Walking down the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, it’s easy to spot the Western brands which have infiltrated this Vietnamese city.
With Baskin-Robbins frequenting street corners around the city, and foreign brands like McDonalds, KFC and Burger King interspersed frequently, it’s easy to see why Ho Chi Minh City is fast becoming a metropolitan and culturally diverse city.
The streets are lined with foods representative of virtually every nation on the planet, and CEO of Franchised Food Company and Cold Rock, Stan Gordon, saw an opportunity in Vietnam.
“I visited Vietnam on a personal trip about a year and a bit ago,” Mr Gordon said.
“And just in walking up and down the streets and just embracing Vietnam and the culture in Vietnam, I identified an opportunity to take the Cold Rock brand there.
“I think it’s a very aspirational market.”
Vietnam is the first stop for Cold Rock outside of its traditional Australian market. The Cold Rock brand is uniquely Australian owned and developed.
Mr Gordon said that originally, the plan was to export the finished ice-cream product to Vietnam, freighting the liquid and milk in frozen or refrigerated containers. However the cost, he said, was too great. But they found an interesting solution.
“We got one of our manufacturers to actually extract the liquid out of it,” Mr Gordon explained.
“So we sent a powder base which is uniquely ours , not just a normal power, and we re-liquefy it in Vietnam” he said.
“We’re importing it ourselves entirely.”
Mr Gordon said that Cold Rock Vietnam has been adapted to suit the tastes of the Vietnamese people.
“Every country is different and every taste palate is different,” Mr Gordon said.
He said that when other ice-cream companies export their product overseas, they leave it as it is, using the example of the difference in sweetness between American and Australia chocolate.
“We have actually modified the taste palate to the local market,” he said, mentioning that there are different ice-cream flavours and confectionary mix-ins available in the Vietnamese stores.
“For example, the Vietnamese want a green tea flavour but not a very sweetened product.
“So we’ve actually had to adjust our recipes in Vietnam with Vietnamese experts until we get the right taste profile,” Mr Gordon said.
For the purposes of research, we headed to Cold Rock inside the Lotte Cinema in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon. Surrounded by other food outlets, and almost right beside a New Zealand Natural Icecream parlour, it did not look out of place.
It looked like any Cold Rock that you might come across in Australia, with a mixture of Vietnamese and English on the signs inside.
The sales assistant told us that he has worked there since December, when it opened, and that the two most popular flavours so far have been green tea and chocolate.
The most popular mix-ins have been the fruit jellies and chocolate rocks.
The Cold Rock brand is definitely an up-and-coming competitor in the Vietnamese ice-cream market, but Stan Gordon says that Cold Rock is more than just another brand of ice-cream.
“Cold Rock is not just ice-creameries; it’s not just a dairy product,” Mr Gordon said.
“Cold Rock is more confectionary that gets mixed with ice-cream, versus ice-cream that gets mixed with confectionary,” he said.
When asked what the future holds for Cold Rock, Mr Gordon shared that Franchised Food Company have their sights set on Dubai for the next Cold Rock destination.
However, he said that the product will continue to be exported from Australia in the future and that that will not change.
“We will always export from Australia and we are very proudly Australian owned and operated,” he said.
“It’s an Australian concept with an Australian base, but it’s made in Vietnam by Vietnamese using some Vietnamese ingredients.”