Many foreign enterprises are gnawing into Vietnam’s lucrative market for dietary supplements. Report by the Vietnam Investment Review .

At a recent international festival of functional foods in Hanoi, many foreign functional food firms told VIR they had been looking to establish a niche in Vietnam.

Vietnam Mannyon Trading Co., Ltd, a branch of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s Mannyon Trading Group, established in 2012, has already proved successful.

“We are operating well in Vietnam. The number of products we are selling, which are all imported from the DPRK, has doubled from seven last year due to the market’s huge potential,” said Vietnam Mannyon’s general director Kim Se Un.

“Vietnam Mannyon is DPRK’s first company of the type to invest in Vietnam. We will soon increase the company’s investment capital and register more products.”

Republic of Korean-backed Pyunkang Medical Corporation and Foundation established its company in Hanoi in June 2013 operating under the name of Pyunkang Pah.

“We will raise our investment capital. If business goes well in Hanoi, we will open branches in other localities,” said Bong Kil Choi, vice president of the corporation’s international business development division.

One of the main reasons behind’s Pyunkang presence in Vietnam is that its products had played a role in helping treat 50,000 patients suffering from skin diseases, 60,000 with chronic rhinitis and 43,000 with chronic asthma in South Korea.

“So many people in Vietnam are being hit by such diseases. That offers big opportunities for us,” Choi said.

Chinese-invested Tiens Company, the biggest functional food maker in Vietnam, reaped a total revenue of 60 million USD in 2012 in Vietnam, up 20 percent against 2011.

Tiens’ existing 25 million USD factory in the northern Hai Duong province’s Dai An Industrial Park is expected to bring the company an annual average turnover of 150 million USD in the future.

“Tiens has begun exporting its products to Europe, Bangladesh and Thailand, while expanding its markets via online sales,” said a Tiens source.

Tiens, which operates in 190 nations and territories, currently has 30 agents in Vietnam with more than 40,000 distributors. The firm markets 12 functional food products in the country.

Chinese-backed Tasly International Vietnam Co., Ltd under China-based Tasly Group, recently decided to distribute the group’s functional food products in Vietnam after 13 years of operating in Vietnam.

“We are seeking distributors and then will register about five to seven products. In 2012, the company’s revenue surged 131 percent year-on-year, and this rate was 115 percent last year. However, with the contribution from functional foods, the company’s total revenue will be far higher,” said Nguyen Viet Dung, the company’s commercial specialist.

According to the Vietnam Association for Dietary Supplements, functional foods appeared in Vietnam about 10 years ago. But the country is now home to nearly 1,600 local and foreign firms producing and importing about 2,000 products. Some 52 percent of their products are foreign made.

The association’s chairman Tran Dang said this rate would likely rise to 65-70 percent over the next few years. The advantage foreign firms have in modern technology has provided them with a competitive edge, with products having a shelf-life of up to a decade compared to local products that can be sold for an average two years.

Vietnam’s functional food market has grown annually by about 25-30 percent, Dang said.-VNA