Moderating the price of groceries and cooked meals will become a greater focus for the labour movement, as three of the cooperatives under its social enterprise arm - FairPrice, Foodfare and Kopitiam - will be grouped under a new NTUC FairPrice Group.
FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng, who took on the additional role of NTUC Enterprise group CEO earlier this month, announced this at a briefing yesterday, where he said that the move is aimed at driving greater efficiencies and catering to consumers' evolving food needs.
FairPrice Group is working on several projects, and details will be announced at a later date, he said.
Asked what the move will mean for consumers, Mr Seah, who is also an MP for Marine Parade GRC, said the customer experience will become more "seamless", citing the example of how the FairPrice Finest and Kopitiam foodcourt at Funan mall already offer cross-promotions.
More people are eating out, with more than 60 per cent of meals now comprising dining out, takeaways and food deliveries, noted Mr Seah.
Food now accounts for more than a quarter of the average monthly household expenditure here, amounting to $1,199, he said. This is 25 per cent more than a decade ago.
Against this backdrop, the three entities will come together to address the cost of living more efficiently, he added.
One area FairPrice Group is looking at is lowering costs through bulk procurement. Kopitiam and Foodfare could procure ingredients through FairPrice, "thereby lowering the cost and ensuring we are able to keep meals... as affordable as possible", said Mr Seah at a media briefing at Heartbeat @ Bedok.
The new group will have 573 outlets in total, including supermarkets, hawker centres, foodcourts, coffee shops, pharmacies and convenience stores.
The new group will have 573 outlets in total, including supermarkets, hawker centres, foodcourts, coffee shops, pharmacies and convenience stores. These will comprise 375 under supermarket chain FairPrice, 121 under Foodfare and 77 under Kopitiam. FairPrice Group will remain under NTUC Enterprise.
FairPrice Group will remain under NTUC Enterprise.
The combined turnover for FairPrice, Foodfare and Kopitiam was $3.8 billion for the 2018 financial year. The three employ about 12,000 workers and no jobs will be lost as a result of the formation of the new group, said Mr Seah.
NTUC Enterprise, the social enterprise arm of the National Trades Union Congress, aims to help moderate the cost of living for workers through its cooperatives such as major supermarket chain FairPrice.
NTUC Enterprise's acquisition of foodcourt operator Kopitiam, completed this year, has made it the largest operator in Singapore, with 64 foodcourts in total. It also manages 35 coffee shops and 12 hawker centres.
Mr Seah noted obvious "synergies" between its grocery and cooked food segments, such as the ready-to-eat meals and food preparation services on offer at its 90,000 sq ft FairPrice Xtra hypermarket at VivoCity, which opened in August.
Asked whether there are plans to expand the format to other stores, he said that there have been "many requests" and FairPrice is looking at the option.
In the meantime, he said, FairPrice, Foodfare and Kopitiam will continue to offer cost savings through their own initiatives.
In April, NTUC announced plans to introduce more lower-priced food options at its Foodfare and Kopitiam outlets, while a price freeze on a basket of 100 FairPrice house-brand products will remain in effect until the end of June next year.
Madam Jessie Teo, 59, who runs a soup stall at a Kopitiam coffee shop in Bedok, said she hopes the increased efficiencies will lead to cheaper sourcing options. She added that "1kg of lotus root now costs $3.80 per kg from the wholesaler and about $6 at the supermarket. If I can get good quality for a lower price through FairPrice, I don't mind ordering from them".