The Niche Collective

With a fresh dose of ideas, independent grocers are offering alternatives such as zero-waste cereals, vegan-friendly wines, hormone-free meat and other mindful goods.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Big is not always better. Large supermarkets can come across as impersonal and mass market. And even when brands innovate, they may not capture market loyalty – witness the meltdown of Emporium Shokuhin in 2018, billed then as the largest Japanese speciality supermarket, and the ongoing struggles of Habitat by Honestbee, a high-tech lifestyle store.

Niche and nimble food stores have always filled the spaces not occupied by supermarkets. Hipsters from the previous generation pushed the demand for healthy and organic food in the noughties, giving us Brown Rice Paradise and Supernature. Here are the niche stores to shop at.


Expatriate entrepreneur Emma Pike started Farmer’s Market, an online business, in Hong Kong in 2006. When she moved to Singapore in 2017, she saw a need for sustainable and aff ordable meats, and launched Farmer’s Market here in May 2019.

“Often, at the butcher, we’re not aware of what we’re getting, where it is from, how it was raised, and so on. It’s not enough these days to say you sell meat from Australia – you need to tell people exactly where in Australia it is from.”

Pike says Singapore already has businesses doing this, but they charge a premium for it. “This is how we are different: We want to bring high-quality meat that is traceable, sustainable yet affordable to the market.” 

Pike is outspoken about what drives her. “Anyone who isn’t trying to be ethical and sustainable these days probably won’t be around in a few years’ time. People are more aware of the impact food has on their bodies as well as our planet.”

She tries to work with only one farm for each type of product, with most products coming from Australia but also New Zealand for king salmon, and France for free-range, corn-fed P’tit Duc chicken. Hormone and antibiotic-free Amelia Park lamb is handpicked from the best farmers in the south-west of Western Australia. Animal welfare is prioritised by the small Australian family farms that supply Bangalow Sweet Pork, which is antibiotic- and hormonefree. Parts include mid-loin pork steak and rindless pork rack.

Adds Pike: “Something we looked for when choosing a beef brand was if it was MSA graded.” MSA stands for Meat Standards Australia, an optional grading system for farmers. MSA 3 (Good) is for everyday eating, MSA 4 (Better) is for special occasions or a dinner party, and MSA 5 (Best) is very hard to find but does exist. Farmer’s Market sells MSA 3 and 4 meats.

“We want to tell people to be more responsible. Eat better meat that you know is antibiotic-free, hormonefree and grass-fed, for starters. Farmer’s Market isn’t here to make millions. I love what I do, and if I can make people happy at mealtimes, then I’m happy.”

1. Amelia Park Lamb loin chops ($49.50 for 900g-1kg) are like mini T-bone steaks – loin on one side, fillet on the other side of the bone. Great for barbecues and grills.

2. Bangalow Sweet Pork rindless pork rack ($132 for 3-3.4kg), portioned into cutlets, makes an impressive roast or panfried dish.

3. Amelia Park Lamb Frenched rack of lamb ($60 for 900g-1.1kg) is full of flavour baked whole, or as chops.

4. Bangalow Sweet Pork mid-loin pork steak ($10 for 200g) needs just 3-4min on each side in a pan, ideal for quick family meals.
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Since 2018, a new sentiment has shaken up the grocer game, and organic is no longer the only niche in town. Welcome to the new #zerowaste food stores (which simply means that your food supplies are not packaged in singleuse plastic or cardboard). Customers bring their own containers to fill up on staples such as pasta, cereal, nuts and chocolate, helping to eliminate up to an estimated 200g of plastic waste generated by each person, each day, in Singapore.

Reprovisions was one of the early movers in October 2018, joining home-grown store Unpackt. Other similar stores have since opened.

Co-founder Allann Tay, a former accountant, had no prior experience in the industry but felt that the store’s location in Jurong West was important for reaching out to people in the neighbourhood, encouraging them to buy plastic-free on a regular basis instead of treating the experience as a novelty.

Tay says that while supermarkets offer convenience, zero-waste stores have a different approach. “We let people taste samples and buy in amounts according to their needs. We also offer a humble, more personable service as we try to build rapport with customers through good customer service.

“Stores such as ours help to plant and hopefully ingrain in people an awareness about taking care of the environment in their consumer behaviours.

