The Surprising Story of Milk in Singapore

A humble glass of milk may not look like much, but did you know that the drink has a valued place in the country? These five pieces of trivia show milk — in its many forms — as the beverage of choice for many Singaporeans through history:

 
Milk was Given in Schools for Free Starting from the 1930s
The idea that milk could nourish and improve the nutrition of growing children goes back to 1936, when a free milk programme was introduced to the students at Pasir Panjang Boys’ School by government health officer, Dr JW Scharf.[1] A national milk scheme was introduced in 1974,[2] when milk was sold at lower prices to students and given free to those from needy families.

 
Little India was Historically Known for its Dairy Trade
But the history of milk as a family drink goes back even further, starting from the flourishing cattle trade in Little India in the 1840s.[3] A trade taken up by many migrant Indian workers, the milkmen would go to each family’s door with a cow to sell fresh milk.[4],[5]

 
Street Names Bear the History of the Dairy Trade
Little India’s street names continue to carry the memory of Little India’s cattle and dairy trade, such as Kerbau Road or “buffalo road” in Malay and Belilios Lane. The latter street was named after IR Belilios, a dominant cattle trader in the area.[6],[7]
 
Cross Street and Upper Cross Street in Chinatown were important locations for Indian milk sellers, too. This area became known as Kampong susu or “milk village” in Malay and also, “Palkadei saddaku” or “milk shop street” in Tamil.[8],[9]

 
Milk Used to Come in Pyramid Packets
Many people have fond memories of drinking milk in triangular-shaped packets, which were, incidentally, Magnolia’s pyramid-shaped Tetra Pak, which was launched in the 1950s. [10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15] Triangular packets of milk fast became iconic in Singapore thanks to their irregular and surprising shape.

 
Milk Continues to be a Favourite Breakfast Drink
While pyramid packs are no longer around, milk continues to cater to different health needs, for example, hi-calcium and lo-fat milk. The calcium found in milk contributes to bone health for the whole family. So take a leaf from the history books and serve this trusted breakfast drink at the family table!

 
Sources

[1] https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=bEbhFoUG2dUC&pg=PA162&lpg=PA162&dq=milk+drink+singapore+1936&source=bl&ots=
gTqJ_YQTNO&sig=Rut6jV3F00WzjzxfV2Py2V1bylA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4n67S9PfOAhU
KvI8KHaSEDMoQ6AEINjAF#v=onepage&q=milk%20drink%20singapore%201936&f=false

[2] http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/10-facts-you-should-know-about-singapores-200-year-healthcare-history

[3] http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1456_2009-02-11.html

[4] https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=uCRUAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=milkmen+singapore&source=bl&ots=z7UfJJS4WS
&sig=zMqvRpIt5Jf-CVG55I7Gn2NpzII&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwirj_-7ipHPAhXGHJQKHWiHBvI4ChDoAQgZMAA#v=
onepage&q=milkmen%20singapore&f=false

[5] http://www.ghettosingapore.com/cattle-trade-and-street-names-in-little-india/

[6] http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1456_2009-02-11.html

[7] https://www.ura.gov.sg/Conservation-Portal/Explore/History.aspx?bldgid=LTIN

[8] http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_346_2005-01-26.html

[9] http://www.chinatown.sg/index.php?fx=directory&&g1=streetname&g2=3&g3=9&m=list&tid=721#tenantdetails

[10] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-46d5e319-caa0-4793-9977-2569c7641d01?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-46d5e319-caa0-4793-9977-2569c7641d01&pagenm=3&startrec=17&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-46d5e319-caa0-4793-9977-2569c7641d01

[11] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-8a7d0b61-4f02-411c-b2d0-5ff3979d2f30?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-8a7d0b61-4f02-411c-b2d0-5ff3979d2f30&pagenm=1&startrec=1&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-8a7d0b61-4f02-411c-b2d0-5ff3979d2f30

[12] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-13ac00b9-1d37-4eda-b2a4-d4d8621a071e?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-13ac00b9-1d37-4eda-b2a4-d4d8621a071e&pagenm=4&startrec=25&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-13ac00b9-1d37-4eda-b2a4-d4d8621a071e

[13] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-e9e468ef-f37c-4442-9be2-e19a394d0201?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-e9e468ef-f37c-4442-9be2-e19a394d0201&pagenm=5&startrec=33&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-e9e468ef-f37c-4442-9be2-e19a394d0201

[14] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-0ef2589c-7460-4c8f-b4f9-3f99ec0063c0?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-0ef2589c-7460-4c8f-b4f9-3f99ec0063c0&pagenm=6&startrec=41&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-0ef2589c-7460-4c8f-b4f9-3f99ec0063c0

[15] http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-7c7c5c98-2250-40c4-8a09-712b09c1c1c8?nextrecord=8&listtype=searchResult&id=SMB-7c7c5c98-2250-40c4-8a09-712b09c1c1c8&pagenm=1&startrec=1&type=memories&keyword=milk&memory=SMB-7c7c5c98-2250-40c4-8a09-712b09c1c1c8

[16] https://remembersingapore.org/2011/11/06/100-things-we-love-about-the-80s-part-2/

[17] http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/2834