14. Taste of the Finest
What did live oysters air-flown from Port Lincoln in Australia and Japanese square watermelons have in common? They were part of the premium selection at FairPrice Finest’s first outlet, which opened at Bukit Timah Plaza in 2007. It featured spacious aisles, a temperature-controlled wine cellar and even an in-store meat counter serving fresh lamb racks and veal chops.
About 30 per cent of FairPrice Finest’s products are different from the regular stores – spanning upmarket or international selections from squid ink pasta to Wagyu beef to Kyoho grapes. Shoppers are treated to a wide selection – including a choice of fruits and vegetables that are sweeter and bigger.
But it was not an easy decision to start FairPrice Finest, as some people wondered why FairPrice was catering to the affluent – seemingly straying from its mission to moderate the cost of living for Singaporeans. Explaining the move, FairPrice’s then-Managing Director Seah Kian Peng said: “The lifestyle of our customers has changed. They are more exposed to different cultures, and their needs have evolved.”
But contrary to perception, prices at Finest are the same as at other FairPrice stores for the same products. And Finest has helped to make the finer things in life more affordable for people, noted its General Manager Tan Huey Ling. “You can get wine for $15 now,” said Ms Tan, adding that the supermarket has the scale to offer cheaper products. “Although wine is not an essential item, we wanted to make wine affordable and accessible to all. We are bringing the finer things to customers.”
This concept worked. This year, Finest will have almost 40 outlets across the island – giving more Singaporeans a chance to get a taste of the finest.
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.
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.