Vietnam’s functional food market is now facing a huge problem with a high number of counterfeit and low-quality products with exaggerated advertisements on their benefits.
In addition, prices of these functional food products are uncontrolled and can vary significantly from one seller to another.
In HCMC, for example, functional foods are sold everywhere from online stores to offline drugstores, traditional medicine shops and supermarkets. There are hundreds of products available from weight loss tea, herbal tea to nutrition powder which are advertised to treat many kinds of diseases from high blood pressure to gout, diabetes and arthritis.
Ordering functional food products from personal websites, forums and social networks is favored by office workers although the reliability of the source is seldom being questioned. The prices quoted can vary significantly from one source to another. On shopee.vn, a box of Glucosamine 1500mg sourced from Japan is selling at Dong 489,000 (US$20.91) while on lazada.vn, it is selling much higher at Dong 799,000 (US$34.16).
Vietnam Functional Food Association reported that in 2000, there were 63 functional food products imported to Vietnam by 13 companies. Presently, there are 10,930 products available in the market, manufactured and distributed by 4,190 establishments. More than 90% drugstores throughout the country sell functional food.
A recent report showed that more than 90% of dietary supplement producers in Vietnam have not implemented Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
The rapid development of the functional food market has made it extremely difficult to control the market. Recently, Vietnamese police has uncovered a series of ‘sophisticated’ but counterfeit functional food sales network. The counterfeiters had modern equipment to pack and label products to make them look just like genuine products.
It is common to see these counterfeiters buying Chinese-made products at low prices and then label them as imports from US, Japan and Australia to sell them at a much higher prices.