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UK a promising market for Vietnamese vegetarian food export

The market for plant-based foods is surging globally after the pandemic, presenting an opportunity for Vietnamese vegetarian food exporters, of which the UK is a promising market.

Last week, Dong Thap province-based Binh Loan vegetarian food factory exported two tonnes of canned vegetarian food to the UK with the support of Longdan, the biggest importer of Vietnamese goods in the UK.

This is the first vegetarian food factory in Dong Thap province that has exported canned vegetarian food to a foreign market. Exported products included vegetarian brown rice with lotus seed and six vegetarian beancurd skins with different flavours.

According to Thai Thanh Binh, owner of the Binh Loan food facility, Longdan has approached him and made the export order.

Vegan diet and plant-based foods are gaining popularity among EU and UK consumers, and the UK supermarket chains believes this is a promising market for Vietnamese vegetarian food producers.

Binh said the export procedures to the UK were simple and convenient with the backing of Longdan, especially when the factory’s foods meet the the Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS).

“Our foods meet the SPS standard of the EU and the UK. We sent the food samples for testing and the results showed they meet the strict requirements of the importing country,” Binh told Viet Nam News.

He said all products are produced without preservatives and the fermentation processes are made traditionally, ensuring food safety and hygiene. This is a rare thing in canned products which are preserved for a long time.

Health concerns after the pandemic are driving consumers globally to change their diet to plant-based food. According to market insiders, this is an opportunity for Vietnamese food processors with sustainable development strategies to enter new markets, especially with the backing of free trade agreements that Vietnam has signed with many countries, including the UK.

The UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA), which officially came into force on May 1, 2021, has created favourable and transparent conditions for the import of agricultural products, food, beverages and other products subject to SPS measures to the UK.

A survey of consumers in seven European countries, conducted by Switzerland-based V-Label GmbH, has found a growing number of respondents are looking to eat more plant-based foods post-COVID-19.

At the height of the pandemic, sales of meat alternatives were reported to rise 265% over a period of eight weeks. Investments in alt-protein also rose sharply to reach 4.8 billion USD in 2021, representing a 102% year-on-year growth.

According to Vu Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods (BSA), from the perspective of market researchers, the rising trend of vegetarianism is an opportunity for Vietnamese agricultural products but it also requires more businesse bravery, which is to create a trend and create a market.

Data of the vegetarian foods export as an independent sector is not available. Currently, Vietnamese enterprises export vegetarian food and meat alternative food together with other groups of industries, such as fish sauce, soy sauce, instant noodles and vermicelli.

The development of Vietnam's vegetarian and meat alternative food brands to the global market has also not been constructed. However, Hanh said not only for vegetarian food but also for processed food export in general, the strict adherence to the SPS standards are important to export to the fastidious markets like the UK./.