It is Tết Nguyên Đán, the lunar New Year here in Vietnam and in 2023 we are ushering in the year of the water cat (we have a different tradition to China, which is celebrating the year of the rabbit).
A cat feels like an apt analogy for how Vietnamese consumer habits are changing. In Asian cultures, cats are symbols of prosperity and in all cultures they have a reputation for being highly discerning: you cannot force a cat to love you.
And that is how I would describe the attitude of Vietnam’s growing middle class. They are becoming far more selective in their brand choices.
Two trends are clear. Firstly, they err towards local brands (taking pride in their country’s rising wealth and achievements) and secondly, they are on the look out for products that offer clear health benefits.
Delivering the two together constitutes the cat’s whiskers: an idiom thought to have originated in the UK and US during the 1920s to describe the best of the best.
Both the trend for local brands and healthy products was evident before Covid-19 struck. But what the pandemic and its sharp focus on health and wellbeing have done is turbo-charge the second one.
A recent Google Consumer Health survey backed this up. It reported that health represents Vietnamese consumers’ highest priority above food or energy prices.
And their growing outlay on health products and services reflects it: 77% of Vietnamese respondents said they often buy health products for relatives, up from 55% in 2020.
This is obviously good news for THP given that we are both a national champion and one focused on the healthy beverages sector. Unsurprisingly, we witnessed a big jump in demand for our products in the run up to Tết.
The management consultancy firm Kantor predicted as much in its recent 2023 outlook. It forecast a sharp rise for celebratory categories because this Tết is the first one without any restrictions on travel and gatherings since Covid-19 began.
Kantor also reported that two months pre-Tết demand for bottled drinks and particularly tea was up by one-third compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Soft drinks account for about a half a Vietnamese shopper’s Tết basket. And as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, Dr Thanh Herbal Tea is always prominent because of the way that it refreshes the body after excessive eating.
Our traditional Tết dishes like bánh chưng (a mix of glutinous rice, pork and mung beans), giò chả (Vietnamese sausage) and thịt kho hột vịt (braised pork with eggs) are typically oily and rich. Dr Thanh Herbal Tea provides a refreshing balm for the indigestion (inner heat) they cause.
So again, it is hardly surprising that Google reported the following as one of the most popular Vietnamese search terms “trào ngược dạ dày nên ăn gì” or in English, “what to take for acid reflux”.
Vietnam has a large number of young people in Generation Z. Dr Thanh Herbal Tea is what many of them will choose to give their parents this year as families reunite and look forward to the year of the cat. It is one of the main taglines for this year’s advertising campaign – “Trà Dr.Thanh Món Quà Sức Khỏe” which means Dr Thanh Herbal Tea: Gift of Health.