UK Trade Investment will launch a campaign early next year to boost UK food and drink exports to Vietnam - a market that boasts 45 million people under the age of 28 who are getting a taste for international fare.

“With the middle class growing faster than any other country in the region, opportunities for UK food and drink companies are emerging as Vietnamese consumers seek new and interesting product from abroad,” said head of UKTI Hanoi Piers Craven.

Craven pointed to Euromonitor research showing sales at modern supermarkets tripled from 2000 to 2012 and the country was already the third-largest beer consumer in Asia, after China and Japan. ‘Mom and pop’ stores dominated the market but international giants had started to take root, he added.

UKTI said it was organising a programme of events in Vietnam from January, covering Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It will include ‘meet the buyer’ events to introduce UK exporters to Vietnamese distributors, networking receptions hosted by the ambassador in Hanoi and consul general in Ho Chi Minh City and masterclasses to help UK companies understand the regulatory requirements for food and drink exports.

“Now is a good time to explore this market with negotiations currently under way between the EU and Vietnam towards a Free Trade Agreement, which is likely to bring tariff reductions for UK exporters,” Craven said.

Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization in 2007, and commitments to open the retail sector to wholly foreign-owned enterprises come into force early next year.

UK beers from Thwaites and Fuller, Smith & Turner are available in Vietnam now, and Scotch whisky, smoked salmon and seafood are doing well.

Craven also cites demand from expats for cheese and sausages. “It’s small volume but the long-term potential is significant,” he said.

“It’s a market that is ready for new things which is why we are keen to encourage UK companies to get involved.