Retail Diversity for Dietary Diversity (RD4DD)

Preventing nutrition deserts for the urban poor within the transforming food retail environment in Vietnam.

Nutrition insecurity among a growing number of urban poor in modernizing Southeast Asian metropolises is a critical issue. To enlarge the capacity of local authorities in planning and implementing all-inclusive food-safe and nutrition-sensitive food retailing infrastructures, the research project “Retail Diversity for Dietary Diversity (RD4DD)”, conducted between 2016 and 2018, seeks to answer the question ‘Why do the urban poor eat the food they do’, in the context of transformations in the food retail environment and the organization of daily life.

The project aims to provide an understanding on how the urban poor, within the organization of their daily lives, cope with progressing food retail system transformations and how and to what extent these changes impact their daily dietary intake in terms of nutrition, diversity and food safety guarantees. The research utilizes sequential mixed methods. Field work was conducted in two phases:

  • In the first phase, the Fresh Studio research team conducted a retail outlet census and two household surveys with 400 women responsible for household food provision. The surveys explore food safety perception, shopping patterns and practices. Following a 24-hour recall survey, reveals consumers’ nutrition knowledge and attitudes.
  • To deeply understand the food practices and daily diet of low income urban consumers, in the second phase, the Fresh Studio team conducted a dozen multigenerational interviews. We visited their homes, observed shopping practices, and conducted semi-structured interviews with intergenerational family members. In the final step, the Fresh Studio team produced an essay film to present key issues drawing from the research. The film was screened at the Multi-stakeholders consultation workshop “Retail Diversity for Diet Diversity” in Hanoi on October 3rd,2018.

The project is awarded within the Drivers of Food Choice (DFC) Competitive Grants Program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK government, and is managed by the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health:

Project Partners: Environmental Policy Research Group of Wageningen UR; Bioversity International and Fresh Studio Vietnam.

 An informal market in Dong Da district, Hanoi.
A multi- generation interview with a poor household in Dong Da district, Hanoi.

Export Coaching Program for food ingredient businesses

Fresh Studio is requested by the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) to assist with the recruitment of Vietnamese food ingredient companies to participate in a 4 year Export Coaching Program (ECP) which focusses on the EU market.


The ECP is developed for ambitious entrepreneurs in developing countries as Vietnam. The aim of the program is to promote and enhance the competitive position of value added food ingredient products for the export to EU food and beverage markets.

In order to meet the legislations and market requirements of European countries participating companies are trained, coached and advised about important export aspects. This includes product development, packaging, quality management and marketing.

Furthermore, the engaged companies have the opportunity to meet and build business relationships with potential clients at trade fairs and exhibitions in Europe.


Many active companies in the Vietnamese food ingredients sector are eager to participate in the program. Fresh Studio implemented the following steps in order to recruit the most suitable companies for the program:

  • Performed desk research to find food ingredient businesses who meet the CBI selection criteria;
  • Pre-selected potential companies;
  • Organized information sessions about CBI ECP for potential companies and supported them to fill in CBI application forms;
  • Sent the list of the pre-selected companies to CBI for reviewing and short-listing;
  • Audited, in collaboration with CBI experts, the short-listed companies in order to obtain insights in companies’ current export strengthens and weaknesses;
  • Prepared, in co-operation with CBI expert, final audit reports with recommendations and sent them to CBI for final company selection.


Fresh Studio continues to support the selection processes of food ingredient companies for the ECP.

A recently signed agreement between VIETRADE and CBI emphasizes the likelihood that more Vietnamese business will contribute in the ECP.

Private label introduction for fresh products

Already operational in Vietnam is dedicated in delivering its customers the best and safest food quality in its fresh food category. Design equals strategy and creativity? (fruits & vegetables, fish & seafood, meat) a multi-national wholesaler approached Fresh Studio to revitalize its customer communications.

Since most of the effort in sourcing quality products was considered somewhat invisible to this client’s customers, the objective of the communication strategy was to create relevant and attractive positioning, resulting in a preference for the client’s label by professional buyers at purchasing outlets.

To enable transparent sourcing activities for its customers, the client planned to introduce one of its private labels in its fresh food category to the local market.

The aim was to distinguish premium quality fruits and vegetables from other brands and labels, and from bulk produce.

Fresh Studio was responsible for the research and development of the private label positioning, and the communication strategy. The assignment included the development of visual marketing materials.

Marketing and branding for avocado sector development

Fresh Studio was approached to design and manage a large scale not-for-profit project to develop an avocado market in Dak Lak province.

The DAKADO project used a value-chain approach where farmers, collectors and traders were linked to buyers and consumers in order to establish a sustainable business network for the marketing of a high quality avocado brand. For more info, see:

The DAKADO project entailed the Fresh Studio Marketing Team being responsible for the stimulation of domestic demand for avocado through a consumer awareness campaign, first to introduce, and then to develop, this high quality avocado brand. The project included an extensive consumer campaign in retail outlets of Saigon Coop Mart, Metro Cash & Carry and FiviMart in HCMC and Hanoi, in 2007 and 2008.

