Brand image is vital in the EU market

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Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Huong in the area of growing pennywort.

Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Huong in the area of growing pennywort.

Saigon Investment spoke with Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Huong, Director of the Thien Nhien Viet Import Export Company Limited, to understand more about her journey of introducing the Quang Thanh cold-dried vegetable powder into the European market.

JOURNALIST: - Ma’am, how will the Thien Nhien Viet cold-dried vegetable products benefit under EVFTA when entering the European market?

Ms. NGUYEN NGOC HUONG: - Previously, when exporting cold-dried vegetable powder, mainly cheek powder, to the European market, we were subject to a 4% to 5% tax rate. When EVFTA came into effect, our products enjoyed 0% tax incentive. This lifts the competitiveness of Quang Thanh cold-dried vegetable powder much higher than its competitors in the European market. In early September, we exported 5,000 products to Europe and enjoyed the new tax rate. European consumers increasingly prefer food products of Asian origin, also Vietnam, so we believe that this market will open more doors for us in the future.

Of course, to maintain a strong place, we need to build our brand image. Currently, the products of Thien Nhien Viet have to compete with matcha powder from Taiwan and Japan. Although the importers appreciate that our products are delicious, nutritious and unique, but because Japanese and Taiwanese products have brand names, we have to make more effort towards that direction. Actually, not only the Thien Nhien Viet products, but many Vietnamese agricultural products, when exporting to Europe must try to build their own brand image. This is not a small challenge.

- Maam, the huge opportunity from tax reduction is clear, but to enter the European market, businesses must meet many strict criteria. As a new enterprise, how did Thien Nhien Viet company overcome these requirements?

- Up to this point, we have only exported four shipments to the European market and we expect that the 5th batch will be exported by this December. It is true that Thien Nhien Viet is still very new in this market, but what makes us proud is that this is the first continent that Vietnamese centella (pennywort) products are everywhere. Of course, in the European market, whether it is a long-time enterprise or a new enterprise entering the market, to enter this market arena requires meeting strict quality standards. With Quang Thanh cold-dried vegetable products, the requirement for raw materials is very important. We always have to ensure three factors, namely, biological cultivation, quality to be homogeneous, and plant output must meet the rapidly changing requirements of the importer.

To achieve this, from the end of 2015 when we choose to produce cold-dried vegetable products, we were determined that the raw material must comply with international standards. It is easy to say this, but the journey to grow raw material has been quite arduous. We often have to work and fix problems until we meet the required standards. Up until now, apart from the company's raw material area in Cu Chi district in Ho Chi Minh City, the Thien Nhien Viet company has also cooperated with farmers in Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Dong Thap provinces. Currently, we have about 15 hectares of planted area that meets with the required standards for export to the European market.

Regarding cooperation with farmers to expand the planting area of raw materials, many people still think that it is difficult to work with farmers because they often do not follow the process. But in fact, if we accept a partner, we commit to spending time to grow the product, and the farmers cooperate. For example, after we got the standard planting process for raw materials, we gradually transferred it to farmers, always watching closely the planting process, and accepting the consumption of products at a stable price even when we do not have many orders.

- Ma’am, it is known that Quang Thanh pennywort powder products are not only exported but also promoted for domestic consumption. Is there any difference between the input of the products sold in these two markets?

- Currently, in addition to exporting to the European market, the Thien Nhien Viet company also exports to a number of other markets such as the US, India, Taiwan, and China. We are also promoting consumption in the domestic market. Someone once asked me if the export price is higher than the retail domestic price. It is true that when exporting large batches, profits will be higher. But that doesn't mean our products have market distinction. With products consumed domestically, the Thien Nhien Viet company also guarantees the same standards as those exported to the European market.

In fact, European consumers as well as many other countries are quite fond of our products of cold-dried vegetables, because they rarely have vegetables such as chives, perilla, and moringa. While it is much more difficult to conquer domestic consumers because these are available vegetables, and many people prefer to eat directly from shops. However, with a busy modern life and increasing demands of food safety, we believe we can conquer the domestic consumers too.

The Thien Nhien Viet company is also quite fortunate to receive the help and support of state agencies. First of all, our business was born at a time when startups were well supported. In addition, we are supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City with loans under Decision 655/QD-UBND, so we can also resolve our financial problems quickly. In addition, organizations such as Business Studies and Assistance (BSA) also accompany and help Thien Nhien Viet company a lot in conquering both the domestic and foreign consumers.

With the above support, we are continuing to research to be able to bring to the domestic market as well as to the export market many new cold-dried vegetable products such as from celery and spinach as well.

- Thank you very much.

Thanh Dung (interviewer)

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