Product Trial Success in Vietnam

By: Zoish Bengali

Director, FII

A key component of Forestry Innovation Investment (FII)’s market diversification strategy is to expand awareness and use of B.C. forest products across Asia. In 2015, in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the Canada Wood Group, FII conducted market assessments of key markets in Southeast Asia to identify new opportunities for B.C. species. As Asia’s second-largest exporter of furniture, and with wood product processing out-pacing domestic supply, Vietnam’s wood in manufacturing (WIM) sector stood out as a strong potential market opportunity for B.C. forest products. 

To tap into Vietnam’s WIM sector, FII’s strategic focus has been to use product trials as a mechanism for introducing local companies to B.C. species. Mirroring FII India’s “Try Canadian Wood” program, FII Vietnam has been supplying targeted groups of local manufacturers with small volumes of B.C. wood products, allowing them to become familiar with B.C. species by producing samples and prototypes. The technical team in Vietnam provides assistance to the manufacturers to help them understand the properties of B.C. species and advise them throughout the trial process.

Recent trials have been showing positive signs that B.C.’s softwood species have the potential to capture good returns and displace traditionally used species from Europe and Asia. 

B.C. species that have become popular as a result of the trials include western hemlock, Spruce-Pine-Fir (S-P-F) and western red cedar. Due to its favourable finishing properties and ability to accept any paint, stain or clear finish, western hemlock has emerged as a preferred product for use in a wide variety of furniture applications such as dining tables and chairs, bunk beds, bedroom sets and living room furniture. Hemlock has also seen some success with interior and exterior doors. S-P-F has gained traction within furniture and door core applications – a process in which S-P-F is used to form the “core” of the door and then is overlaid with hemlock or other species. While western red cedar was already a popular choice for saunas and panelling, product trials are underway to expand the use of western red cedar into outdoor furniture and patio sets.

While still in the early stages of market development, FII has seen a positive trend in B.C. forest product exports as local manufacturers become more familiar with B.C. species and their applications. Initial trials are being showcased through trade shows such as VIFA, Vietnam Wood and Highpoint Market in the U.S. Products are also showcased in manufacturer/end-customer showrooms with the goal of driving larger-scale future orders.