Vietnamese coffee with a Dutch touch | Ministries

Blog post | 01-12-2022 | Others about the work in BZ

Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. This provides opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs. For large and small businesses. Timen Swijtink, founder of the Vietnamese coffee brand Lacàph, sees it as well. ‘I wanted to take people into the Vietnamese culture and everything I love about Vietnam.’

Enlarge image

Minister Schreinemacher spoke in the Lacàph showroom with Dutch entrepreneurs who are already active in Vietnam.

Trade mission to Vietnam

From November 28 to 30, more than forty companies participated in a trade mission to Vietnam. Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation led the mission: ‘Vietnam is interesting for the Netherlands because of its rapid economic growth. Big companies have already discovered Vietnam. But there are also plenty of opportunities for small entrepreneurs. As trade minister, I can help Dutch companies by opening doors for them here.’

Currently, there are around 125 Dutch companies active in Vietnam. Minister Schreinemacher met a number of these entrepreneurs in Ho Chi Minh City. They met in Lacàph’s showroom in the center of town. “It was nice to meet other Dutch people who have also worked here for fifteen or twenty years,” says Timen Swijtink. “We all do something different. From a hairdresser’s shop, IT company to a coffee brand.’

Unique coffee culture

Enlarge image
Time Swijtink

Picture: ©Lacaph

Time Swijtink

In early 2020, Timen founded the coffee brand Lacàph. ‘I wanted to take people into the Vietnamese culture and everything I love about Vietnam.’ The entrepreneur investigated various Vietnamese products: rice wine, fish sauce or tea, but it turned out to be coffee. Vietnam is a real coffee country. It is the second largest coffee producer in the world and has a unique coffee culture. People here really take the time to drink a cup of coffee.’

Vietnam produces large quantities of coffee beans. The green beans are often exported and roasted in other countries. “It’s problematic,” Timen says. “Coffee is exported as an intermediate product and not as an end product. While the coffee gets the most value in the last steps. At Lacàph, we want to change that by putting Vietnamese coffee on the map as a brand.’

Made in Vietnam

According to Timen, the fact that Vietnamese coffee does not yet have a big name can be explained from a historical point of view. “Before Vietnam’s economic reform in 1986, Đổi Mới, brands did not exist here at all. They have barely known the concept of marketing here for 35 years.’ Building a brand requires time and investment. Timen: ‘This won’t happen overnight, but we hope to make ‘made in Vietnam’ a respected brand.’

Lacàph now sells coffee to large hotel chains, resorts and luxury restaurants and has its own coffee shop and showroom in Ho Chi Minh City. “We mainly export our coffee to Asia. Eventually, we hope to open a Lacàph Space Sài Gòn in every city where people can buy our products, taste coffee and learn about Vietnamese culture.’

Paperwork

In the more than 15 years Timen has lived in Vietnam, the economy has grown and changed enormously. ‘New laws and regulations opened up the economy to foreign investment. At first only in certain sectors, such as IT and consulting, but gradually became more and more possible for international entrepreneurs. I moved to Vietnam for a temporary internship, but ended up staying as an entrepreneur.’

Still, doing business in Vietnam is not for everyone, Timen believes. ‘The culture is different and the rules are not always obvious. You can quickly arrange a lot in Vietnam, but the process itself is often unclear.’ The entrepreneur knows from his own experience that, for example, you have to deal with piles of paperwork. ‘In the Netherlands, you often manage with an external auditor, here he is one of the most important people in the company.’

New concepts

However, many things are also easier in Vietnam. “What is difficult in the Netherlands is often easy to arrange here. And vice versa’, Timen laughs. “In the Netherlands, it is easier to get support from the government, but you need a large sum of money to establish a new company. Here the costs are low and there is less competition.’

Vietnam is therefore an attractive place for small Dutch entrepreneurs. Timen: “I already felt it when I arrived here. Not much has been done here yet. Almost anything is possible. For example, international entrepreneurs have started restaurants, schools and hotels here. And a boy from Belgium has even opened a successful Belgian chip shop in Ho Chi Minh City. That’s the great thing about Vietnam: if you have an original idea, you can always set it up here.’

Leave a Comment