BackStories » Can Vietnamese Fish Sauce Become an International Hit?

Can Vietnamese Fish Sauce Become an International Hit?

Fish sauce may be a daily staple in Southeast Asia but when it comes to the rest of the world, it’s relatively unknown (or known it it’s ketchup form). But some Vietnamese producers are looking to make fish sauce a truly international product.

A recent article in The Atlantic looks at how the delightfully smelly condiment is gaining notoriety and is poised to gain traction in the international market. But in the end, it all comes down to branding.

Due to its popularity, there’s little need to market fish sauce in Vietnam where 95% of households use it on a daily basis.

Masan Consumer Corp. produces 3 types of the sauce, accounting for a 76% domestic market share. And international investment firms are taking notice – New York based private equity firm, KKR, has increased its stake in the company to $359 million, “the largest investment a private equity firm has ever made in Vietnam.”

While enjoying domestic success, producers long for profits in the international market.

This year, Phu Quoc fish sauce became SE Asia’s first product to receive Protected Designation of Origin certification from the EU Commission. The coveted certification is awarded to food products that are “made entirely within a defined geographical area, using skills and ingredients from the region.”

Other products that have received this designation include Prosciutto di Parma, Balsamic vinegar and Champagne, all of which enjoy a strong international reputation.

The challenge for fish sauce’s international recognition comes down to branding, something that Vietnamese coffee and tea have generally failed to do effectively as the focus has been on quantity over quality.

As a result, Vietnam faces the same problem as China – it’s viewed as a center of cheap production rather than a producer of high-quality products (with Trung Nguyen Coffee being one of the lone exceptions).

Head over to The Atlantic to see what steps experts recommend be taken to successfully introduce fish sauce to the international market.

[The Atlantic // Photo via your neighborhood librarian

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