Indie grocers produce a rich harvest

MAKING THE CUT: Foodie Market Place is noted for its meats, such as beef from Australia, the US and Japan, as well as Australian lamb. Founder Mr Quah says he is fine with taking a smaller profit in order to keep prices low.
Indie grocers produce a rich harvest

PERSONAL GOURMAND: Tenderloin steak squares from online epicurean store The French Grocer, which offers individual service.
Indie grocers produce a rich harvest

SELECT SIPS: Trois Rivieres rum from Martinique (above) will soon be exclusively available at The French Grocer.


    Mar 28, 2016

    Indie grocers produce a rich harvest

    THEY may be small but independent grocery stores are reaping the rewards of giving consumers greater variety by bringing in lesser-known, artisanal brands.


    225 Outram Road

    Opening hours: Tue to Fri, 11am to 8pm; Sat and Sun, 9am to 6pm

    For those who are not in the know, shopping at Foodie Market Place can be a little confusing.

    Do you head straight to the meats section which is near the entrance, or browse around the store first? The answer is to head to the meats first. Place your order, then browse the store, before collecting your meats and making payment.

    The store is not big so this is the best way to ensure a smooth shopping experience, says its founder Don Quah.

    Foodie Market Place is known for its selection of beef, mostly from Australia, the United States and Japan, and also for its Australian lamb. Nearly every shopper that we saw at the store was buying its meats.

    And there's a reason for it. "Our turnover of meats is good, hence the freshness of our products speaks for itself," says Mr Quah. It has been retailing primary cuts such as striploin, ribeye and tenderloins of different grades. The meats are airflown into Singapore weekly.

    Depending on the cuts, Mr Quah says his meats can be 50 per cent cheaper than those found in supermarket chains.

    He takes a smaller profit to keep prices low.

    The store is tucked away in a corner of Tiong Bahru but draws a good crowd, regardless of the time of day.

    Since Foodie Market Place does not sell fresh pork, customers still go to Tiong Bahru Market to get that plus fresh vegetables and fruits.

    It does, however, sell frozen pork products such as belly and spare ribs.

    Besides meats, the store also offers frozen foods, such as seafood and chicken, processed meats, cheeses, wines, premixes, spices and coffee.

    The range is substantial but within each category, there are limited brands to choose from. Limited shelf space means Mr Quah can only sell certain brands. But he has a trump card - quality.

    Having been in the food business for 11 years, previously as a food wholesaler to restaurants and airline catering services, he knows his brands well. For example, Foodie Market Place retails brands such as Beher ham, Butcher's Pride salami, De Cecco pasta, and Giovanna Pavarotti balsamic vinegar. He says that having just a selected few brands on the shelves also means less confusion for consumers.

    Mr Quah relies on his past experience dealing with overseas suppliers when procuring items.

    He notes that since Foodie Market Place opened about four years ago, there have been more butcheries and smaller grocers popping up.


    55 Tiong Bahru Road

    Opening hours: Daily from 10am to 7.30pm except Mondays

    Psst... Want to know where you can get fine-dining, restaurant-quality produce but at pocket-friendly prices?

    A cosy shop in Tiong Bahru, called Secrets Fine Foods, is the place to check out.

    It is founded by French native Stephanie Duriez, who first started on her gourmand adventure in Dubai in 2013.

    She now brings Secrets Fine Foods to Singapore, stocking branded items such as baratte butter from French artisan Jean-Yves Bordier, which is usually served at Les Amis.

    Bordier is the last craftsman who churns his butter manually in a wooden baratte, and also the only one who salts the butter manually, according to a traditional method.

    Other highly desirable produce that Ms Duriez brings in include Poilane bread, organic and Bresse chicken from France, dry-aged grass-fed beef from Ireland, burrata from Puglia and a wide variety of French cheeses, such as Herve Mon cheeses which are served at Odette, foie gras and wines.

    The shelves are well-stocked with jams, olive oils, truffle honey and tea.

    Ms Duriez personally meets her suppliers, and the products she carries are all the work of artisans.

    Rather than go through a middleman, she chooses to ship directly to her state-of-the-art facilities in Singapore.

    Every item is guaranteed by its traceability record.

    This also helps keep prices low. For example, a 125g block of Bordier butter with seaweed costs $8.50 while a 1.5kg Bresse chicken retails for $75, which makes eating well an almost everyday affair.


    SHOPPING at The French Grocer is like going to a gourmet supermarket but without the high prices or having to leave your home.

    The online store was started by Guillaume Gallet, founder of Lomig, which specialises in the procurement of hotel amenities, resort equipment and logistics services for the hospitality industry.

    While Lomig serves the hospitality industry, the French Grocer is an online epicurean grocery store, offering premium food choices for shoppers in Singapore.

    The French Grocer is an affiliate company under Lomig.

    "Put simply, The French Grocer not only lets shoppers have the opportunity to obtain 'restaurant quality' food but also enjoy savings on their food bills," says Mr Gallet.

    Having an online store helps in saving costs.

    "There are no manpower and rental costs, which means savings can be passed onto the customers," he says.

    The store also prides itself on being able to deliver orders the very next day.

    And how much lower can prices be?

    The savings can range from 10 to 50 per cent when compared with other online stores and major supermarkets.

    Mr Gallet works with local and overseas partners, such as Indoguna, Sunfresh and Paris Gastronomy.

    Customers are particularly fond of its cote de boeuf or bone-in ribeye steak that comes from New Zealand.

    The seafood selection includes scallops from Hokkaido, tiger prawns from Madagascar and king salmon from New Zealand.

    The French brand of desserts, Senoble, allows diners to have a decadent creme brulee or a chocolate dome in just 10 minutes.

    "Our selection of French and Italian cheeses are also very popular.

    "They taste of home for the French community in Singapore," says Mr Gallet.

    He also makes it a point to retail less common items.

    For example, Trois Rivieres rum - from Martinique in the French West Indies - will soon be exclusively available at The French Grocer.

    Unlike other rums which are made with molasses, the Trois Riveres one is produced with pure sugar cane juice, thus retaining all the aroma and oligo elements in the rum.

    "I believe that The French Grocer's customers in Singapore deserve to indulge in such selected products," says Mr Gallet, who adds that he strives to offer options outside the usual fare available locally.

    While the range of products that The French Grocer has cannot match what supermarket chains offer, he says that being smaller, he is able to offer personalised service and give individual advice.

    And he is serious when he says he offers that personal touch.

    His mobile number is listed on the website and customers can reach him even late at night.

    "It is important that there is a human touch, a face, a name, for customers of The French Grocer," he adds.