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Endowed with a long coastline, an extensive network of natural waterways, as well as favorable climate conditions, Vietnam has so far boasted impressive growth of aquaculture on both nationwide and worldwide scales. Not only has this sector served as one of the key pillars of the country’s economy, it has also made substantial contributions to meeting the international demands for seafood products and reportedly generating a total export revenue of $8.6 billion in 2020 notwithstanding the detrimental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While shrimp production still dominates, Vietnam’s aquaculture has recently witnessed a surge of new categories, introduced by proactive and innovative businessmen in the domestic industry. One of the prominent representatives is Tran Van Tuoi, the CEO of Longevity Sea Grapes Vietnam, who set out to go in a brand-new direction – producing and manufacturing sea grapes, only a few years ago. Seizing the opportunities when they came his way, he has managed to obtain a major foothold for Longevity Sea Grapes in the market, getting the company listed among the 20 most popular brands in Vietnam in 2020, rated by Consumer Protection Center.
Despite the increasing number of entrepreneurs that enter the field of seafood production and manufacturing day by day, Tuoi and his business have made the cut with a much less common product. Starting off as a petroleum specialist who graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Tuoi paid great attention to sea grape products when visiting his hometown five years ago in Khanh Hoa, a region specialised in manufacturing sea grapes for export to markets including South Korea and Japan.
“Given that Vietnam’s sea grapes are, albeit less popular to the world and not very common among Vietnamese consumers, while being far richer in nutrients, I was encouraged to research and establish a business of my own – namely Longevity Sea Grapes Vietnam, determined to make a name for Vietnam in this category and reach the deepest corners of our potential customers nationwide and worldwide,” he said.
|Tran Van Tuoi, CEO of Longevity Sea Grapes Vietnam|
In order to guarantee the best product quality possible, Tuoi puts a heavy emphasis on the adoption of cutting-edge technology. Normally, sea grapes can only last for a week at most, whilst Longevity Sea Grapes continued to push the envelope by extending the expiration dates up to a year while lifting the scent and flavour thanks to their relentless research and development efforts. Besides, renowned food hygiene standards such as GMP and FDA were taken into serious consideration, along with packaging practices that fit the cultures of targeted markets.
As for the development potential of this category, Tuoi highlighted, “Vietnam is a strong agricultural and aquaculture country with products like fisheries being supported by customers all over the world, from the US, Europe to Dubai. However, Vietnamese enterprises have to invest in improving their branding strategies to protect and strengthen the reputation of "Made in Vietnam" products as well as to make the most of this ever-growing need from global customers. Realising the importance of that, since June 2020, Longevity Sea Grapes has also successfully registered for a trademark in the US.”
Moreover, as for his sharing, the sea grape manufacturing industry, in particular, witnessed many challenges in terms of limited service providers and the extra care needed to keep them fresh compared to other conventional products. The dedication to research food processing technology and the rise of cross-border e-commerce are the two key factors he pays special attention to in order to leverage the use of sea grapes – a highly nutrient and profitable product generating enormous export revenues for the country – among domestic and international customers.
Before starting to sell his products on Amazon, Tuoi had carried out thorough examination of similar products on this channel and found his own competitive edge in terms of quality, branding, and pricing. With high nutritional values and scientifically proven health benefits, Longevity Sea Grapes have been exported via Amazon to international customers that enforce stringent food safety regulations and received positive feedback from consumers overseas.
A US-based customer from Okinawa said the quality of Longevity Sea Grapes was as good as those originally from Japan in her childhood days yet having a more acceptable price, while an American customer, who is a big fan of sea grapes, had tried almost all the brands and finally concluded that Longevity Sea Grapes products are one of the most delicious ones with high quality and eye-catching packaging.
Such enthusiastic nods of approval have strengthened the motivation and built up the necessary momentum for Longevity Sea Grapes to flourish on Amazon’s online store, becoming Amazon’s Choice, after only three months of participation. In 2020, revenue from Amazon alone accounted for 35 per cent of the company’s total revenue.
In retrospect, Tuoi attributed his phenomenal success on Amazon to the comprehensive assistance from Amazon, especially the Amazon Global Selling team in Vietnam. Throughout the year, Amazon has provided Vietnam based sellers with numerous campaigns that can help boost sales to great heights. For example, on the last holiday season, Longevity Sea Grapes experienced an increase of 300-500 per cent in sales in comparison to normal selling days.
“The dedicated team from Amazon always sends me information at the beginning of the year about the upcoming campaigns in the year or 3-4 months in advance so that sellers like me can have time to work on a clearer strategy for sustainable development throughout the year,” Tuoi shared with a smile. “It is truly beneficial to have an Amazon Global Selling dedicated team in Vietnam for the local entrepreneurs to receive the best support so as to realise their ambitions of scaling their businesses across borders.”
Another noteworthy service that has been of great help for Longevity Sea Grapes is Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), in which the sellers are allowed to store their products in Amazon's fulfilment centres all over the world, where Amazon picks, packs, delivers, and provides customer service for these products. In Tuoi’s opinion, this exclusive service does not only support his business in transporting and packaging but also ensures the products’ quality (especially for products like sea grapes that require superior attention and care). He believes that through Amazon services, enterprises are allowed to affirm their brand image and protect their names in the competitive global market.
According to Tuoi, Vietnam possesses all the ideal qualities to promote aquaculture in general and the category of sea grapes in particular to be on par with the best products there in the world. “Customers are the best judge,” he emphasised. “No matter where your starting point is, as long as they like your products, you win.”
Speaking about the future plans for Longevity Sea Grapes, Tuoi excitedly shares his vision of going global with Amazon by expanding his business to four continents: not only America but also Europe (where he is currently setting up accounts for six countries), Asia (Singapore), the Middle East (Dubai) and Australia. In the next five years, Longevity Sea Grapes is determined to become not only the leading sea grape brand in the world but also the pride of Vietnam.