Country Profile

Vietnam Country Profile

Discover more about the Vietnamese market including overviews about the retail, food service, and food processing sectors. Events, resources, and more are linked throughout the profile.

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Market Overview

Market Access Program (MAP) Fund Utilization
2nd
largest U.S. export market for consumer food products in Southeast Asia
Online Product Catalog Utilized Success
$928.7 Million
estimated total of imports of U.S. consumer food products in 2020
Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) Fund Utilization
$510 Million
total imports of processed food products from the U.S. in 2020
Euromonitor reports that Vietnam’s economic growth slowed in 2020, yet remained positive despite the pandemic-induced downturn.  The manufacturing sector and exports drove the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, showing indications of a strong bounce back in the post-pandemic period.  Low numbers of infections and sound fiscal policies point towards the country’s rapid economic recovery, with potential for a full rebound in 2022.   Real GDP growth will bounce back to 7.5% in 2021 and slip to about 5.5% in 2024-2027.

 

  • Real GDP increased by only 2.3% in 2020 after growing by 7% in 2019.
  • The real value of private final consumption rose by 7.4% in 2019 and growth of 2.7% is forecast for 2020.  Private consumption will be limited by the lockdown, lower incomes and social distancing measures, particularly spending on discretionary items, which are being deferred.  Remittances from abroad contracted in 2020.
  • Unemployment was 2.2% in 2019 and it will rise in 2020.  In the first 8 months of 2020, nearly 34,300 enterprises suspended operations and in the same period, 7.8 million people lost their jobs, and unemployment rose to its highest rate in 10 years.
  • Vietnam’s outlook for the medium term is bright.  Buoyant growth is expected to continue in 2021, due to strong foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows and solid domestic demand.  Private credit growth and rising incomes should support private consumption; however, exports will begin to suffer, due to a slowing global economy.

Total population was 97.3 million in 2020, an increase of 19.7 million since 2000.  The country is also undergoing a gradual ageing process but it is not so pronounced as in other countries such as China, Japan or Singapore.  Nevertheless, the number of elderly is growing and this upward trend will clearly continue in the near future.

 

USDA’s Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Hanoi reports that Vietnam's young population, growing middle class, and rapid urbanization had been leading to more eating out, traveling, shopping in supermarkets and hypermarkets, and increased consumption of convenience and processed foods in the Pre-Covid environment and should return to it once the pandemic has been managed.  Strong economic growth, increasing foreign investment, benefits from free trade agreements (FTAs), a growing middle class with higher disposable income, rapid urbanization, and heightened concerns about hygiene and food safety continue to fuel the sustainable growth in this market.

 

Vietnam signed three important FTAs in 2020 with the expectation that these will increase exports, attract more foreign investment, and support economic growth.  The Vietnam-EU FTA was ratified on June 8, 2020 and came into force on August 1, 2020. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on November 15, 2020 between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Vietnam is a member, and China, Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. RCEP will come into effect within 60 days of the signing date.  The Vietnam-UK FTA (UKVFTA) was signed on December 29 and will take effect on December 31, 2020.  In addition to the above, on May 25, 2020, Vietnam’s Prime Minister signed Decree 57 which reduced Most-Favored Nation (MFN) tariffs on certain agricultural products (including those from the United States).

 

As a member of ASEAN, Vietnam is party to ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Korea, ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN- New Zealand-Australia, and ASEAN-India FTAs.  Individually, Vietnam has signed the Vietnam-Japan FTA, Vietnam-Korea FTA, Vietnam-Chile FTA, and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  FTAs with other trading partners, especially the reduction and elimination of tariffs, threaten the competitiveness of U.S. food and agricultural exports.

 

Vietnam is the 2nd largest U.S. export market for consumer food products in Southeast Asia after Philippines.  The 2020 total was US$928.7 million, a decline of 11% from that of 2019.  Vietnam is also a major importer of U.S. processed foods, totaling US$510 million in 2020, but a significant decline of 34%.  Top 2020 processed food exports to Vietnam included:

 

  • Processed/Prepared Dairy Products
  • Food Preparations & Ingredients  
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages
  • Processed/Prepared Seafood
  • Processed Vegetables & Pulses
  • Syrups And Sweeteners
  • Alcoholic Beverages  
  • Chocolate And Confectionery
  • Prepared/Preserved Meats    

Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Food Exporters in Vietnam

Advantages

  • Demand for high-value consumer-oriented and seafood products remains high despite a short term decline due to COVID-19.
  • Growth of the modern food retail, HRI, and food processing sectors offers more opportunities for imported food products, including those from the United States.
  • Vietnamese consumers view U.S. products as high quality and safe.
  • Vietnam’s continued economic integration and its FTA negotiations generally allow more openings for foreign products and better alignment with international standards.
  • Local food processors continue to increase production capacity and improve product quality to meet growing market demand.
  • Growth in convenience food stores, full-service restaurants, convention and wedding centers, and fast-food chains creates opportunities for quality food and food ingredients.
  • Food safety concerns boost demand for imported food products, especially from developed countries.

