Coffee is a massive global market. Roughly 2.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world every day and sales exceed more than US$70 billion a year.
Vietnam is a major player, currently the number two global exporter of coffee, trailing only Brazil. However, while the country has earned a record US$3.6 billion in exports last year, many feel that this only represents a fraction of what the coffee industry in this country can become.
Vietnam’s number one coffee company, Trung Nguyen, is trying to help move the nation’s coffee up the value chain from primarily an exporter of beans into a recognisable symbol of quality in its own right.
Trung Nguyen coffee has already become one of only a handful of Vietnamese brands that have gained international recognition, with high-profile political leaders asking for it by name.
In a visit to Vietnam, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suggested a cup of Trung Nguyen coffee at the very first meeting. “This is a true rival of the Brazilian coffee industry,” he said.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos requested a taste of Trung Nguyen’s Legendee “weasel coffee” (called Kopi Luwak in Indonesia). The coffee, some of the world’s rarest, is made from the beans of coffee berries that have been eaten by civets, and then passed through their digestive tracts.
Trung Nguyen is served on every Vietnam Airlines flight, is exported to 60 countries all over the world, and featured at international events in Vietnam such as the ASEAN summit and the Miss Earth 2010 pageant. Its G7 instant coffee can be found at major supermarket chains around the world, such as Costco in the United States.
In 2011, Trung Nguyen hosted a coffee festival in Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam’s coffee-producing hub, welcoming 500 international ambassadors and domestic and foreign coffee experts to what the company hopes will one day become the world capital of coffee.
Trung Nguyen has proposed to the government a strategy to develop a National Coffee Industry. The strategy has three main objectives: prosperity, sustainability, and national character. The company projects the coffee industry could provide 5 – 6 million jobs and grow to a US$20 billion annual business over the next 15 years.
Trung Nguyen recently opened its fifth factory, a US$110 million G7 instant coffee plant in Bac Giang province. The factory will operate at a capacity of more than 100 tonnes a day and employ more than 300 employees during its first phase.
The coffee brand has already firmly established itself at home. According to a survey of brands by B&C Company and Nikkei BP Consultancy in Vietnam, Trung Nguyen Coffee was voted one of Vietnam’s most popular brands, alongside Apple, Google, and Nokia.
A recent survey by Taylor Nelson Market Research Company found that G7 is the most popular instant coffee in Vietnam. And Trung Nguyen Coffee shops are a nationwide presence, with over 1000 across Vietnam and a handful abroad.
The next step for Vietnamese coffee, then, is to gain a powerful presence on the international market. Trung Nguyen’s CEO, Dang Le Nguyen Vu, is confident that this is within reach.
“The fine taste of Vietnamese coffee and the right strategies will allow us to conquer the world,” he says.