mangosteen and rambutan as gifts for my friends and relatives, and also other local specialties such as salted dry apricots and instant coffee," he said.
Ishikawa said Vietnamese food and foodstuffs had their own attraction with special flavour, but local businesses needed to have a stronger branding strategy and research more about cultural preferences, hobbies and buying habits of each type of customer in different markets.
Deputy Minister Thoa told Vietnam News Agency that in the context of the deeper integration, domestic businesses had to further improve their competitiveness, including enhancing the quality of manpower and management capacity and formulating brand-building strategies to conquer the regional and global markets, and fully meet the needs of consumers.
The Government needed to further improve policy mechanisms consistent with international practices, creating a fair and competitive environment for businesses, Thoa said.