Functional food in Vietnam

The demand for functional food in Vietnamese market is on the rise however, there are a lot of difficulties that need to overcome

Functional foods:

The concept of functional foods is first used by Japanese in the 1980s to refer to processed foods containing ingredients without nutritional value but improving the health of the user. According to the Institute of Science and Life (International Life Sciences Institute - ILSI), "functional foods are good food for one or more activities of the body such as improving health status and reducing the risk of disease more than comparing with nutritional value that they bring. " Moreover, according to International Food Information Council (IFIC), functional foods are also foods or components of a diet which may provide health benefits more than basic nutritional value. Functional foods could be the product having natural origin or the ones added some “functional elements” in the food processing. Functional foods locate at the crossroad between food and medicine which makes it sometimes be called as food medicine.

And in Vietnam, Vietnam Ministry of Health defines functional foods as a kind of food used to support the functions of the parts in the human body, having nutritional effects, creating comfortable body condition, increasing resistance and reducing risks of diseases. Depending on the recipe, nutrient content and user guide, functional foods have other names as well: micronutrients supplement foods, supplement foods, health protection foods, and medical nutrious products.

Functional foods in Vietnam:


 Functional foods have become very popular in Vietnam. For example, in the U.S., every 100 people, there are 72 people using functional foods; in Japan, each person spends 126 dollars for functional foods every year... In Vietnam, this sector also developed rapidly specifically these recent 10 years. Since 2000, there were more than 60 producing enterprises with over 400 kinds of products. However by 2011, there were 1,600 producing enterprises with 3,700 kinds of products. Through the survey results of the National Food Safety, in Hanoi, every 100 adults there are 56 people using functional foods; in HCM city, every 100 adults there are 48 users. In Vietnam, the development of functional foods gradually becomes an economic sector - the health economy. Until now, Vietnam has about 10,000 products of functional foods of which 40% are imported products. From 2009 -2012, there are 1781 enterprise participating in production and business of functional foods.


The price of functional foods in Vietnam is still very high comparing with other countries all over the world. There are three factors that cause functional food these high prices. The first is the tax rate for importing raw materials and functional food products (30%); the second one is that the enterprises want to get high profits; and finally effective functional foods need to be produced by the technology which is even higher than some of the current production line of drugs such as nanotechnology, liquefying nitrogen to extract natural compounds ... To lower the price, the first thing is lowering the tax rate. After that, government recommend traders take less interests and the third one is improving technology, increasing domestic production.

Difficulties of this industry:

It’s certain that the domestic food industry is struggling. We have abundant natural materials but transforming them into high-quality products is still limited. As it is mentioned above, for this sector, success or failure depends on the technology. For example, our factory can produce functional food, but we can not compare with the world technology. Thirdly, about design of products, as producing they are inappropriate and can not attract customers. If Government has clear policies to support this sector, spread the information on functional foods as a function of “vaccine” which can prevent people from non-infectious diseases, this industry absolutely will grow up.  Furthermore, If Government also determines it as an economic sector, there will be incentives for capital, tax, land, technology but the enterprises themselves must invest actively so that functional foods industry could be developed into a real kind of economic sector.

By Mỹ Anh on Nov 28, 2013 5:43:27 PM

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