Inside Asia Tours: Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

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Sunday, 28th September 2014

The West's increasing influence on food in Vietnam

Coffee has long been one of the main exports out of Vietnam and as a result the Vietnamese people are well known for their love of the hot beverage.

While filter coffee is still what gets many Vietnamese up and running in the morning, there are now more choices than ever for both locals and tourists due to the arrival of chains such as Starbucks in the country.

It is only around 18 months since Starbucks opened its first shop in Vietnam but in the year and a half since, the company has built up to 11 stores across the country, including three in the capital city of Hanoi.

This gives people a better choice than ever and is perhaps a sign of the increasing Western influence in Vietnam, which can also be seen in the new fast food options that are regularly springing up in the country's major cities.

According to a report released at the start of the year by Euromonitor, the Vietnamese fast food industry recorded a "healthy" current value compound annual growth rate of 17 per cent, which the organisation pointed out was slightly faster than the 15 per cent rise seen in 2012.

Burger chain McDonald's is now a relatively common sight on the Vietnamese high street, while companies such as KFC have also been expanding fast in the country.

Coffee chains

The arrival of Starbucks in Vietnam last year may have sparked fears that smaller, independent coffee chains would be forced out of business but for many, the competition is perceived to be a good thing.

Perhaps the main rival of Starbucks in Vietnam is the Phuc Long chain, which is also kitted out in a Western fashion that will make it feel like home to anyone visiting the country for a holiday.

There is also a Western-style menu at the Phuc Long chain but the prices are lower than those at Starbucks and this has helped it to maintain a solid set of sales in the last 18 months.

Another coffee chain to have been growing fast in Vietnam in the last few months is Vinamit, which was developed by Regina. Nguyen Lam Vien, Vinamit's general director, admits that he used to be among those who queued up for Starbucks coffee, but he told that he sees the business as an ally rather than a rival.

This attitude towards competition in the business world is likely to serve Vietnam well in the coming years as Western companies increasingly see the country as a location they can see strong growth in.

Highlands Coffee, Trung Nguyen Coffee and Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf are among the other coffee chains to be popular in Vietnam and according to Euromonitor, the sector still has a lot of room to expand as coffee production in Vietnam has a lot of catching up to do with other nations in that part of the world.

Euromonitor said: "Increasingly-busy lifestyles as a result of urbanisation in Vietnam also contributes to the demand of instant coffee which lead to faster constant value growth of coffee over forecast period."

Fast food

Demand for fast food is growing in Vietnam and many Western chains are moving into the country to exploit this market. Among them is the sandwich company Subway, which opened its first outlet in Vietnam in 2011 and has since opened more shops in Ho Chi Minh City.

Euromonitor noted that KFC is by far and away the most popular fast food chain in Vietnam at the present time, but this could be set to change in the near future.

As Vietnam becomes a more popular holiday location for tourists from the West it seems inevitable there will be a growing influence of Western norms and culture in Vietnam in the coming years, with brands such as McDonald's and Subway likely to become more common.

Visitors will be able to get all their home comforts during a holiday in Vietnam, but many will still prefer to dig in with the local cuisine, which is one of the largest attractions of a break in the country.

Related news stories:
How Vietnam got its flag (3rd November 2015)
In focus: Vietnamese cuisine (24th September 2014)
A method to the madness of Saigon, or Ho chi Minh (11th May 2015)
The ruined Hindu temples of My Son in Vietnam (11th March 2015)
The Laos reading list (6th October 2015)