The 11th FHV international Food & Hotel Vietnam was held in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon to the older uninitiated) and organized by Informa Markets over three days on 7-9 December at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The most striking thing was the number and range of international trade exhibitors compared with the number of independent exhibitors. A total of 300 exhibitors from 28 countries including a total of 21 international pavilions ranging from Uruguay to USA & Canada to the European Union and Great Britain. Every one of them presenting an amazing range of food and drink: I felt bound to assist where I could and supported a Belgian Wallonia Craft Beer exhibitor by tasting the product (with fries) and testing prosciutto from Spain and a range of different Sake’s on the JETRO booth, (the sparkling was the standout).
More seriously, the exhibition title of: “Remaining Resilient Through Change” was certainly well named, with an energy to the event that shows how the country is now bursting out of the last couple of difficult years. Talking to those who have been involved in the Vietnam foodservice and hospitality industry over recent years, Vietnam is no longer a place where price is everything. The 16,500 exhibition visitors were looking for quality and performance so they can develop successful homegrown concepts to match those from overseas.
Competitions hotting up
The Vietnam Culinary challenge was certainly competitive and the pastry and cake presentations certainly measuring up to the traditional patisserie standards and the Pizza Challenge all seemed to be well supported, but where in Western shows we are familiar with ice carving displays, for me the most arresting was the fruit and vegetable carving display which demonstrated truly some astonishing knife skills.
At the other end of the exhibition center the Vietnam Barista Competition run continuously over two days showed how the Italian espresso coffee movement is rapidly taking hold, particularly with younger Vietnamese Millennials; with a corresponding growing appreciation of the Arabica bean, although the Robusta still seems to be preferred for Vietnamese and Americano coffee.
Generally the range and quality of the food and ingredients was most impressive, which to some degree compensated for the lack of equipment and supplies being presented. Agencies representing a range of international brands including Robot Coupe, Server, Pavoni, and others but only one dishwasher by Ozti and the major cooking equipment demonstration attraction was by Unox. All other major North American and European equipment brands were missing in action. Not surprisingly in such a hot climate, sorbet and ice cream equipment and displays, such as Isa, were in evidence.
From a foodservice consultant perspective there is a long way to go. As in most Asian countries, the back of house facilities are designed by the owners and their stainless steel fabricator who then selects the prep and production equipment. However with the gradual appreciation of the benefits of quality and performance as opposed to every decision just made on price, the market may hopefully get the opportunity to experience professional foodservice consulting
As a comment on the running of the exhibition, full marks for the organization which managed big crowds in a fairly compact space with ease. Also very full marks for the exhibition catalogue. Unlike the FHA Singapore pamphlet, the FHV program is an A5 sized booklet with all the exhibitors listed and sorted alphabetically, in a mixture of English and Vietnamese where appropriate. On the other hand I remain critical that visitors no longer are provided with a name card on lanyard so that I can know who I am talking to (they can still have QR codes on them), and exhibitors are able to quickly see who the buyers are. And finally with all the food demos: more rubbish bins, please.
Ending my impressions on a high note, all who I talked to are saying that Vietnam is changing and on the move with the hospitality and foodservice industry up nearly 55% over the same period last year. From the attendance and interest level that I observed, Food and Hotel Hanoi in 2023 and Food and Hotel Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City 2024 will be well worth being part of.
Tim Smallwood FFCSI