Nielsen survey finds Vietnamese distrust food products

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Customers choose vegetables at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Nguoi Lao Dong

Health is among the top concerns of Vietnamese consumers, many of whom are unconfident about the nutrition from food products, according to a new study conducted by Nielsen Vietnam.

The research, presented at a recent forum in Ho Chi Minh City , found that health is the third biggest anxiety among Vietnamese, after the economy and job security.

It said 34 percent of 700 surveyed consumers from Hanoi and HCMC are less than confident about their health, with common worries about weight, heart disease, unhealthy foods and where to get healthy food.

The research, conducted in March and April, also included in-depth interviews with a number of the subjects. Nielsen  is a global information and measurement company with headquarters in New York and Diemen, the Netherlands.

Doan Duy Khoa, Associate Director of Consumer Insights at Nielsen Vietnam who was directly in charge of the research, said at the forum Vietnamese consumers are highly suspicious of the nation's food supply, even more so after recent reports on the presence of dubious Chinese products.

Khoa said 47 percent of the consumers reported being confused about which foods are considered healthy, as well as the relative healthiness of ingredients and methods of preparation, which should motivate producers to provide more information if they want to win consumers' trust.

But he also said that any information needs to be clear and simple, because while 64 percent of people surveyed said they read nutritional fact labels, most did not read the labels entirety.

The research found that Vietnamese consumers are still quite conservative when it comes to nutrition as they prefer "fresh" foods found at traditional markets to packaged ones, feeling safe that the former comes from local farms.

Their top "healthy food" options are fruit juice and soy milk, due to their impression that such products are fresh and at least somewhat homemade, Khoa said.

He also pointed to the uniqueness of the Vietnamese market, where people value nutritional advice given by family and friends above all other sources 92 percent compared to 78 percent for TV commercials, 46 percent for newspapers, 32 percent for the Internet while only 29 percent for doctors.

He advised producers to utilize word of mouth communication in order to succeed within the Vietnamese market.

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