Food has always connected people in ways deeper and more substantial than a handshake or a contract. Good conversations happen over good food; friendships are built at the dining table. On a larger scale, food can lead to meaningful cultural exchanges and favorable two-way trades.
For Vietnam and the State of Victoria in Australia, food was an essential element to get and stay connected through nearly 50 years of bilateral diplomatic relations. In 2021, Victoria and Vietnam lauded a year-on-year rise of 24% in trade, reaching 2.75 billion AUD — and that’s even amidst the strict lockdowns and import-export logistical hurdles. Food and beverage products, such as premium meat, dairy, vegetables, and spirits, accounted for a large portion of imports from Australia.
When Global Victoria, the state government’s premier trade facilitation agency, expanded to Vietnam, it banked on its mutual love for high-quality F&B with Vietnam to further strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. Global Victoria has initiated programs and events like trade missions and most recently, the Taste of Victoria series of events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Victorian products were showcased at the events, with Blackmores Wagyu, Mulwarra Lamb, Yumbah Abalone and Josdale Black Angus beef taking the spotlight.
The exclusive event presented an opportunity to present the exceptional quality of Victoria’s products to Vietnam’s rising chefs, food influencers and media.
Commissioner for Victoria to Southeast Asia Rebecca Hall emphasized that Vietnam is one of Victoria’s largest two-way merchandise trade markets, with significant links in food and beverage, education, and manufacturing.
What makes Vietnam’s F&B sector attractive to Victoria? How can these two regions boost two-way trade, and deepen partnerships? What opportunities does Global Victoria bring to the Southeast Asian nation?
Vietcetera sat with Rebecca Hall to talk about the agency’s mission in Vietnam, and what opportunities Victoria and Vietnam can explore to grow their respective F&B sectors.
Can you give us a background of Victoria and Vietnam’s business and cultural relations?
Victoria and Vietnam have long-standing and fruitful cooperation, which has remained strong during the pandemic. The relationship is built on almost 50 years of bilateral relations, and strong people-to-people linkages. It is the personal relationships that are most important, and that includes not only the Vietnamese community in Melbourne and many Vietnamese students studying in our institutions but also the Australian/Victorian businesspeople and investors in Vietnam. We are lucky to have major Victorian companies in Vietnam such as RMIT, ANZ Bank, Linfox, and Bluescope Steel amongst many others.
How similar and different are the F&B communities in Victoria and Vietnam?
In addition to the business linkages, we share similar cultural traits including a love for good food and drink, and a great sense of humor. For those who aren’t familiar with Victoria, we are a state in Australia – and home to Melbourne, one of the world’s great food cities; in addition to being one of the most vibrant and liveable cities. Similar to Vietnam, Victoria is a major exporter of agricultural products, we are well known as well as Australia’s food basket, we are the biggest producer and exporter of food from Australia.
How many Victorian F&B businesses/entrepreneurs are present in Vietnam?
I am proud to share that there are great Victorian chefs and business people in Vietnam, as well as many Vietnamese chefs who have studied and worked in Melbourne. Including Head Chef Sam Tran of Gia Restaurant who spent 10 years in Melbourne, and cooked at our recent Taste of Victoria, Premium Food and Beverage Showcase in Hanoi.
In addition to the chefs, and hospitality leaders with connections to Victoria there are wonderful Victorian products available in Vietnam, including some of our best beef, lamb, abalone, grapes, dairy products, coffee, wine, and even craft gin.
What are the key factors attracting Victorian businesses – F&B specifically – to invest or expand to Vietnam?
By 2030, the middle-class population in Asia is predicted to grow to 3.2 billion people, presenting a huge opportunity for Victorian producers.
I am aware that Vietnam’s food sector accounts for a substantial and growing part of the country’s GDP, and that the Vietnamese food retail sector is growing and expanding rapidly. Vietnamese consumers are seeking high-quality products and Victoria has the potential to become a key supplier of niche and high-value foods.
Vietnam has a considerably young population — with Gen Zs soon to dominate both the consumer population and the workforce. What does this mean for Victorian F&B businesses?
Younger consumers are much more concerned with health and food safety, and Victorian products are renowned for their quality. We have robust food safety and quality systems that provide reassurance to consumers about the provenance of Victoria’s premium food and beverage offerings. There are also opportunities for growth in products like plant-based foods as consumers are demanding new options.
In terms of technology, we are really focused on helping food producers access consumers through e-commerce which is a growing sector.
What’s the best Victorian F&B product you’d like to introduce to Vietnam?
It’s too hard to pick just one! Victoria invests in world-class research and development facilities and we have a global reputation as a reliable source of premium quality, safe, trusted, and traceable food and beverage products. As such, I’d recommend consumers to try them all!
Also, I am proud to share that Victoria is home to over 800 wineries and 21 wine regions, and we’d love to introduce consumers to Victoria’s diverse wine options.
Are there events initiated by Global Victoria to connect them?
Global Victoria’s 23rd Trade and Investment office in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City opened last year – further deepening this important relationship. Our office will drive new opportunities for Victorian and Vietnamese businesses, such as the recent Taste of Victoria - Premium Food and Beverage Showcase events.