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Surging Vietnam Baby Market Excites Exporters Across Southeast Asia

With rising birth rates and growing affluence, the Vietnamese maternity and baby market is expected to be worth US$5 billion within the foreseeable future, developments that have proved to be an irresistible lure to many overseas suppliers.

Photo: Traditional wooden toys: Still popular in the Vietnamese market.
Traditional wooden toys: Still popular in the Vietnamese market.
Photo: Traditional wooden toys: Still popular in the Vietnamese market.
Traditional wooden toys: Still popular in the Vietnamese market.

With some 1.6 million babies born every year, Vietnam's maternity and kid's market is understandably both robust and highly competitive. According to the FTA, a market-research group operating out of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the sector is now worth some US$2.5 billion per annum, with that figure set to double in the near term.

The same statistics also show that 12% of Vietnamese families have a child under one-year-old, the highest figure in Southeast Asia and more than double the global average. A further 19% of households are home to a child in the one-two age range, again almost double the global average.

With such appealing demographics, then, it should be of little surprise that the annual Vietnam International Maternity, Baby & Kids Fair has evolved into one of the country's leading trade/consumer fairs. The most recent event saw parents, professional buyers, exhibitors and, of course, a substantial contingent of junior consumers, all converging on HCMC for a three-day celebration of all things mum and kids-related.

Retail Representation

Heading the list of domestic retailers represented at the event was Big C Vietnam, one of the country's leading supermarket chains. Highlighting his company's commitment to the sector, Marketing Manager Ho Quoc Nguyen said: "We are well aware of the potential of the mother and baby products market and we have invested heavily in order to be able to capitalise on this expanding sector.

"We are also keen to maximise the size of the children's goods display areas in our stores. This allows us to offer a wider range of products, as well as giving us space to highlight our promotional programmes."

Also keen to emphasise his company's commitment to the sector was a spokesperson for Lotte Mart, a South Korean hypermarket chain that has made substantial inroads into Vietnam. He said: "Right now, we have 13 outlets across the country, all of them offering a wide range of children's clothing and toys. We are always on the lookout for new products in this sector, believing that our combination of high-quality items at reasonable prices is the key to success."

Quality and Safety

As with most parents across the world, quality and safety were the major concerns of the majority of mums and dads visiting the event, with many of them particularly wary of the dangers associated with counterfeit goods. Expressing her personal worries, Ngoc Lan, a young mother visiting the event, said: "There are a huge number of fake products now being sold through local convenience stores. As a result, I always opt for one of the more reputable supermarket chains – Co.opmart, Big C or Maximax – when I am out shopping for my family, particularly if I am buying food, milk or diapers.

"In terms of toys, my son has a preference for many of the better-known brands sold through the larger shopping malls. As their toys have to comply with safety regulations, I more than happy to shop at such outlets."

In terms of food, many Vietnamese parents are only too aware of the health and nutritional requirements of their children, typically favouring natural ingredients and the minimum of artificial preservatives. In line with this, a report by the Nielsen market-research company indicated that local parents see nutritional quality as the most important criteria when choosing food for their children. Quality and trustworthiness were the next two most-important factors, with flavour finishing a relatively poor fourth.

Clearly aware of these priorities, a sales representative for i8 Goatmilk, a Dutch dairy company with production facilities in Vietnam, said: "All of our products are made from goat's milk and are free from preservatives. They are also screened to ensure absolute safety and a high nutritional content, a process that has led to them being stocked by the majority of Vietnamese supermarkets."

Highlighting its use of natural ingredients was also a priority for Mama Care, an Australian company offering nutritional supplements said to be suitable for aspirant, pregnant and nursing mothers. Emphasising the care it takes with ingredients, a Ms Ngoc, the company's Sales Manager, said: "We guarantee that all of our products – including our facial serums, pregnancy anti-skin cracking treatments and powdered milk – are 100% made from natural ingredients. We firmly believe that the use of chemical alternatives would be detrimental to any baby's well-being.

Photo: Imported Korean baby baths.
Imported Korean baby baths.
Photo: Imported Korean baby baths.
Imported Korean baby baths.
Photo: Parental respite: Kids’ play area.
Parental respite: Kids' play area.
Photo: Parental respite: Kids’ play area.
Parental respite: Kids' play area.

"In terms of Vietnam, we have spent two years researching the local market. Now we are at the stage where we export direct orders here, but we are also looking for business partners to help boost our distribution."

Similarly keen to export to Vietnam was Junghwan, a South Korean specialist in hospital supplies. Outlining just what it has to offer the local market, Young-Soo Jung, the company's General Manager, said: "We have brought our leading high-tech products to the show this year – our JHS-400/JHS-400s baby bottle sterilisers. Through a combination of warm air and ultraviolet light, they can be used to sterilise bottles, toys or anything else that a baby might touch, such as a television or a remote control.

"At present, we have yet to officially enter the Vietnamese market, though we have received a lot of interest from several individuals and supermarkets who are keen to take on our products. As a result, we hope to be distributing here very soon."

As well as proving to be a positive result for many of the exhibitors, the event also seemed to find favour with the many members of the general public in attendance. Clearly feeling her trip to the show had been worthwhile, Nguyen Kim Hang, a prospective mother, said: "My husband and I plan to have a baby early next year, so we've come here to look for information related to the services, products and clothes available for expectant mothers.

"We also plan to sign up for the event's help forum for parents-to-be. Overall, though, we have been hugely impressed by the range of products available here."

Similarly impressed, Pham Huy, another mother attending the event, said: "Showcases like this are rare in Vietnam. It has given me a great opportunity to buy branded clothes, toys, diapers and powdered milk for my baby. I have also got a lot of information on the high-tech baby products available for home use."

The Bigger Picture

Beyond the show, there are currently some 20 chain stores specialising in mother and baby products operating in Vietnam. Arguably heading the list is Kids World, a subsidiary of Vingroup, a food-trading company launched in Ukraine in 1993 by several Vietnamese entrepreneurs. The company entered the Vietnamese market in 2000, with its large showrooms full of child-focused food, clothing, furniture and parenting books, proving to be an immediate hit with local consumers.

Con Cung is the leading challenger brand, a large supermarket chain specialising in baby products. It operates 50 stores across Vietnam, with plans to open a further 400.

Photo: Educational construction toys: A popular choice for early learners.
Educational construction toys: A popular choice for early learners.
Photo: Educational construction toys: A popular choice for early learners.
Educational construction toys: A popular choice for early learners.

The Vietnam International Maternity, Baby & Kids Fair was held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center in Ho Chi Minh City. The event attracted 163 exhibitors from 14 countries.

Pham Tuong Vi, Special Correspondent, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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