By specifically marketing the quality DAKADO brand, by allowing price premiums of more than 40 per cent to cover increased production costs, and by realizing higher profit margins for all agents involved (from retail to farmer), the project succeeded in creating the first traceable fruit in Vietnam.

That consumers were willing to pay higher prices for premium fruits was an eye-opener for modern retail in Vietnam. Prior to this, it has always been assumed that Vietnamese consumers cared more about price than about quality when purchasing fruit.

Growth strategy consultation and brand portfolio management

Our client faced significant changes in global trade with the entrance of multiple new players tightening the playing field. This resulted in higher quality product requirements at lower margins with more complex and fragmentary distribution structures.

In their approach to us, our client requested assistance in revitalizing and optimizing their sales and marketing strategy.

By using a step-by-step approach, closely collaborating with client teams in sales, marketing, production and finance, we guided the client in the development of a business strategy for future growth.

The assignment resulted in a focused 5 year strategy, with clear objectives for portfolio and brand management.

Consumers at the starting point for new product development

Our client required a better understanding of the current market for (safe) vegetables and identification of opportunities for the future development of a new safe vegetable chain.

Fresh Studio was hired to design and conduct the consumer and market research, and to translate the insights into concrete strategy recommendations.

In realizing a demand-driven safe vegetable supply chain, our client wanted to kick-off their project with market and consumer research to provide them the insight for making strategic project choices.

Our aims included:

  • Understanding the current size and structure of the (safe) vegetable market
  • Understanding consumer behavior, motives perceptions and preferences regarding the consumption of (safe) vegetables

Creating market access for organic vegetables

Striving to improve organic agriculture in all areas from production to consumption in a sustainable manner, our client approached Fresh Studio for assistance in attaining market access for organic vegetables in Hanoi.

We established the food supply chain, by organizing and training farmer groups in business skills beyond cultivation, and linking them to supermarkets in Hanoi.

Using our consumer research, which delivered insights about the perception of organic vegetables, as well as consumer willingness to pay for organic quality, we developed a distinct market proposition for our client.

Our marketing team and in-house design translated the proposition into a complete set of in-store display, packaging and consumer communication materials. To educate consumers on organic quality, we organized an in-store information campaign, including promoters to answer consumer questions on the spot.

Consumers responded enthusiastically to products offered, which were sold out daily. Information about organic practices, in combination with high quality, professionally displayed produce allowed premium price levels while at the same time realizing consumer trust and satisfaction.

Fruit marketing in emerging markets

As the official marketing partner of Zespri International Ltd., Fresh Studio develops and leads the Zespri kiwifruit marketing campaign for Vietnam and the Philippines, taking on the task of developing the brand and ensuring its robust volume growth.


Zespri, is the world’s largest marketer of kiwifruit. Selling in more than 50 countries, it trades more than 30% of total global volume. It continues to expand globally, and has taken significant steps to grow key business regions.

The company, based in New Zealand, has set its sights in Southeast Asia (SEA). This is a region that has performed strongly for the business and aims to further harness an immense growth potential. Two upcoming and exciting markets, the Philippines and Vietnam, form part of its strategic outlook. With their rising economic levels and huge consumption populations, the promise of growth is tremendous.

The value of promotional activities and relationship marketing has had a direct positive impact.

Challenged by the prospect of launching the brand into unfamiliar territory, Zespri recognized the need to have a strong local working knowledge and an approach tailor-fitted to the markets.

Fresh Studio has been tapped by Zespri to bring its marketing and brand expertise in these developing markets – leading the campaigns in the consumer and business development fronts since 2008. Fresh Studio has an extensive market knowledge, local consumer understanding and solid business development experience in these countries. These strengths exploited to effectively develop the product through multiple platforms and prime it for growth.


Both markets are distinctly diverse. Against the backdrop of vast geographical landscapes, each has a different set of established distribution structures and consumer profiles. The kiwifruit, as well, is relatively new to these markets. Therefore, finding the right channels, developing awareness about the fruit and the brand – all play a big role if a successful foray in these countries is to be achieved. Within this context and backed by its strong local market experience, Fresh Studio developed an integrated marketing and business development campaign.

Fresh Studio’s strategic approach is three-fold: 

1) Publicity through Media
2) Consumer Engagement in the grassroots, and
3) Customer Development activities targeting Zespri business clients.

With several key marketing initiatives in place, Fresh Studio continues to drive the brand in both markets – through product launches and sustained exposure in various PR & Media channels, consumer promotions across grassroots selling channels, and business development activities geared towards direct Zespri partners.


The value of promotional activities and relationship marketing has had a direct positive impact.

From a product that has been experienced by consumers as unfamiliar, the kiwifruit category has increased awareness and recognition – with Zespri being top of mind among consumers in the kiwifruit category.

In distribution, penetration is always key. Fresh Studio’s marketing and development team has worked hard to develop this. As a result, Zespri is now the established and highly preferred brand among the most important distribution channel players in the Philippines and Vietnam.

With Fresh Studio leading the respective country campaigns, the volume growth of Zespri in these markets has been equally impressive. The marketing activities have significantly driven and contributed to the double-digit year-on-year sales growth since 2008. Further still, the business outlook for both countries remains consistently positive and upbeat in the long term.