Sunkist Growers Christina Ward Discusses Returning U.S. Citrus to Vietnam Market
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
VIETNAM - Christina Ward and I find ourselves across the Pacific Ocean enjoying egg coffees together. While I might wish this were true for myself, the scene is an accurate one for Sunkist’s Director of Global Brand Marketing, who just finished helping the company’s Navel oranges break down barriers between the market in Vietnam and our own.
“Sunkist has been working with Vietnam on the re-entry of U.S. citrus into Vietnam’s market. We were so fortunate to be able to host a consumer-facing event and press conference once we gained approval for Sunkist oranges,” Sunkist’s Director shares with me.
Known as a place of wonders for cuisine—Anthony Bourdain was one of several notable palates to call this country a favorite—Vietnamese value quality, flavor, and health—all trademarks of a Sunkist product.
“They have really good food in Vietnam and I think our citrus pairs very well with that reputation,” Christina smiles. “I know in Vietnam there are a lot of healthy eaters, and we received both excitement and energy for the return of U.S. citrus. Consumers in Vietnam love U.S. products and produce—I believe because the consumers believe in the quality and high standards of U.S. providers. They got excited learning about how everything is hand-picked with care and meticulously inspected. They associate these elements with quality and safety.”
And as we all know, timing is everything. Even, if not most especially, when crossing into international markets.
“The timing was perfect because the Tet New Year is this weekend, a big celebration in Vietnam. At Sunkist, we take pride in citrus symbolizing family, bringing people together with the natural association of being able to share our fruit. So being able to distribute to Vietnam’s families in time for the holiday is an opportunity to help them come together. During this time of year, everyone is eating and enjoying each other’s company, so part of our event was the many ways to enjoy Sunkist oranges,” Christina explains, telling me that not only was there a celebrity chef to showcase the citrus item’s versatility in food, but a mixology station as well.
She explained, too, that the Sunkist team also ensured it is working with distributors who have created a reputable name for themselves in fresh produce, setting the table for partnerships globally. With so many plans carefully placed, I have to wonder what might be next for the cooperative.
“Obviously we would love to see all U.S. citrus in Vietnam and beyond,” Christina shared. “Hopefully this is the beginning of something even bigger.”
Rome was not built in a day, and neither was the entirety of the U.S.’s fresh produce offerings to outside markets. But one thing is for sure, the groundbreaking has taken place and there is much to look forward to.