Paper: Historical transitions in food shopping Hanoi, Vietnam

This paper offers a historical analysis of contemporary practices of shopping for vegetables in the highly dynamic context of urban Hanoi during the period from 1975 to 2014. Focusing on everyday shopping practices from a food safety perspective, we assess the extent to which the policy-enforced process of supermarketization has proven to be an engine of change in daily vegetable purchasing while improving food safety.

In depicting transitions in shopping practices, we combine a social practices approach with historical analysis. Providing a historical analysis of a broad and complex spectrum of everyday practices of purchasing fresh vegetables, we identify the key drivers of change. We discuss different modalities of shopping and demonstrate that no single retail modernization format can be said to exist. Rather than contrasting an idealized supermarket model with the traditional modalities of food shopping, we offer a varied, more diverse set of shopping practices that displays different strategies for coping with food safety issues. When discussed from a historical perspective, food practices are shown to be highly dynamic, being constantly reinvented and reconfigured by consumers who use their established skills, routines, and social networks to sometimes resist top-down enforced supermarketization while developing the coping strategies that best suit their local circumstances.

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Relocation of Fresh Studio’s head office in Hanoi, Vietnam

Fresh Studio is pleased to announce the relocation of its headquarters in Hanoi. The move to a new location is motivated by our expanding activities and increase of staff. The new office includes a state of the art facility for food products testing among end-consumers, the “Fresh Studio Taste Lab”.

Our new head office address:

2nd and 3rd floor

5B Lane 111, Xuan Dieu Street, Quang An Ward,

Tay Ho District, Hanoi


The building is conveniently located and can be easily reached from different directions: Noi Bai airport, the Hanoi city centre and main urban residential districts of Hanoi. 

The new location, besides modern and spacious office facilities, provides also a professional taste lab equipped with state of the art kitchen technologies. The “Fresh Studio Taste Lab” offers the opportunity to conduct sensory tests with fresh and processed food products among producers, end-consumers and professional users.

With this new facility Fresh Studio offers now a unique R&D service that ranges from production at our R&D farms (2 for vegetables and 1 for aquaculture) up until product testing. Fresh Studio is the only consultancy firm in Vietnam capable of testing food products on both agronomical and market performance.

Please feel welcome to visit the new office. Contact Fresh Studio on +84 (0)4 37591380 for any queries.

Photos of our new head office

Constrained consumer practices and food safety concerns in Hanoi

What explains the persistence of vegetable shopping at street markets even while they do not offer formal food safety guarantees in Hanoi? Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, Sietze Vellema and Gert Spaargaren, with support of Fresh Studio Team, conducted a practice-based research in order to understand the motivation and constraints of consumers relating to their daily vegetable purchase practices.

Food safety is a widely recognized concern in Vietnam. Public officials, companies and consumers find different ways to address risks of pesticide residues and bacterial contamination related to the use of fresh vegetables in daily diets. The response of the government to these food safety risks includes the modernization and regulation of the food retail system. However, reforms that aim to offer a controlled and predictable provision of fresh vegetables through supermarkets seem to contrast with the daily consumer practices in a dynamic city as Hanoi; over 95% of vegetables is still being purchased at long-established open-air markets, importantly the informal and unhygienic street markets. Using a practices theory approach, this paper aims to explain this persistence of street-market shopping for vegetables.

Detailed accounts of consumer practices, case studies at different retailing sites and daily logbooks of consumers demonstrate that the way consumers cope with food safety risks is largely shaped by the temporal and spatial constraints of their daily shopping practices.

We identified how vegetable shopping is either enjoyed as social interaction within the local community or is regarded a time-consuming activity that conflicts with other activities in everyday life. Our findings indicate how these constraints constitute a reinforcing mechanism for the persistence of uncontrolled and unhygienic street markets.

To make policy responses to food safety risks both more realistic and effective, it is essential to connect to and accommodate the daily realities of consumers managing time and space in a modernizing city rather than to impose an ideal, typical market exclusively driven by the wish to control food safety risks.

Download the complete publication here

Grand launch of Mekostar at Ocean Mart Royal Hanoi

HANOI – Fresh Studio created, operated and managed the launch of Mekostar, the first brand with guaranteed safe vegetables from Dalat and North Vietnam. The introduction took place at Ocean Mart Thanh Xuan, Asia’s largest underground Retail and Entertainment Complex in Hanoi.

For the grand launch in the flagship store of Ocean Retail group, Mekostar has entered into a marketing collaboration with KOTO. This is an Australian/Vietnamese social enterprise which has a hospitality training center and a restaurant in Hanoi where disadvantages youth are given the possibility to learn and strive in their lives.

Throughout the campaign, KOTO cooks presented several creative recipes with Mekostar products to consumers. Many enthusiastic and interested customers had the opportunity to taste and become familiar with Mekostar. Consumers were educated about Mekostar safe production and quality control protocol that ensures food safety of vegetable every day for Mekostar’s consumers.

Fresh Studio continues several other Mekostar campaigns at different supermarkets in the coming period. Read more about Mekostar by visiting the website:

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Vegetable market locations in Hanoi

Mid 2012 Fresh Studio undertook a safe vegetable retail census covering 10 urban districts of Hanoi.

We combed every street in these 10 districts in search for outlets claiming to sell safe vegetables. The census included all supermarkets, all convenience stores and all vegetable shops, kiosks and stalls claiming to sell safe vegetables; explicitly communicating rau an toàn (safe vegetables), rau sạch (clean vegetables) and/or rau hữu cơ (organic vegetables).

Our research learned that the total volume of safe vegetables sold through the census outlets (based on collected data of average daily volume sales) represents less than 4% of the total amount of vegetables consumed in Hanoi (based on a per capita consumption of 290gr/day).

Further our research learned that supermarket sales account for around 63% of total safe vegetables sold by the census outlets combined.

Relative share in total safe vegetable sales (%):


The main purpose of the research is to provide a rough overview of the safe vegetable retail distribution in urban Hanoi. The enclosed map provides a snapshot of the safe vegetable retail distribution structure of April 2012. Since then across all categories some outlets have closed down while others have opened. We are currently updating the data and welcome information on newly opened channels and will make an updated census overview available through our website early 2014.

If you want to know more information about this census or if you are looking for more information on the category definitions and about the Hanoi market please contact us.

DAKADO Campaign in Hanoi

HANOI – After the success of the avocado promotion campaign in HCMC in 2007, Fresh Studio and its project partners expanded the avocado campaign to Hanoi.

In the North, the campaign took place in ten stores of the FIVI-Mart supermarket chain and in the two METRO Cash & Carry stores. This campaign took place in addition to the ongoing DAKADO promotion efforts in METRO Cash & Carry stores and Saigon Co.Op Mart supermarket chain in HCMC.

The campaign in Hanoi was complicated because Dak Lak Province is almost 3 days drive away. To guarantee the quality, the new DAKADO trays were flown in daily between Buon Ma Thuot and Hanoi.

As last year in HCMC, Hanoi consumers reacted very positively to the first ever marketing campaign for a domestic fruit. Both METRO and Fivi-Mart saw their avocado sales increase almost tenfold. Many consumers could not believe that this product was from Vietnamese origin, as they had never seen such a professional presentation for a Vietnamese fruit.

This year’s campaign was a design based on the experiences of last year, and from desires expressed by several consumer focus groups. During focus group sessions, Fresh Studio’s Sigrid Wertheim-Heck and Ha Thi Viet Phuong discussed with representative consumer panels their perceptions of the use of brands for fresh produce in Vietnam.

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