“a Quote from a Reporter's interview with Richy’’s founder”

Our conversation with businessman Tran Sy Truc – owner of Richy confectionery brand, started on a winter day in late November. Over a cup of afternoon tea, his memories of a past time were slowly absorbed by him, Thinking back and summarize in one sentence: Richy has been and will continue on the path of bringing Vietnamese confectionery to the world!

– Sir, in the 2000s, when domestic consumers were still only familiar with traditional processed confectionery, what was the reason that prompted you to embark on the business of distributing imported confectionery – a type of goods were still quite strange to the market at that time?

I was fortunate to graduate from university at the right time when the country began to open up to the world, and the opportunity for me to work in an international environment should have given me a long time to work in abroad. Every time I return home from Malaysia, I have the habit of going to the supermarket to buy sweets and confectionery as gifts for relatives and colleagues. Realizing that everyone warmly accepted those gifts because of the new flavors that are hard to buy in Vietnam, I started thinking: “Why don’t I distribute these items in Vietnam?” Thinking to do it, I went to the wholesalers on Hang Buom (Hanoi) to introduce goods. This is how my career with confectionery and later the food industry started (laughs).

– In the context that people’s income is still modest but the value of goods is high, is it difficult to find output for the source of goods, sir?

At that time, there was a huge difference between imported goods and domestically produced goods in terms of quality and design. Imported confectionery products in accordance with consumers’ taste: delicious, beautiful and not too expensive… are everyone’s dream.

Meanwhile, our production capacity at that time was very limited, goods were always in short supply. Therefore, those with income, those wishing to buy confectionery as gifts will be willing to look for imported products. In the years of 2000, I returned home. “Finally, I realized that it was the time to make my cherished plans come true” – that was the biggest thought in my mind, prompting me to embark on a series of busy tasks after that. I started the procedures to establish my own company to officially distribute imported confectionery. Hoang Mai Trading and Production Co., Ltd was found like that.

– In the early days of establishment, what difficulties did Hoang Mai face, and how did your company overcome it and get the results as it is today?

The biggest difficulties for start-ups are: Lack of capital and lack of experience. Fortunately, with my personal reputation and serious way of working I have built up before, I have made a good impression on partners. After only a short time, they trusted and willingly accepted for me to buy deferred payment. In other words, they indirectly invested in me in the early days of the company.

Next, I focused my thoughts on the issue of goods and product consumption. Putting ourselves in the role of a customer to choose the right product to distribute, suitable for consumption needs, so we quickly sold out of goods right after importing. Even, there were many distributors who also orderred prepayment to receive goods.

The Capital and goods are gradually accumulated accordingly, the business cycle flows smoothly, and so on, the company develops very quickly. We are quickly known as a reputable importer and distributor of high-class imported confectionery in the North. In 2004, I started “South progress” and opened a branch, expanding my market share in the southern market and conquering the title: Prestigious confectionery importer in Vietnam. Celebrating 10 years of establishment, we have become the exclusive, prestigious and reliable distribution partner in Vietnam for 15 major confectionery brands in the world from Europe to Asia such as: Lambertz, Witor’s, Gavottes , Elvan, Apollo, Lot100…

– Expanding the business model from a distribution unit to a manufacturer is not easy, what was the reason for this decision, sir?

At the time of 10 years of establishment, Hoang Mai has been a reputable distributor in the market, however, our operations can be affected at any time when partners change cooperation conditions or business strategy. Moreover, at that time, the products imported from abroad were all high-end products with high prices, so mid-range customers in remote areas could not access them. This is what worries me.

At the same time, Vietnam has many strengths and opportunities for development: abundant raw materials, cheap labor, high consumer demand… We have all the reasons and conditions to develop the food industry that is not inferior to other countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia… – which are exporting products to many countries around the world, including Vietnam.

When I take the initiative in production, I will stabilize the company’s operations, expand the distribution market, promote the inherent internal resources of the country, and develop the country’s confectionery industry. These reasons motivated me to decide to invest in building a factory to create my own brand, of Vietnam, and the Richy brand was born from there.

– What was the first product you chosed for Richy at that time?

In 2011, Our first factory went into operation, officially marking Richy’s mark on the market with the first product – rice crackers. I think Vietnam is the world’s leading rice exporter, so there’s no reason that make us can’t produce rice crackers like Japan, Thailand, China… With abundant raw materials, rice crackers are the new products, not the same as the list of products we are distributing, cheap labor, potential market… I have nearly all reasons to convince myself to start production.

– How has the plan to find output for the product been implemented by Richy, sir?

Right after the factory established, I determined the 50/50 formula for the domestic market and for export to consume the products. For example, the Lunar New Year in our country is usually around January – February; Thai and Cambodian New Year is in April; Islamic New Year (Malaysia, Indonesia…) – July; Indian New Year falls in October; Catholic Christmas New Year – December… If Richy could approach and conquer all these markets, the factory is always busy, the products are always sold out, and whole year is considered New Year!

