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Trade Mission Generates Excitement for U.S. Brands

Trade Mission Generates Excitement for U.S. Brands

Franchise leaders reported that meetings were informative, well presented and fruitful.

By Beth Solomon
An International Franchise Association co-sponsored U.S. Franchise Trade Mission capped its tour of Vietnam and Indonesia in bustling Jakarta with a press conference drawing more than 40 reporters and eight TV networks—a demonstration of the consistently enthusiastic response the trade mission encountered during its stops.
The 10-day mission in December, co-sponsored by IFA, the U.S. Commercial Service and Franchise Times, included 13 companies representing 19 U.S. franchise brands, bringing together U.S. franchisors with potential franchisee partners.

U.S. Brands Welcome in Vietnam and Indonesia
With their surging growth rates, voracious demand for U.S. brands, and increasing disposable income, Vietnam and Indonesia are examples of markets that offer distinct appeal to franchisors facing a slower economy and tight credit at home. Both countries have GDP growth rates near 6 percent. Indonesia has 240 million people, and adds three to five million more each year. Vietnam is home to nearly 90 million people, 60 percent of whom are under 35.
Youth-driven cultures hooked on U.S. pop music, television and movies mean expanding demand for U.S. franchise brands. The term “fast food” carries the connotation of a high-end product offering international sophistication. American brands, as opposed to those from China, are considered high quality.
On the trade mission, franchise leaders heard economic and legal briefings, met government leaders, and were introduced in “matchmaking” sessions to a variety of potential business partners. They also toured real estate development sites and examined current franchise operations.
Franchise leaders said trade missions offer a high return on investment due to the on-the-ground and high-profile involvement of the U.S. Commercial Service in scouting potential business partners and generating interest locally.
“International development will literally open up growth opportunities for you which wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” said Applebee’s President of the International Division Phil Crimmins.
Some brands, such as innovative Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, are bypassing major U.S. expansion, instead moving quickly to markets overseas after establishing a small U.S. footprint. Which Wich President, CEO and Founder Jeff Sinelli participated in a U.S. trade mission earlier this year to India in addition to exploring development in Vietnam and Indonesia on the recent mission.
“Trade Missions are a great opportunity for established U.S. brands to learn about markets and meet high-level government liaisons and begin a dialogue with vetted and interested local partners,” said Franchise Times Editor Nancy Weingartner.
Franchise leaders reported that meetings were informative, well presented and fruitful. “The IFA, U.S. Commercial Service and Franchise Times did a fantastic job. Although franchising is in the early stages in Vietnam, we found the quality of the partner candidates to be very high, and we are all excited about the prospects for development in this market,” said Scott Chorna, director of international new business development, FOCUS Brands.
“The U.S. brands are tapping into pent-up demand with great products and services. We’re excited,” said Frank Joseph, a U.S. commercial officer based in Ho Chi Minh City, who helped coordinate more than 150 meetings for the 19 brands on the mission. The companies included:

Applebee’s
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Carvel Ice Cream
Cinnabon
Crestcom
Denny’s
Great American Cookies
Johnny Rockets
MaggieMoo’s
Marble Slab Creamery
The Melting Pot
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Pollo Tropical
Pretzelmaker
Rita’s Italian Ice
Round Table Pizza
Schlotzsky’s
Seattle’s Best Coffee
The Vitamin Shoppe
Which Wich
Wing Zone

“The people here are very pro-American,” said William Edwards, CFE, an Indonesia expert and CEO and founder of Edwards Global Services, which represented several brands participating in the trade mission. “Also, the Vietnam franchise law is one of the best in the region. If we have a problem, the laws are fair and balanced.” 

Beth Solomon is vice president, strategic initiatives and industry relations for the International Franchise Association. She can be reached at 202-662-0789 or bsolomon@franchise.org.

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