A Kiwi father-of-three working at New World Turangi has been crowned New Zealand's supermarket hero after an outpouring of nominations from by friends, whānau, colleagues and his community.
Over the last month, nearly 1500 nominations for workers poured in for the Best Foods Supermarket Heroes campaign, which aimed to champion and reward supermarket workers who went above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic.
New World Turangi entrance supervisor Tupara Tupara took out the top spot with a whopping 131 nominations.
Nominators praised Tupara for his thoughtful, kind and bubbly approach during the COVID-19 pandemic; with many describing him as having "held the town together with his positive attitude".
Tupara was also recognised for thoughtful gestures like meeting customers with an umbrella to keep them dry, bringing elderly and pregnant customers to the front of the line and "relentlessly" sanitising trolleys to keep shoppers safe.
"I just want to say a big thank you to my community, New World, Best Foods and all the other essential workers and community for their support. To be honest, I just treated each day like another normal day," says Tupara.
"I could see the fear in our customers, so I just kept smiling and sanitising to keep everyone calm and help them feel like everything was going to be okay."
Tupara says it took some time for customers to adjust to the strict lockdown rules of COVID-19 alert level 4 and 3.
"At first they weren't okay, you know because a lot of our community is [like] whānau so they like to come and give a hug! But they started adapting to it real quick.
"What I do is just smile at people. It's a chain reaction, so when I'm happy it makes them happy."
Danny Pickett, owner of New World Turangi, is extremely proud of his employee.
"[He's] such a lovely bloke, especially when he leaves an 11-week-old baby to come to work each day. He has such great empathy with people.
"During lockdown, the community really bonded together, but Tupara was like the glue spreading calm and reassurance."
Tupara's prize is a luxury weekend away for two at Taupo's Huka Lodge.
Four additional supermarket heroes have also been recognised alongside Tupara: Eliza Ross, supervisor at Countdown Te Atatu South; Gabrielle Reid, checkout operator at PAK'nSAVE Hastings; George Aspinall, security guard at New World St Martins; and Waina Kumeroa, checkout operator at New World Kawerau. They will all receive a year's supply of Unilever products.
Matt Rigby, head of ANZ Unilever International, says the company has been "so impressed with the incredible response" to the campaign.
"The amount of heartfelt, genuine nominations we saw shows that each and every essential worker can feel proud of their efforts during the pandemic,: he says.
"We hope that this gesture brings some happiness to our five deserving heroes."