Some countries make it easier to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, but New Zealand is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, we have an enormous dairy and meat industry that has over extended its political sway. On the other hand though, we also have an enormous amount of local growers of fruit and vegetables and a strong, vibrant community committed to a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. When evaluating how easy it is to go veg here, there are a number of different areas to consider:
- Cities vs small towns. There’s a big difference between living in a large city such as Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, and a small town. While supermarket chains even in smaller towns will almost always have a range of vegan products in the specialty health food aisle, it won’t compare to big cities which have multiple supermarket choices, specialist vegan / vegetarian stores, and local producers. In the larger cities, you’ll find a wide range of products.
- Limited product labels. Although the New Zealand Vegetarian Society does provide a seal of approval for some vegetarian products, there’s no official government structure for this, and there’s no similar seal for vegans. That said, a lot of products are vegan or vegetarian friendly without stating it, so it’s a matter of doing extra research (reading the ingredients fine print) before you buy.
- Order products online. Because New Zealand is so isolated with a strong vegetarian and vegan community, it has fostered a demand for online products. There are a number of websites where you can order a range of products, and stock up and freeze the extras. This gives you wider choice, and is ideal for those in smaller towns with less options.
- International food products. Although traditional Western food has a high emphasis on meat and dairy, food from India, South East Asia and other areas with high Buddhist or Hindu populations are much less reliant. With a big immigrant population, there are specialised food stores throughout the main cities, as well as authentic restaurants.
- Pure vegetarian restaurants. New Zealand has a range of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, including many that only serve veg-friendly eats so you can relax and pick anything from the menu.
Whether it’s easy or not to easily live as a veg in New Zealand depends greatly on your location, but you can always buy specific items online. Let us know in the comments below how you find living in New Zealand as a vegan or vegetarian, and if you have any tips for others to make life a bit simpler.
Thanks for writing this! I’m looking to move to NZ next year sometime (2018) and really needed this information.