12. Fresh Food and the Future

Photo: Fruits like strawberries are kept at 4 deg C. Source: Samuel He

When FairPrice launched its very first Fresh Food Distribution Centre in 2003, it showed the world it was ready for the future. The building in Upper Thomson Road came with warehouses with different temperatures: minus 20 deg C for frozen food; 4 deg C for vegetables, fruits, and dairy; and 18 deg C for confectionery and wines.

This $25 million centre was a giant leap forward for FairPrice, which previously had to rent storage and distribution facilities. Having its own centre gave it better control over inventory, delivery and cost management. Savings could also be passed on to consumers, who were increasingly health-conscious, affluent and keen on fresh food.

As FairPrice sets its sights on future growth, it will soon replace the existing distribution centre with a bigger – and better – building. In 2024, a seven-storey Fresh Food Distribution Centre will open in Sunview Road in western Singapore. Spanning 750,000 sq ft, it is more than three times the size of the current centre.

The $330 million project promises a working environment that is highly automated and more user-friendly. Staff no longer need to enter the coldest chambers to pick up frozen food – the goods will travel to them. Workers who are stacking items can also make use of elevated turntables so they do not bend their backs too much.

As FairPrice feels the heat from the manpower crunch, rising costs and geopolitical uncertainties, this new centre offers cool solutions.

Since its humble beginnings in a corner of Toa Payoh, NTUC FairPrice has become the quintessential Singaporean supermarket. The leap from a single store to a grocery giant is a tale of retail reinvention – a half-century journey that saw the cooperative confront crises and challenges, revamps and even robbers.

As it expanded and evolved, FairPrice never wavered from its core mission: to moderate the cost of living for consumers. It Takes a Great Deal - A Catalogue of FairPrice Group Stories encapsulates the birth of the consumer cooperative in 1973 and its transformation into a $4 billion food enterprise that is now called FairPrice Group.

Through 50 remarkable stories, we celebrate the people, products and places that mark significant milestones for the food retailer over the last five decades, charting its growth and successes in the past, present and into the future.