Challenges

  • Most low and middle-income households in small cities and rural areas cannot afford imported products due to widening income inequality and a lack of modern retail establishments.
  • U.S. consumer-oriented and edible fish products have become less competitive than those imported from ASEAN members and Vietnam’s FTAs partners due to higher tariffs.
  • U.S. products remain expensive for low and middle-class households.
  • COVID-19 related travel restrictions have severely hit Vietnam’s tourism and hospitality industries, traditionally a large driver of high value imports.
  • U.S. food ingredients face fierce competition from local and regional products.
  • Rising, and already high, rental costs increase retail prices.
  • Technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, and high tariffs limit imports of U.S. consumer-oriented products.

“All of Food Export’s programs were a tremendous help getting us export ready, understanding the challenges that come with international business, and learning how to navigate them.”

Katz Gluten Free

Food Export-Northeast Participant since 2018  

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Retail Sector

Over $100k in New Export Sales
$14.2 Billion
estimated retail sales in packaged food market in 2020
Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) Fund Utilization
40.2%
growth rate in retail sales since 2016
Market Access Program (MAP) Fund Utilization
$23.8 Billion
estimated total of the packaged food market by 2025

According to Euromonitor, retail sales in the packaged food market in Vietnam had been estimated to reach US$14.2 billion in 2020.  That represents a period growth rate of 40.2% or US$4 billion since 2016.  That is the highest growth rate of all the assessed markets.  The forecast for growth in this market is also promising.  By the year 2025, the retail sales in the packaged food market in Vietnam is expected to reach over US$23.8 billion, a period growth rate of 51.7% or US$8.1 billion.  That rate of growth is also the highest in the market assessments. High growth products in the forecast include:

 

  • Pet Food
  • Ready Meals
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cheese
  • Sweet Biscuits, Snack Bars and Fruit Snacks
  • Dairy (Ex. Cheese)
  • Processed Meat and Seafood

Post reports that Vietnam’s food retail sales reached about US$55 billion in 2020; an increase of 10% compared to previous year, and accounted for 31.7% of total retail sales of goods in 2020.  However, despite this expansion, three grocery store chains exited the Vietnam market, including Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest grocery retailer, due to intense competition.  In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak hit the retail food sector in the short term, but has offered expanded opportunities for e-commerce to grow.

 

Post reports that COVID-19 has provided market opportunities for e-commerce in Vietnam.  According to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO), 68.5 million, or 70%, of Vietnam’s population has internet access and about 43.7 million Vietnamese use smartphones. According to the Vietnam e-Commerce Association, e-commerce was already experiencing significant annual growth of 30% over the past two years and estimates that the market could reach US$13 billion by the end of 2020.

 

According to Euromonitor, in 2021, the supermarkets channel is expected to perform better than in 2020, in regard to current value sales.  The Vietnamese government has been able to control the spread of COVID-19 effectively and provide various programs to support residents and companies to overcome financial difficulties.  As such, the Vietnamese economy is expected to recover quickly, which will see consumers spend more money in 2021, which will benefit supermarkets, although the average unit price in the channel is projected to decline again, albeit it by a much smaller amount than in 2020.

 

Mini supermarkets are projected to grow in number over the forecast period.  These formats – defined as having retail sales area of less than 500 sq m – are becoming increasingly popular in the country.  VinMart+ by Masan Group and Bach Hoa Xanh by Mobile World JSC are two of the most popular brands with mini supermarkets.  Having this more compact size, which can be just slightly bigger than that of a common convenience store, allows supermarket players to penetrate easily crowded residential areas.  These mini supermarkets suit the lifestyle of busy urban consumers, who have little free time and prefer to go to a shop near to their houses.

 

Euromonitor reports that domestic players dominate the supermarkets channel, thanks to their long-standing presence in the market and intimate knowledge of local market conditions.  In addition, local players, such as Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives, benefit from strong government support for the expansion of modern grocery retailing channels in both urban and rural areas.  Saigon Union remained the largest player in supermarkets at the end of the review period (2020).  Its supermarket brand Saigon Co.op was one of the first modern grocery retailers in Vietnam. Over its long-established presence in the market, the brand has built considerable consumer-awareness and trust.  Moreover, it has continually evolved to remain relevant to market conditions and demand trends.  In the final two years of the review period, the company made significant efforts to develop its private label offer to build consumer loyalty and enhance its competitive standing.

 

According to Euromonitor, international players dominate the convenience stores channel in Vietnam, with four of the top five brands being owned by foreign multinationals in 2020.  The convenience stores format is still relatively novel for local players, while international brands benefit from long-established activity in the channel.  With greater financial capability, international players also find it easier to adapt to market trends.

