Wholesome instant rice meals do a roaring trade

A Vietnamese-style fast-food industry could develop rapidly in the coming years as instant rice products increase their presence at different kinds of outlets in the country.
A Vietnamese-style fast-food industry could develop rapidly in the coming years as instant rice products increase their presence at different kinds of outlets in the country.

According to a Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon (Saigon Economic Times) report, it is now easy for consumers to buy instant products made with rice patties including "com nam" (rice ball), "com kep" (rice burger) and "com cuon" (rice roll) at supermarkets, convenience stores and even cafes.
The Vietnamese-style rice burgers are much favoured by many locals, particularly students and office workers. Those who have lunch at work are fed with expensive lunch sets, cold food brought from home and fattening fast food.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity to exploit this growth potential, many businesses have invested and developed a totally different fast food item – the rice burger.

It not only gives workers another choice for their midday meal but also creates an entirely Vietnamese fast food.

The enterprises are reporting encouraging initial results.

The VietMac Joint Stock Company, which began operations in July 2012, is one of the first businesses to enter this market segment on a large scale.

Instant rice products can also found at convenience store chains including B'smart and Family Mart. However, these establishments also sell Japanese rice products like sushi in addition to local ones like "com nam" and "com kep".

And it is not just modern enterprises like VietMac that are involved in selling rice burgers, entire localities are getting in on the act, recognising market demand and potential.

Lac Van commune in northern Hung Yen province's Van Lam district is among them. Almost all the families here are engaged in making com nam with the traditional method and selling them in Hanoi, where the dish has gained in popularity.

Some years ago, acknowledging that many people want to use "gao luc" (brown rice) for treating some diseases, some companies opened shops to sell rice balls made of the brown rice.

Taking notice

According to general director Ngo Trong Thanh, VietMac was able to achieve a turnover of about 150 million VND (7,143 USD) in the first few months of operation, and to date this has risen to 1 billion VND (47,620 USD) per month.

In Ho Chi Minh City alone, the company sells nearly 5,000 sets of rice burgers for between 17,000 VND and 23,000 VND each.

Meanwhile, each B'smart outlet sells over 1,000 sets of rice burger a day.

Thanh said there are signs of increasing competition in the market for Vietnamese fast food and many changes are likely in the coming months and years.

He noted that some foreign fast-food companies in Vietnam have begun paying attention to the Vietnamese products.

At Lotteria's stores as well as restaurants and cafes, Vietnamese rice burgers are selling well.

Thanh expressed confidence about his company's prospects, saying: "The decisive factor for success in this market is product quality."

According to EuroMonitor International, Vietnam's fast food market recorded around 19.7 million transactions at outlets with better-known brand names, that posted revenues of 869 billion VND (41.38 million USD).

The industry has been growing at 26 per cent per year, it estimated.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Trade says that the fast food industry's total turnover was 870 billion VND (41.23 million USD) in 2011, up 30 percent over 2010.

Experts say the fast food market in the country still carries growth potential if investors focus on Vietnamese-specific tastes.-VNA

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