22 April 2024

My First Supermarket Trip in New Zealand | Study With New Zealand

Varun Toorkey

One thing that can bring the world together is the shared experience we all have through food.

Whether you are from India, China, Germany or Brazil - we appreciate the similarities and differences across our cuisines. Varun Toorkey shares some of his experience with food and some insight into what a supermarket is like in New Zealand.  

Varun is studying towards a Bachelor of Culinary Arts and Business at Le Cordon Bleu’s Wellington Campus, but he did not originally think Wellington was going to be where he ended up. Like many other students, he had his eyes set on the United States of America. This all changed when he first visited New Zealand in 2020. 

Varun left India to explore his passion of all things food and point his career path in a new direction and New Zealand happened to be the answer he was looking for. We asked him a few questions about his experience with New Zealand supermarkets and ingredients. 

What are supermarkets like in New Zealand?  

The first supermarket I can remember going to was the New World in Newtown, Wellington. It was clean, organised and very straightforward to navigate the store. The way the store is set up is different to what I am used to in Mumbai, but this was not unexpected. I have visited my brother who lives in the United States of America previously, so I expected that the supermarkets would be very similar here. Even though the concept is almost the same, they are presented in two different ways.  

The grocery stores in the United States of America were much larger, with many options to choose from. In New Zealand, they are smaller with much less variety in options. At first, I was disappointed at this and thought I would struggle to get all the food items I needed, but I realised that this was not the case. Not having unnecessary options available to choose from it makes decision-making much easier. Who would have thought? 

This means that stockists must carefully choose which items they decide to sell. The side effect of this is that there is a greater emphasis on quality ingredients and food items. I knew that New Zealand dairy products were going to be high quality, but it is much more than that.  

However, the thing which surprised me the most was the prices. Food in New Zealand is expensive, especially fresh produce. It does make sense when you consider how far the country is from other food producers, but this was still unexpected. When shopping for fruit and vegetables in Mumbai, it is normal for the shopkeeper to give you free chillies with your shopping, but in New Zealand, you can expect to pay at least $1 each for green chillies. As shocked as I was at first, I am now used to this. The one good thing is that they are high-quality chillies.

I have discovered farmers' markets where farmers pack their produce into trucks and vans and bring it to one place to sell directly to the public. Produce at farmers' markets is usually cheaper than buying from a supermarket, but not by a large margin. Being able to see all farmers’ produce on display is a refreshing way to shop and gives me some more flexibility around what I buy. These markets take place weekly and are quite common all around New Zealand. Along with the produce, there are usually food trucks and other local items like bread, cheese, and honey. Actually, it’s quite a nice way to spend your morning! 

Do you struggle to find ingredients you are used to using back home in Mumbai?  

The short answer is no. There are many international supermarkets available to me, including Indian specialists. The Indian supermarkets import their items directly from India and have a lot of variety. I found it quite funny that there were some items available at these supermarkets that I had not seen in many years back home in Mumbai. This is also because there is also a large population of Indian immigrants. 

There are of course some things which I cannot get here very easily. Mangoes are almost non-existent in New Zealand due to the climate. All mangoes are imported into New Zealand, and in all honesty, even the ones that you do find here do not come close to the ones you get back home in India. 

On the other hand, there are so many foods that I have discovered here in New Zealand that I had never even heard of before. I discovered this little green fruit called a Feijoa. They taste like guava and pineapple had a baby, and I can’t get enough of them. Unfortunately, they are seasonal, but that also means they are fresh when I see them in supermarkets. 

Overall, New Zealand is full of foods and ingredients from all over the world – perhaps because of the variety of ethnic backgrounds of New Zealanders. Part of my passion for food extends from wanting to try new things, and New Zealand is full of opportunities to do so. Food was just the gateway. I am regularly trying new things in New Zealand – you can follow my journey on my Instagram. 

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About the contributors
Varun Toorkey

Originally from India, Varun is studying towards a Bachelor of Culinary Arts and Business at Le Cordon Bleu’s Wellington Campus. You can see more of his experiences with Food and New Zealand on his Instagram @varuntoorkey.