Rows of initial hurdles (1997-1999)

The story began in 1997. At that time, a milk production facility was inaugurated under the auspices of the Quang Ngai Sugar Company and called simply the Spring Factory — underlying aspirations for an eternal spring in the Asian business sense. With initial capital of 60 billion VND, the factory was outfitted with the latest equipment from the Swedish firm Tetra Pak and manned by a workforce of 100 to produce 10 million liters of soymilk per year. The company's core products at the time were pasteurized milk, yogurt and ice cream, with the Fami soymilk brand just a single brand in a wide range.

Managing a production facility ‘green behind the ears’, we had to contend with a multitude of challenges, chief among them the pressures of competing with established producers and foreign-imported brands, the learning process associated with operating the new equipment, and the dilution of quality among a long list of brands. The natural consequence of this was market rejection, leading to production stoppages and the threat of early closure. Initial output peaked at 1.1 million liters per year, with an annual loss of 30 billion VND (half of the initial investment).

Overcoming difficulties and catching a break (2000-2002)

The difficulties mounted but we moved along step by step. We continued to look for avenues for increased production of factory. By searching for new markets for brands including Wall’s Ice Cream, investing in Fino brand production lines, producing Lion energy drink and boosting retail sales of ice cream and milk, the company endeavored to find ways to maintain operations and keep our 100 employees

Eventually one particular effort paid off. Our lucky break can be traced to an event on Christmas day 2001, the day Fami soymilk was selected by the US Ministry of Agriculture as the exclusive soymilk product for the Ministry’s Milk For Vietnamese Schools program. This decision was the catalyst for the continued production and future expansion of the factory. This success wasn’t just the work of a single unit but the coming together of an umbrella group united under the goal of providing milk to young students in remote and disadvantaged areas. In six years of implementation, sixty million packs of soymilk were provided to 500,000 students in six provinces.

Stepping into the future (2002- 2005)

In the context of growing diversification and the emergence of many companies operating in competing areas, each with several arms, we struggled to solve the formula presented to us by the changing market. Taking heed of the need to streamline operations as elucidated by business strategist Michael Porter, we found an answer. In 2003, the Spring Factory was converted to become the first dedicated soymilk production facility in Vietnam, with Fami as the spearhead product line.

At the same time, we understood the importance of underlying our brand as a first of its kind. We approached no less than 14 consulting agencies with a single agenda: to build a stable and lasting brand from the ground up. At the start of 2004, we were lucky to meet with Richard Moore; through a serendipitous conversation we were throughly convinced of his opinions on the strength of brands and the need to regard each brand as a person with a figure and personality. On 16 May 2005, we announced the Vinasoy brand, with a natural, creative and devoted personality — with this the Spring Factory was official reintroduced as the Vinasoy production facility. That was the first step in our journey to becoming the leader in the Vietnamese soy-based food and beverage industry.

Daring change and future growth (2005-2009)

Not stopping there, we continued to search for local and national solutions to improve production methods, management structures, distribution systems and marketing strategies, emphasizing efficiency and individuality. It was this spirit of ‘daring to change’ which led us to become a smartly run organization, solid in our expertise and quick to react to a changing market. We developed a 4M management system, using Kazen management principles. An event which underlined this growing confidence was the 2008 installation of a production line using TBA 22 and TBA 23 equipment able to package 20,000 to 24,000 boxes per hour (the largest output enabled by Tetra Pak) signaling a breakthrough in output scale and quality. This new production line replaced five existing TBA machines and was a historical step evidencing this new period of development at Vinasoy.

The first steps towards truly sustainable development (2010-2012)

The past two years have seen breakthroughs in every area of Vinasoy’s business. Vinasoy has undertaken a complete refinement of our list and scope of brands. The greatest success of this effort has been the market’s true embrace of the Fami brand, evidenced by market dominance of close to 80% for soy-based boxed drinks. There are now over 600 retail salespersons countrywide as part of a distribution system covering all 63 provinces. Production output has risen continuously from 60 million liters per year in 2010 to 123 million liters per year in 2012

Not stopping there, in 2012 Vinasoy Pure Soymilk was announced, marking the emergence of a new and creative product line and underlining the new depth of Vinasoy’s development strategy. Also in that year, Vinasoy began construction of a second facility in Bac Ninh with an output of 180 million liters per year, ending a chapter of 15 years of development by a group inspired to surge forward in an area fraught with challenges…