25. Keeping Cai Png Economical with Rice Garden

Photo: Rice Garden stalls, including the one at Senja Hawker Centre (pictured), promises economy rice meals or cai png at a bargain of under $2. Source: Samuel He

With inflation pushing prices up, even economy rice may not be as economical as before. But Rice Garden bucks the trend, offering $2.50 or under meals to seniors and the needy in 2023.

This affordable price has held steady for over 14 years, since the Rice Garden stall brand was set up in 2009 in the wake of the global economic crisis.

When the Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, global economies plunged into recession. Amidst the chaos, the price of food soared. Caused by droughts, rising oil prices and growing demand for staples, the price of rice doubled during this period. As a result, prices of imported food spiked by 12.1 per cent on average.

To keep local fare affordable to the public, then-NTUC Foodfare launched Rice Garden promising economy rice meals or cai png at a bargain of under $2 – a price that has withstood the forces of inflation over the last decade.

In 2019, NTUC Foodfare acquired foodcourt operator Kopitiam, and both entities were merged with NTUC FairPrice to form FairPrice Group. Rice Garden continues to be a staple in its business.

The programme has also grown in scale. From just one pilot store in Aljunied, Rice Garden has spread its presence in the heartlands, with around 40 stalls islandwide now. In 2022, Warong Rice Garden, a halal concept, opened at Senja Hawker Centre, offering customers nasi campur or “mixed rice” in Malay for as little as $2.

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.