Vietnamese cooking and lard are inseparable, but over 20 years ago, health authorities in the country embarked on a mission to find a healthier substitute for pig fat.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in Hanoi saw a solution in Malaysia’s palm oil.
“Malaysia provided its research data and NIN verified it. With the blessings of the Vietnamese health ministry, palm oil was introduced as a healthier alternative to lard,” Kalyana Sundram, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) told FMT on the side lines of the recent Malaysia-Vietnam Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar.
Today, palm oil accounts for 60% of oils and fats consumed in Vietnam, which has a population of over 90 million people.
Sundram said NIN has carried out its own studies on the health benefits of red palm oil for children.
“Red palm oil has high concentrations of beta carotene which prevents eyesight deterioration, especially for children, and vitamin E tocotrienols, an antioxidant to help prevent a number of ailments and diseases.”
Sundram also said palm oil had been scientifically proven as a good alternative to unhealthy trans-fats.
Its other benefits make it an increasingly popular ingredient in Vietnamese food, as well as an option in beverage outlets and households.
He said palm oil is perfect for cooking, heat-resistant, and naturally free of trans-fat and cholesterol.
Sundram said a Malaysian delegation recently met with officials here to discuss the possibility of developing a food processing hub in the city.
“Palm oil will be a major component of this hub and we feel that Malaysian palm oil will be in high demand.
“As a pioneer in commercial palm oil production, our palm oil is backed by agricultural best practices in growing, extraction and transport, ensuring the quality of the oil.”
Palm oil is also widely used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and personal care among others.
Sundram expects demand for palm oil to be stronger as the economy of this once war-ravaged nation improves, with more Vietnamese enjoying better living standards.
In 2018, Vietnam imported 462,000 tonnes of palm oil and palm oil products from Malaysia.
This year alone, its imports grew by 22% to 325,000 tonnes in the first seven months, with MPOC estimating 500,000 tonnes of Malaysian palm oil and palm oil products sold to Vietnam this year.