“We think the mere presence of such stores is a necessary reminder to people about the need to spare a thought for the greater good. Hopefully, it will translate to more concepts beyond bulk foods.”

Some of the supermarket’s bestsellers include natural mushroom chips and no-additive nut butter churned in a nut mill machine. As the butter is made on the spot, on demand, it’s fresh each time.

Another case in point: Amazin’ Graze granola, made by a band of young local entrepreneurs. It comes in appealing localised flavours such as salted gula melaka and is not cloyingly sweet.

Yes, foods like these are also sold in conventional packaging in some conventional supermarkets, but here, you’re on a mission to save the planet, one less piece of plastic at a time.

Reprovisions is at #03-32/33 Jurong Point 2, 63 Jurong West Central 3, tel: 8768-2023

From top:

Oyster Mushroom Chips, $11.90 for 150g

These protein-rich crunchy snacks are baked, not fried, and are made from pieces of oyster mushroom. Roasted Coffee Beans Covered in Dark Chocolate, $6.40 for 150g Caffeine fix meets dark chocolate – both are rolled into one.

Crystallized Ginger, $4.90 for 150g

Ginger helps to curb motion sickness and gastric problems and is known to alleviate inflammation. Throw some into hot water with goji berries, longans and red dates for a heart- and soul-warming concoction.

Salted Gula Melaka Granola, $6 for 150g

Fragrant salted gula melakainfused rolled oats make for a tasty yet not-cloying treat.

Salted Egg Roasted Cashew, $7.45 for 150g
Delish and generously coated, these crunchy cashews can be eaten unstoppably on their own or as a beer snack.
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"Additive- free nut butter is churned in a nut mill machine."



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Love your wines, but find that they give you a nasty headache the next day? Or are you shocked to learn that mass-produced wines often use animal products for filtration? Some of these include blood and bone marrow, egg albumen, casein (milk protein) and gelatin from animal parts or fish bladder membranes.

As these products are not in the wine per se, they are not declared among the ingredients – grapes, water and a bit of sulphite. Cue the rise of makers and sellers of wine looking for more conscious options.

Aivonne Chong is not your typical wine seller, having had a career in advertising. But she decided to start selling wines with low-to-no-added sulphite, no additives (veganfriendly) and no chemicals when she couldn’t find a supplier who championed this niche in Singapore.

She heads to the Raw Wine fair in London each year, taking the time and opportunity to converse with growers personally, which is how she currently curates her list of wines from Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Romania and Greece.

She offers two “wine bag” subscriptions, one for premium discoveries and another for everyday drinking, with no hidden costs. She has also recently made a la carte orders available.

Wines are delivered in a jute bag which can be returned to be reused. The only thing Chong has had to tweak is her range of wines – having started with 65 per cent of the line-up consisting of less familiar styles, she realised the market wasn’t ready for them and has added more of what she calls “normal” styles of wine.

1. Gioviano by Cancelliere, $52.90

This full-bodied and firm tannin wine dispels the myth that natural wines are juicy and lacking in structure.

2. Chardonnay by Nature’s Step, $42

A clean, simple yet flavourful everyday white wine.

3. Chianti by Fattoria di Gratena, $42
Made using organic and biodynamic methods, this Sangiovese from Italy has sweet-spicy aromas inspired by a Japanese philosophy of precision.
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Phoon Huat Deli

#B1-14/15 The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green, tel: 6654-4343

With a name like Deli Wong, the third-generation business development director of baking supplies chain Phoon Huat seems destined to expand the family business into meats and fine ingredients. Revamped in November 2018, the deli offers oysters, carabinero prawns and truffle products, but it’s the beef section, curated by Wong, that shines. US Mishima Reserve wagyu, for instance, starts at $13 for 100g for a karubi short rib cut. The deli also has grassfed Angus and USDA Prime.

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Huber’s Butchery @ Dempsey

22 Dempsey Road, tel: 6737-1588

Family-run Huber’s flagship in Dempsey is the largest butchery in Singapore at 13,000 sq ft. Aside from the selection of more than 100 cheeses, fresh vegetables, alcoholic beverages and gourmet ingredients, the stars are all things meat, including a dry ageing cabinet where customers can select the number of days for their meat to dry age. Homemade and customised sausages such as veal bratwurst and Italian chipolata can’t be beat, but on days when you’re not cooking, pop into the family friendly bistro.