Pandemic prods Vietnamese consumers toward healthy food and drinks

By Nam Anh   May 27, 2020 | 07:10 pm PT
The Covid-19 pandemic has made Vietnamese consumers more conscious of healthy food and drinks and increased their consumption, studies show.

The consumers are also more aware of specific health benefits of particular products, according to a new report by market research firm Nielsen Vietnam.

Shopping at a supermarket on May 1, Hong Hoa, a resident of HCMC's District 5, put four packs of herbal tea into her shopping cart before looking for the usual essential items of milk, fruits and vegetables.

This has become a new habit for the mother of two for several months now. Worried about the immune system amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hoa has begun to give priority to healthy foods and drinks.

"I used to drink herbal tea, but not often, just for refreshment. I believe in traditional medicine and also find this tea good for health, eating and sleeping," she said.


A customer shops at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City.

The consumption of healthy food has been a rising trend for several years now, as seen in the "clean-eating" drive in western European countries and America; as also macrobiotic diets in Asian countries. But the Covid-19 pandemic has provided added impetus. For many, it has been a wake-up call to adopt a healthy lifestyle and consume healthy products.

"People often wish for many things in life, like jobs, money and love, but when they fall ill, they only look for health. I want to equip myself and my family with strong resistance to avoid risks," Hong Hoa said.

Researching post Covid-19 consumer behavior, a survey conducted by Nielsen Vietnam shows a sharp increase in demand for products that boost health and immune system. Even after society returned to a more or less normal life, people still have shown increased attention to health issues, thereby generating a major change in the consumption of food, beverage and fast moving consumer goods.

Among items that have seen robust consumption recently, consumers are prioritizing healthy food along with essential items. There is stronger focus on measures to boost immune system and maintain health, including fresh foods, healthy foods and drinks with immune boosting ingredients.

Respondents in the Nielsen Vietnam survey also listed the top five benefits of food and drinks that they considered the most important. This included products containing auxiliary nutrients like vitamin C, D, Omega 3 or probiotics, keeping the immune system healthy. They focus on products made with natural and quality ingredients, not to mention safe production.

For essential commodities such as milk, Vietnamese consumers have switched from pasteurized or sterilized milk to plant-based milk such as dark sesame milk, beans, walnuts and rice milk. Top dairy enterprises report increased import of raw materials to meet this new market demand.

From the perspective of beverage manufacturers, Tran Uyen Phuong, Deputy General Director of Tan Hiep Phat Group - a market leader in bottled tea in Vietnam, confirmed this trend. She said that despite the general decline in sales due to measures taken to contain the epidemic, the two good-for-health products of Tan Hiep Phat, Zero Degree Green Tea and Dr. Thanh Tea, continued to do well.


Tran Uyen Phuong, Deputy General Director and board member of Tan Hiep Phat Group.

Phuong explained that the increase in purchasing bottled tea may come from customers’ attention to traditional herbal medicine that boost the immune system and help prevent diseases. For instance, Dr. Thanh Tea, a herbal drink that contains extracts of chrysanthemum, arhat fruit, rhinacanthus communis nees, licorice, bombax ceiba, lamiaceae, red frangipani flower, microcos panicutula L, honeysuckle and other herbs, has garnered greater attention from customers, she said. Dr Thanh herbal tea is also widely known in Vietnam for its ability to relieve inner heat, a concept linked to traditional medicine used to describe the body’s state in which too much "heat" and "dampness" accumulate internally due to a number of factors like hot, humid environment, consuming too much spicy and oily food, or staying up late.

In addition, EGCG in the composition of Zero Degree Green Tea also gained popularity as it contributes to reducing stress, soothing the nerves and slowing the aging process, Phuong added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that global consumers need to maintain their consumption of low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt foods and beverages, while increasing high-vitamin and food groups, minerals, compounds that help increase resistance to diseases.

A research team to study food and communication at Belgium's Antwerp University has also released results of a survey of 11,000 consumers in 11 countries including Australia, Belgium, Chile, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Greece and Canada. This shows that during social distancing periods, consumers form healthier eating habits, cooking by themselves and eating more fruits and vegetables. Healthy foods were being preferred to junk food, a change from the normal situation, the survey found.

The research team also predicts that even after the Covid-19 crisis is over, consumers will maintain the habit of consuming healthy food, along with a more eco-friendly lifestyle, increasing consumption of natural products.

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