Realising the dream of improving Vietnamese children’s stature through Medical Nutrition

Rate this post – Pham Bao L (Nam Dinh) was diagnosed with acute leukaemia when he was three years old. With all three children suffering from serious diseases, the family of Ms Nguyen Thi T is completely worn out. L’s physical condition is very poor and he is uninterested in drinking milk, but since receiving free nutritional milk from Nutricare, Ms T. still encourages him to drink in the hope that his health will improve. Like many children with cancer at the National Children’s Hospital, Nutricare milk has contributed to improving their health during their long and arduous battle.  

From the initial dream of improving nutrition for Vietnamese people, and then enhancing its products to a national brand with specialised Medical Nutritional products to support each type of disease, Nutricare has always devoted a part of its Medical Nutritional products to philanthropic activities, the community, disadvantaged children and children with serious diseases. Therefore, in addition to the best-selling product lines, Nutricare still maintains product lines that are not selling well and generate little profit, but which, according to CEO Nguyen Duc Minh, could be the company’s key products in the future or purely a contribution to society.

Disire to change Vietnamese people’s awareness about nutrition

Nutricare founder and CEO Nguyen Duc Minh shared that 13 years ago he found the niche in Medical Nutrition to start his business. Devoting his whole youth to research on nutrition for Vietnamese children and travelling to the country’s remote areas as a member of the National Institute of Nutrition, Minh realised that he could intervene in nutrition by creating a product that is well received by the market. Nutricare was born in 2010 from such a dream to improve nutrition for Vietnamese people.

Starting as a nutritionist who graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Washington and served as Deputy Director of the Institute of Social and Medical Studies (ISMS), CEO Nguyen Duc Minh said, in order to change consumers’ awareness about the importance of nutrition, especially Medical Nutrition products, is not easy.

During the past 13 years, with the goal of providing nutritional solutions for Vietnamese people, from pregnant women, children and adults to the elderly, Nutricare has identified the Medical Nutrition segment with nutritional products that support patients as the key to making a difference and pioneering on their own path.

At that time, people only understood that normal nutrition was a pre-processed product containing enough nutrients, vitamins, minerals and functional ingredients to support life, and anyone could use it. Meanwhile, Medical Nutrition is more complex, individualised, built for specific subjects and serves people with medical conditions (or needs).

Vietnam is facing a “double burden” of nutrition. That is malnutrition in groups of people with limited access due to awareness and socio-economic conditions. Second, overnutrition in the wealthy group due to rapid lifestyle changes leads to metabolic disorders because the body cannot adapt.

Sometimes, consumers are influenced by informal, fragmentary and non-standard information. Economic conditions are also a barrier for people to care about nutritional products.

A Nutricare Company’s manufacturing plant.

With the rapid development and growth of the economy, Vietnamese people have many opportunities to access food but are not prepared for that change, meaning their nutritional knowledge is “old”. “Not many people understand what energy is needed for physical condition and how much is enough according to age,” Minh said. In Vietnam, Medical Nutrition training is still new, so personnel and training programmes can only partially meet the needs.

In 2008, a project to support poor people’s health care sponsored by the European Community asked Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh for advice on a nutritional formula to restore malnourished children in Vietnam. After serving the project, CEO Nguyen Duc Minh realised that the external demand was much greater than the statistics. Many families recognise stunting and malnutrition and are willing to spend money to buy nutritional products. That’s why in October 2010, Minh decided to gather a group of friends to present the prospects of a line of formula milk specifically for malnourished children in Vietnam.

“Researching and producing medical nutritional products is a social responsibility and is also how Nutricare opens a path for itself in the future.”

CEO Nguyen Duc Minh

“The niche market we chose has a lot of potential. In addition to our efforts to find new knowledge and develop a team of experts from the US, we have been able to change our way of thinking from the domestic market towards internationalisation with the needs of nutritional care”, Minh shared.

Nutricare researches and produces nutritional products suitable for Vietnamese people’s physical condition.

