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The Spinoff reviews New Zealand #6: Countdown supermarkets

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. 

There once was a Countdown in central Hamilton. It lost it’s ‘o’, and became C-untdown. How we laughed.

That laughter, and the store in question, are dust in the winds of time.

Judging by the quality of their wares, Countdown is in crisis. Bereft of ripe bananas, the shelves are stocked with bananas in trademark Countdown green, suitable only for replacing curved wood on the bottom of rocking chairs, or perhaps for disciplining children. Their avocados, while displayed in their hundreds, are rock hard. So hard, in fact, that it would be reasonable to begin testing a new form of industrial drill-bit, composed solely of avocados from Countdown. Owned entirely by offshore interests, this chain cares little for the consistency of your avo’ smash.

Their coriander comes up wilted, limp and flaccid. The butchery is more like the freezer of some student flat than an example of 21st century life in an agricultural nation of the first world. What flesh is available is astronomically expensive.

Say sorry to a broken plate. Is it fixed? Exactly.

Elsewhere, like for example at New World, the avocados are smooth and creamy, with flesh the colour of a beautiful…tuatara. Their bananas are unconstrained by wartime-esque supply logistics, and are both numerous and rich. Pre-made sandwiches are also superior at New World: ham, chicken, corned beef, vegetarian, vegetarian no egg – all could be yours between two thick slices of Ploughman’s, which is of course a name-brand bread, a loaf you can trust. Countdown’s sandwiches, while 30 cents cheaper, are lacking enthusiasm, inspiration, zest. They’re an after-thought, a tired handout. A disgrace. /Don Rowe

GOOD OR BAD? Despite their accommodating beer selection, fresh fruit and bountiful meat seems to be an afterthought for Countdown, secondary to slick store layout, single-serve smoothie bowls and sad, sad sandwiches. Like their avocados, it’s all bad.

VERDICT: Bereft of fresh produce and owned by a foreign conglomerate, Countdown is all style and no substance.