Vietnam offers interesting import opportunities

Bevetrade Oy started importing Vietnamese beverages into Finland. The company got off to a good start with the help it received from Finnpartnership and has found other promising new contacts in Vietnam too.

Bevetrade Oy is an import company founded in 2011 by three trade experts; the company specialises in importing soft drinks and juices. The majority of Bevetrade’s products come from Europe. The product selection imported from developing countries includes aloe vera beverages from Vietnam. Bevetrade’s Managing Director Hanna Khalili says that the company encountered the aloe vera beverages for the first time at an international food fair a few years ago. “To start with, our partner was a South Korean company. However, our cooperation did not go as we’d hoped, so we started looking for new alternatives,” Khalili tells.

Valuable tip from a business contact

Vietnam came up when Bevetrade was looking for new partners. Khalili tells that based on a tip from a business contact, Bevetrade applied for and received Business Partnership Support from Finnpartnership.“We used the support to identify potential partners in Vietnam and to investigate the possibility to initiate cooperation.” Khalili says that without the support from Finnpartnership, an SME like Bevetrade could not have explored the possibilities offered by Vietnam as extensively as it now could. “In addition to financial support, we also gained several valuable contacts from Finnpartnership.”

Cooperation turned into a product range

Bevetrade identified a couple of producers of aloe vera beverages in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. In the end, one producer was selected as the cooperation partner, and with them, Bevetrade started creating the ELO product range designed specifically for the Finnish market. In 2015, the company started importing the aloe vera beverages, now sold in a number of grocery stores, among other places.

Bevetrade has also established other new contacts in Vietnam through Finnpartnership’s Matchmaking service, which helped the company get in touch with a Vietnamese producer of coconut beverages. “The company’s products were on trial in Finland, but the Tetra Pac-packaged beverages have not proven a good solution for us. However, we will continue to keep in touch and are considering the possibility of packaging the beverages in glass bottles.”

Vietnam – the country of many possibilities

Khalili believes that Vietnam is a very interesting country for a foodstuffs importer. There are several producers and products that have the potential to fit well into the Finnish market. “We are looking for new items to import from Vietnam and will be expanding our operations there in the future.” According to Khalili, the biggest challenge in Vietnam is to find reliable partners. The Finnish company has received good contacts through their current main partner. “Language can also be a challenge. Vietnamese people involved in international trade speak English, but on production level, the language barrier is significant.”

Partner’s sustainability in key role

Khalili, who has toured the local production plants, says that employees’ working days are long, salaries low and working conditions leave a great deal to be desired. Thus, Bevetrade has spent a lot of time finding a reliable and first-rate partner. Quality plays a particularly significant role with foodstuffs because all products imported into Finland must meet with the EU’s strict food regulations. Bevetrade also considers it important that the cooperation partner takes employee rights seriously.

Khalili believes that it is important for running successful business operations in Vietnam that the importer visits the country often to review the cooperation partner’s activities and to audit its production. The partnership must be based on continuous development. “Interpersonal relationships are important in Asia. Business dealings done over the phone are not sufficient, because they carry a significant risk of misunderstanding.”

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