Although it is a young field, Nutricare believes that Medical Nutrition in Vietnam is an inevitable need and will develop strongly in the future. Therefore, Nutricare constantly explores and researches to develop diverse lines of specialised Medical Nutritional products according to age and disease at prices suitable for the majority of Vietnamese consumers and continuously carries out communication activities to influence users’ awareness of Medical Nutrition.

Enterprises always apply new technological achievements to products.

Efforts to reduce malnutrition and underweight among Vietnamese children

At the time of its establishment, CEO Nguyen Duc Minh said that Nutricare only focused on products for stunted children. But during the development process, Nutricare has researched and expanded other products for children with diseases such as digestion, anorexia, and poor resistance; for adults, especially groups of high-risk diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, liver, kidney, and thyroid.

Initially, Nutricare started with a milk formula for malnourished children by Dr. Nguyen Duc Minh and created the product Care 100. The product was not advertised, but thanks to its effectiveness on children, starting with the children of Nutricare members, after only a few years, Nutricare has had initial achievements, with a factory creating jobs for many workers.

After 13 years of operation, Nutricare has continuously maintained double-digit growth, even during the COVID-19 epidemic. This has proven the role of businesses in influencing users’ awareness of Medical Nutrition.

After five years, although the Care 100 product business was still very successful, Nutricare began to move into “niche” products. Researchers at Nutricare search for formulas for many different groups of people who need nutritional supplements: kidney patients, liver patients, cancer patients, or even a “market” that is not at all large, like thyroid patients.

Nutricare implements a nutritional care program for pediatric cancer patients.

If the milk lines for malnourished children are sold by Nutricare members from the perspective of parents, then these new product lines are also based on the perspective of family members. For example, the Leanpro Thyro product line – iodine-rich nutrition for thyroid patients – was born after a member of Nutricare learned that his family member had thyroid cancer. Nutricare finds a need for attention in every corner.

In particular, Nutricare’s Medical Nutritional products have been recognised by the Ministry of Industry and Trade as Vietnam’s National Brand products for three consecutive years since 2018. They include Glucare Gold diabetic care product, Leanmax Hope for people with cancer, Metacare nutritional product line to support children’s weight gain, height and comprehensive physical development, Hanie Kid provides nutrition for children with anorexia and stunt growth, Care 100 re-nourishing for children and Smarta Grow Nutrition to help children grow taller.

Continuous innovation and diversity of Nutritional products for different customer groups have helped Nutricare increase its competitiveness in the market.

Nutricare’s milk products are presented to child patients with cancer who are being treated at Children’s Hospital 2 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Over the past years, Nutricare has also presented its nutritional products to disadvantaged people. The company has implemented a care project for children with cancer at the Vietnam National Hospital of Paediatrics in Hanoi since 2020 and Children’s Hospital 2 in Ho Chi Minh City since 2021. It also supported patients treated for kidney failure at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi since 2020.Many disadvantaged people, such as children in remote areas, people affected by natural disasters, those facing difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic, and revolutionary contributors, have also received support from Nutricare.

Gaining success from setting own path 

As a pioneer enterprise in Medical Nutrition in Vietnam, from the beginning, Nutricare has eyed to produce products according to the professional standards of developed countries. It has invested in building a modern factory system and equipment to create products meeting strict requirements. Specifically, its machinery system was designed by Tetra Pak Group and was consulted and installed by foreign experts. The technology system is also constantly upgraded and innovated. Currently, Nutricare owns three factories meeting ISO 22000:2018, HACCP, GMP and ISO 14001 standards, including a powdered milk factory, a liquid milk factory and a bird’s nest factory. The business also plans to build a factory in the southern region.
Nutricare has a modern factory system and equipment to create products that meet strict requirements.

Targeting the majority of Vietnamese people who can afford nutritional medical products, the company carried out research on more specialised products, identified market segmentation, and optimised costs while still ensuring quality. The goal is to create products suitable for middle-income customer groups.

Nutricare invests in high standard equipment, with some machines in the production chain worth several million US dollars each, equivalent to investment in a factory.