Up to now, Richy has exported products to 30 countries and territories, set foot in developed countries with very strict quality regulations such as Japan, Korea, and the US…

– After rice crackers, Richy has embarked on the production of many other product lines and have chosen the export route. Is “going abroad” considered a mandatory criterion for each product of Richy?

After the success of rice crackers, Richy invested in 2 more factories with a scale of over 60,000m2. the products of Butter waffles, chocolate cake (Peppie), Oatmeal cookie, Majestic cookies were born in turn and were well accepted by the international market.

It is true that “exporting abroad” is considered a mandatory criterion for each product. In the digital life, trade barriers are increasingly narrowing, Richy’s market is a market of 7 billion people worldwide, not just a market of 100 million people in Vietnam. By improving product quality through the process of improving production technology, being innovative and creative, we confidently bring our products to abroad and fairly compete with other brands.

– In the past, when mentioning Richy, many people immediately think of rice crackers, but now Richy is also associated with the product line of Karo fried chicken floss soft waffle. As far as I know, this product is originally from foreign, how did Richy “Vietnamize” this cake?

Waffle originated from Greece and then developed by the Belgians into 2 forms: one is in dry, sweet, and buttery taste; One is fresh soft cakes preserved frozen, when eaten, must be put in the steamer. Waffles are delicious to eat, but I still feel that it lacks something to be a nutritious, fast food product. The idea of improving this type of cake also appeared because of that.

Our R&D department has stepped in. By adding Chicken Floss, fish sauce – pure Vietnamese ingredients, bringing the breath of Vietnamese cuisine, mixing in the right proportions and baking, we have successfully created the first “Vietnamese Waffle cake” on the market, with a taste very close to Asian consumers. And that is Karo Chicken Floss Soft Waffles – the pioneer product on the fresh cake market today.

Richy’s greatest joy is that as soon as Karo was launched and introduced to users across the country, it received very positive feedback and reached the Top 1 “Vietnamese goods loved by consumers in 2020“. Referring to Richy now is not only rice crackers, mentioning Richy, consumers refer to Karo too.

– Fresh cakes have very short shelf life, how can Richy export Karo?

Well receiving the love and support of domestic users, Karo was then exported to Laos, Cambodia and also warmly received by the people of these countries. The shipping process to these two countries takes about 2-3 days, so it does not affect the quality of the cake. Bringing Karo further to new lands and markets is being carefully considered and calculated by us, partly because this is a fresh bakery product with a short shelf life, partly due to strict regulations on quarantine related to meat products in some countries.

However, the barrier that we are facing is also the barrier of international fresh cake brands are facing when they want to enter to Vietnamese market. This is a challenge but also an opportunity because fresh cakes are the playground of Vietnamese people and Richy’s. I believe fresh cakes will become a new consumer trend in the near future, when consumers’ needs are increasingly focused on taste – delicious but clean, without using preservatives. Although the long-term strategy is expensive to invest and predicts a fierce competition, we are confident that we will continue to expand our market share in the coming time and conquer new consumers with Karo products – The first Vietnamese waffle on the market.

– Richy ended 2020 with the title “Vietnam National Brand”, what do you think about this result?

This title is the pride of Vietnam’s food industry in the context that we are still far away from countries in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia… Honestly, when I received this title, I was both honored, proud of it and feel the pressure (laughs).

The honor is because this is the noblest and most prestigious title chosen by the Government and the Ministry of Industry and Trade for products and services with a series of strict criteria. With the recognition of the National Brand, Richy is even more confident when “bringing the bell to beat the country”. The pressure comes from that Richy now is not just our own anymore, but the country’s, representing, the responsibility will be huge. We have to work much harder to develop products and ensure quality with stricter criteria than before. The National brand is an encouraging result of Richy’s past efforts, as well as a motivation for us to continue to strive, a premise for a stronger development in the near future.

– Set in the current open economic context, how will the National Brand help Richy in the upcoming overseas journeys, sir?

By recognizing and honoring Richy with the title of “National Brand”, the Government has helped to make a commitment to international consumers: Richy’s products are quality products. This will be very convenient for Richy when introducing and expanding into new markets, especially when Vietnam’s reputation is being enhanced in the international market.

let imaging of Richy candy or cake boxes appearing on the shelves of a supermarket in a certain country with the Vietnam National Brand logo, then each Richy product will be an “ambassador of Vietnam” in front of international consumers.

– To take advantage of the opportunities that the National Brand brings, what plans will Richy have in the next 5 years, sir?

Continuing to move forward in a new journeys, Richy will constantly invest, research and develop new projects, launch products that are suitable for today’s consumer tastes, and always keep ensuring the criteria of both quality and nutrition. In particular, we will promote our strengths at the present in the fresh bakery industry to develop clean food chains on the basis of clean ingredients. To do that, I am embarking on the project of Richy Northern Confectionery Complex project  international standards, on a large scale and focus on modern technology. At the same time, Richy also focuses on investing  and developing the human resource, professional training of employees, to accompany with Richy on a new journey with the mission of National Brand.