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NTUC FairPrice, Foodfare and Kopitiam to be grouped under one umbrella to keep food costs low for consumers

[SINGAPORE] 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 on Tuesday, 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 that customers' experience will become more "seamless", citing the example of how the FairPrice Finest and Kopitiam foodcourt at Funan mall already offer cross-promotions. Foodfare and Kopitiam will also work closer together, he said, without giving details.

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More are eating out, with more than 60 per cent of meals now made up of dining out, takeaways and food deliveries, Mr Seah noted. Food now accounts for more than a quarter of the average monthly household expenditure here, amounting to S$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.

"The three (co-operatives) provide food solutions, whether you want to cook at home, eat out or have things delivered... individually we are leaders in our own space. The question we ask ourselves is 'can we do better?'," he said at a briefing at Heartbeat @ Bedok.

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.

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 supermarket chain FairPrice, food centre operator Foodfare and insurer Income.

Its 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, Mr Seah said that there have been "many requests" and it is looking at the option.

In the meantime, he said, FairPrice, Foodfare and Kopitiam will continue to moderate the cost of living through their own initiatives.

In April, NTUC announced plans to introduce more lower-priced food options at its Foodfare and Kopitiam outlets.

In March, FairPrice initiated a price freeze on a basket of 100 FairPrice house-brand products until the end of June next year.

Earlier this month, it announced plans to add 300 new house-brand products - including green tea and canola oil - to its shelves over the next 12 months.