Thailand, not Vietnam, is exporting 'pho' to the US

By Vien Thong   June 5, 2018 | 04:18 pm PT
Thailand, not Vietnam, is exporting 'pho' to the US
A bowl of pho in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Xavier Bourgois
Vietnamese food businesses have a lot of technology catching up to do in foodstuffs industry, experts say.

Pho, the fragrant flat rice noodles soup served with beef or chicken, has given Vietnamese cuisine an iconic status. But the company making money by exporting an instant version of the soup to the US is based in Thailand.

A representative of Charoen Pokphan Foods Plc (CPF) said at a recent meeting with Vietnamese businesses that the company’s Authentic Asian Chicken Pho Noodle Soup is enjoying great sales in the US.

The number of restaurants that serve Vietnamese pho in the U.S. reached 8,900 in 2014 and is increasing, the CPF representative said, citing a study by the Institute for Immigration Research.

Vietnamese businesses at the meeting were surprised that CPF’s factory in Thailand is able to produce 200,000 ready-to-eat pho products a day, using a workforce of just 10 workers.

CPF said its factory in Thailand was powered by artificial intelligence, and the manufacturing process was completely automatic. Some production lines only require two workers operating via computers, the company said.

This manufacturing process results in a “beautiful and easy-to-use package,” said Vu Kim Hanh, president of the Business Association of Vietnam High Quality Goods.

With a shelf life of 18 months, CPF’s pho, which requires just two minutes in a microwave, is very convenient for customers, Hanh added.

“Vietnam still needs to make many changes to catch up with its immediate Southeast Asian competitors in the agricultural products and foodstuffs industries,” she said.

Currently, the number of businesses in Viet Nam’s fresh packed food market is still low, despite some new products from Saigon Food, which produces 100,000 packages each day.

CJ Cau Tre offers cooked Vietnamese Hue noodle soup and spaghetti, and the Minh Hung group plans to use high pressure processing to produce fresh fruit juice.

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