 

For example, realizing the strong growth of convenience store fast food, the owners of Family Mart, Circle K and Ministop have collaborated with local manufacturers to have local snacks delivered daily to their stores and have set up separate areas in their stores for dining in.  This has supported Family Co Ltd.’s popularity amongst younger consumers.  The company’s Family Mart brand has become famous for its wide range of hot and ready to eat food, and its relaxing sitting areas for youths to socialize in, though mandatory social distancing in 2020 made dine-in less viable.

 

Best Product Prospects

 

Post reports that U.S. products that are already present in the Vietnamese market with good sales potential include fresh produce, meat and meat products, poultry, seafood, milk and dairy products and condiments and sauces.

Food Service Sector

Post reports that due to COVID-19 impacts on the tourism sector, there was a 13% decrease in revenue in the food service and hotel sector compared to the previous year.  

Post reports that Vietnam’s hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) market continued to grow in 2019, in step with the country’s strong economic performance, growing middle class, and expanding tourism sector.  COVID-19 has negatively affected the HRI sector across the globe in 2020; however, Post expects that the HRI sector in Vietnam will strongly rebound over the next few years, cementing the country as an attractive export market for U.S. consumer-oriented and agricultural related products.

The HRI food service sector maintained steady growth in 2019, thanks to increasing domestic demand and a record number of international tourist arrivals.  Busy, young urban populations, modernizing lifestyles, and rising disposable incomes were the other key drivers behind the continued growth in food service establishments across the country.  The market also observed a shift of consumer preferences from Western cuisines to more Asian-centric cuisines, with Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese food leading the menu innovations.  Vietnam’s tourism sector celebrated a successful year with foreign arrivals growing 16.2% year-on-year to a record high of over 18 million.  By the end of 2019, the revenue for accommodation, food, and beverages amounted to US$25.3 billion, up 9.8% from 2018 However, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Vietnam’s economy and HRI food service sector in 2020.  The Government of Vietnam (GVN) lowered its 2020 GDP growth target from 6.8% to 2.5%, in the most favorable scenario.  The country’s tourism sector has been the hardest hit due to the shutdown of international flights and severe drop in domestic travel. During the first eight months of 2020, occupancy rates of high-end city hotels tumbled by over 80%.  As of October 2020, international tourist arrivals are still restricted.  As a result, the revenue for accommodation, food, and beverages during the first eight months of 2020 declined by 16.4% compared to the same period last year, to US$13.9 billion.  

Nevertheless, thanks to its success in containing the spread of COVID-19, Vietnam is still one of the best performers in the global economy and Vietnamese consumers remain the second most optimistic consumers in the world, according to a global survey conducted in the second quarter of 2020 by Nielsen.  The World Bank forecasts that Vietnam’s GDP growth could recover to 6.7% in 2021

Best Product Prospects: 

The best export prospects for U.S. consumer-oriented agricultural products include dairy products, chilled & frozen beef products, frozen poultry, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, snack foods, confectionary products, packaged foods (canned fruit & vegetables, canned meat), condiments and sauces, juices, seafood, and alcoholic drinks (wine, beer, and spirits).

Food-Processing Sector

Top Market for U.S. Agriculture Products
5.3%
growth of the food manufacturing industry in 2020

Post reports that the food manufacturing industry grew at 5.3% in 2020 compared to 2019.  The recent COVID-19 pandemic has affected Vietnamese food processors differently.  While processors who supply essential food products such as milk, instant noodles, meat products, and canned food have gained opportunities, others supplying products to hotels, resorts, and high-end restaurants continue to face difficulties.

 

Food processors in Vietnam use both locally produced raw materials and imported food ingredients in their operations.  Large processors tend to directly import specific ingredients, such as wheat flour, milk powder, and malt.  Processors usually purchase minor ingredients, additives, flavors, or preservatives through importers or distributors.  Competition between imported and locally produced consumer-oriented products is also growing. Vietnam is a large producer of agricultural products including, pork, coffee, spices, fruits, and vegetables.  The country is also developing a burgeoning food processing and agro-industrial base.  Leading multinational food processors have also established food-processing operations and are able to offer a range of western-style products at reasonable prices.

 

Vietnam continues to expand production capacity. Meizan CLV, a food processor of food flour, macaroni, and noodles, invested in the establishment of a new facility to double their food processing capacity.  It will begin operating in mid-2021. Nutricare, a manufacturer and provider of nutritional products across Vietnam with brands such as MetaCare and Smarta, has opened a second manufacturing facility in BAC Ninh province, in late 2020.

 

Best Product Prospects:

Post reports that promising food processing ingredients for U.S. exporters include, tree nuts, minced pork, poultry products, dairy products, other edible bovine products, processed fruits, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and potatoes.  These products are used for items such as sausages, meatballs, cheese, snacks, instant noodles, plant-based milks, and bakery products.

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