The company has always applied new technological achievements to its products, at the same time purchasing raw materials in different forms and recombining formulas to serve target groups according to their needs in each stage of life: exercise or treatment. Regarding the fresh milk product line, in order to have input materials meeting standards, Nutricare opened a new raw material area in Tam Dao, Vinh Phuc – a place with good soil and cool climate all year round and dairy cows being raised naturally with clean food sources.

Nutricare achieves the National Brand title for many consecutive years.

Nutricare also cooperates with research facilities abroad and sends its staff abroad to update information. Nutricare signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Nutricare Medical Nutrition Institute – USA (NMNI-USA) in July 2023 with the goal of contributing to the healthcare and health improvement of millions of Vietnamese families.

Most recently, in October 2023, Nutricare and NMNI-USA announced the first achievements of nutrition scientists by launching five new products dedicated for specific subjects such as: children with weak immune system, children with anorexia and stunting, people with diabetes, older people in need of nutritional supplements to improve their health, and people with bone and joint problems.

Nutricare signs a strategic cooperation agreement with the Nutricare Medical Nutrition Institute – USA (NMNI-USA) to care for and improve the health of Vietnamese people.

In recent years, the company has continuously been honoured with prestigious awards and named in high rankings such as: Top 10 prestigious food companies, Top 50 best growing enterprises in Vietnam, Top 100 best products and services for families and children, Top 200 Vietnamese Gold Stars, and Top 500 fastest growing enterprises in Vietnam. In particular, Nutricare achieved the National Brand of Medical Nutrition for three consecutive periods (2018, 2020, 2022).

Nutricare’s manufacturing plant is specifically designed by Tetra Pak Group.

Faced with competition from many international brands in health products, Nutricare’s CEO said that the company’s strength is careful research of customer needs, Vietnamese biological characteristics, and the world’s latest knowledge to create products that meet the needs of Vietnamese people. Especially, the prices of products are always suitable with economic conditions.

In the journey to create that competitive advantage, Nutricare has always received the companionship of foreign partners participating in consulting and formulating for each product. “We not only have access to world knowledge sources, but also train separate personnel to develop each type of product,” Minh said.

Although in the journey of brand development, there were successful lab-scale research products, but when creating large-scale products, they were changed, causing highly biologically active substances to be changed and expected features and effects to be lost. However, that is not what discourages Nutricare. According to Minh, researching and producing Medical Nutritional products is a social responsibility, and is also the way Nutricare opens a path for itself in the future.

Talking about Nutricare’s goal in the journey to continue affirming the national brand of existing products and expanding other national brand products, CEO Nguyen Duc Minh noted that the research of Medical Nutrition is Nutricare’s social responsibility. The company continues to develop specialised products, restructure the business, expand infrastructure, promote international cooperation, and strive to affirm its position as a leading enterprise in Medical Nutrition in Vietnam.

Especially, to help the majority of Vietnamese people can afford to pay for Medical Nutritional products, the company will study more specialised products, identify segments for clear growth, and try to optimise costs while still ensuring quality. The goal is to create products suitable for middle-income groups.

Nutritional products suitable for dialysis patients are introduced by Nutricare to patients of Bach Mai Hospital.

The signing of a nutrition programme to provide millions of glasses of milk for the community.

Especially, to help the majority of Vietnamese people can afford to pay for Medical Nutritional products, the company will study more specialised products, identify segments for clear growth, and try to optimise costs while still ensuring quality. The goal is to create products suitable for middle-income groups.

“Not only do we take care of nutrition, we also want future generations to grow taller. That is Nutricare’s mission and passion.”

Nguyen Duc Minh

Under that direction, not only does it stop at providing Medical Nutritional products suitable for Vietnamese people’s health, Nutricare’s administrators are thinking about reaching out to serve markets outside of Vietnam. “We are planning to boost exports, aiming for the common trend: creating globalised products as soon as possible. Currently, our products have also been exported to difficult markets such as Bangladesh and the Philippines”, added CEO Nguyen Duc Minh.
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