Hidden identity: Vietnamese coffee re-exported under other names

Nearly 95% of Vietnam’s coffee is exported as raw products that do not bear a Vietnamese brand.

Coffee brand stolen

Nguyen Quang Binh, director of Chanh Tinh Anh Company, said that Da Lat coffee has been distributed at Starbucks’ shops all over the world, showing its high quality.

Starbucks is picky when choosing products for sale at its chain. Only the products which can satisfy strict requirements on taste, flavor and safety can enter its network.  

However, despite the good flavor and high quality, 95% of Vietnam’s coffee output is exported only as raw products, while exports are controlled by multinational groups.

Binh said the multinational groups buy coffee beans directly from Vietnamese farmers, or collect Vietnam’s exports at Vietnam’s ports and then carry to their storehouses overseas, where they select products once again and then pack for export. The products do not show the Vietnamese origin.

Tran Thanh Hai from Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Exchange JSC said when he visited South Africa, he found that African consumers drank Vietnamese coffee, but they thought they were drinking coffee from Indonesia, Kenya or Guatemala, because the package showed the origins.
hidden identity: vietnamese coffee re-exported under other names hinh 0
“Vietnam’s coffee brand has been stolen by foreign invested enterprises,” Hai said. “Vietnam’s coffee is ‘renamed’ when it is exported to other countries.”

“Consumers in the world do not know that the high quality coffee they drink is sourced from Vietnam,” he said.

What to do?

Under the coffee industry development strategy, Vietnam hopes processed coffee (roasted, soluble coffee) will account for 30% of the total output by 2020. 

However, analysts said they can anticipate the failure of the strategy, because Vietnam could not develop processed products in the last 15 years. Processed coffee just accounted for 7-8% of the total output.

Binh noted that Vietnamese enterprises understand it was more profitable to sell processed coffee than export coffee beans. However, they don’t have powerful financial capability and advanced technologies to compete with giants like Nestle and Starbucks.

Do Ha Nam, CEO of Intimex, deputy chair of Vicofa, also said he did not intend to become a roaster because Intimex cannot compete with the giants in the world. In the immediate time, it will focus on works they have advantages and save capital to prepare for opportunities.

Meanwhile, according to Nguyen Nam Hai, deputy chair of Vinacofa, some Vietnamese roasters such as Vinacafe and Trung Nguyen have been focusing on the domestic, Chinese and US markets (in some states in the US where there are many Vietnamese).

Hai noted that Vietnam, with its advantages in Robusta coffee and a flavor suitable to Asian people, should develop Asian markets.