Prima Limited is a Singapore-based company founded in 1961, and has its beginnings in flour milling. The company is now involved in a variety of businesses, such as restaurant management, food manufacturing, information technology and real estate.1 Prima is known as Bai Ling Mai in Chinese, which means “a hundred-year-old wheat” and represents the company’s vision of corporate longevity.2 As of 2021, Prima products are available in more than 40 countries.3
Prima Limited was founded in 1961 by Cheng Tsang Man. In 1969, the company was listed on the then Stock Exchange of Singapore and Malaysia.4 In 1970, because of rapidly rising production costs, especially freight transportation and the essential raw products like wheat grain, the company sold its goods and by-products at higher prices to maintain its profit margin.5
In 1993, Prima Limited partnered with the National Productivity Board (now known as SPRING Singapore) to start a training centre focusing on improving and nurturing local baking talents. The project has developed into a full-time partnership with the Baking Industry Training Centre, and now offers a wide selection of full-time and part-time programmes for students. This collaboration, known as the Prima-SPRING project, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2003, and is known throughout Asia as one of the leading training centres in the field of confectionary baking.6 On 1 October 2010, the training centre was incorporated as Baking Industry Training Centre Pte Ltd. It was renamed Baking Industry Training College Pte Ltd with effect from 27 March 2014.7
Prima Limited has flour mills in Singapore, Sri Lanka and China. In China, the company operates from three of its associated firms: Xinyan Foods Company Limited, Yantai Xinzhongxin Feeds Limited, and Qingdao Xinghua Cereal Oil and Foodstuff Company Limited.8
Prima is widely recognised as one of the leading manufacturers of flour products. When it obtained the ISO 9002 certification in 1993, it was one of the first flour mills in Asia to receive the distinction, a testament to the high quality and consistency of its products.9
Food manufacturing and bakery products
One of the company’s best-known subsidiaries, Prima Deli, specialises in baked products. Prima Deli is Singapore’s first locally grown bakery and the oldest food service franchise.10 Established in 1992, the chain of bakeries currently has more than 38 outlets in Singapore.11 Prima Deli expanded to Malaysia in 2001.12
In 1999, Prima Food, the food manufacturing arm of Prima Limited, produced Prima Taste premixes and opened the first Prima Taste outlet at Centrepoint in June 2000. In 2004, it opened overseas outlets in Manila, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.13
Restaurants and food services
Prima Limited owns PFS Pte Ltd, another subsidiary that specialises in local cuisine. Established in 1991, PFS was responsible for the Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant at Keppel Road, which boasted a scenic sea view. It was one of only two revolving restaurants in Singapore. The restaurant was particularly well known for its authentic Beijing cuisine, prepared by the famed Master Chef Chan Sung Og from Hong Kong.In August 2020, the Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant closed down, because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.14
Prima Limited owns Prima Computer Systems (PCS) and PrimaR&D, research facilities that contribute to the company’s other business interests. PCS provides technological systems to the retail and food and beverage sectors, such as real-time automation systems, contactless card access systems, etc. PCS is one of the early providers of hybrid cloud point-of-sale systems for different sectors in the retail industry.15
As the research and development arm of Prima Limited, PrimaR&D helps businesses develop their food products in the areas of milling, food technology, nutritional science, etc.16
Food poisoning incident
In November 2007, a virulent case of salmonella poisoning caused all 38 Prima Deli outlets to be closed for three weeks, during which investigations and checks were carried out. The company was fined the maximum S$5,000 for selling contaminated food and for causing more than 200 of its customers to fall ill after eating cakes purchased from the bakery. Sales dropped 15 percent in the immediate aftermath of the health scare, but customers soon returned to the stores, and the company’s overall sales were 10 to 15 percent higher, compared to the same period in the previous year.
As a result of the food poisoning incident, new rules and regulations were put in place. All employees are required to undergo not just routine health checks, but also screening for salmonella. The company also installed more cameras in production areas to monitor hygiene more effectively.17
Achievements and awards
In 1999, Prima Deli was recognised for its outstanding franchising system and named Domestic Franchisor of the Year 1998 at the Franchise Excellence Awards. In the following year, the Prima Food received the Singapore Franchise Mark, a symbol of quality awarded to companies that have reached the top in the quality of their franchise management.18
In 2002, Prima Deli won the Superbrand status for its corporate longevity, customer loyalty and significant contribution to the Singapore economy.19 In 2005, Prima was awarded the SPBA Heritage Brand Award by Lianhe Zaobao newspaper and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, in recognition of the company’s excellent brand practices.20
Esther Wang Ying Jie
1. Hoover’s Company Records, “Prima Limited Profile,” 6 December 2016. (From ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website)
2. Teo Cheng Wee, “PrimaDeli Will Bounce Back,” Straits Times, 6 January 2008. (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website)
3. “About Us,” Prima Limited, accessed 6 April 2022.
4. Hoover’s Company Records, “Prima Limited Profile.”
5. Prima Limited (Singapore), Annual Report 1970 (Singapore: Prima Limited, 1971). (Call no. RCLOS 338.4766472 PLFMAR-[AR])
6. Prima-SPRING Singapore, A Celebration of Taste (Singapore: Prima-SPRING Singapore Baking Industry Training Centre, 2003), 5, 9. (Call no. RSING q641.5 CEL)
7. “About Us,” Baking Industry Training College, accessed 29 March 2017.
8. “Our Businesses & Brands,” Prima Flour, accessed 6 April 2022.
9. “Prima’s Associate in Sri Lanka Plans US$15m Expansion,” Business Times, 29 April 1994 (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website); Prima Limited, Annual Report 1993 (Singapore: Prima Limited, 1994). (Call no. RCLOS 338.4766472 PLFMAR-[AR])
10. “About Us,” Prima Deli, accessed 31 January 2017.
11. Tiffany Fumiko Tay, “Prima’s Sales Go Up,” Straits Times, 23 March 2008, 67. (From NewspaperSG)
12. K. T. Chelvi, “Prima Deli Targets 10 Outlets by 2002,” New Straits Times, 16 August 2001, 23. (From ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website)
13. Sharlene Tan, “Prima Takes the Taste of Singapore around the World,” Streats, 4 February 2004, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Wong Ah Yoke, “Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant Closes after 43 Years,” Straits Times, 19 August 2020. (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website)
15. “About,” Prima Computer Systems, accessed 31 January 2017.
16. “Our Businesses & Brands,” Prima Limited, 31 January 2017.
17. Tay, “Prima’s Sales Go Up.”
18. Eugene Low, “Don’t Be Too Sure about Recovery, S’poreans Warned,” Straits Times, 30 January 1999, 3; Narendra Aggarwal, “Look Out for This Mark- It’s a Sign of Quality,” Straits Times, 13 March 2000, 60. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “PrimaDeli Tops List,” Today, 18 October 2002, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “24 jia ‘laizihao’ huo qianzhi pinpai jiang,” 24家‘老字号’获潜质品牌奖 [24 ‘time-honored brands’ won the SPBA Heritage Award], Shin Min Daily News, 30 August 2005. (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website)
The information in this article is valid as at August 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.