Fish ‘n’ chips remain New Zealand’s most popular takeaway.

That is despite all the competition from burger and pizza and sandwich chains, sushi bars and Indian and Chinese takeaways.

The two biggest players - McDonald’s and KFC – spent a staggering $102 million on advertising in this country over the last two years, according to the Nielsen research company.

Yet fish ‘n’ chips continue to be the fast food favourite and are becoming even more popular.

An estimated 1.7 million Kiwis ate fish ‘n’ chips in the month before the Nielsen survey.

That is up 11 percent on the same period two years earlier.

In that same one-month period, 80 percent of all New Zealanders ate fast food and more than a quarter did so more than five times.

The Millennial cohort (Generation Y), those born between 1982 and 2004, are the driving force behind the New Zealand fast food industry, according to Nielsen.

Nine out of 10 have eaten fast food in the last month, up from 81 percent two years ago.

This group collectively spends $33 million on takeaway meals every month. There has been a significant increase in the number who say they eat on the run and often buy takeaway food to eat at home.

More people are health conscious and fish wins on that front.

It is also a key component in the fast growing sushi market and hoki is the mainstay of McDonald’s fish burgers.

Fish ‘n’ chips have moved far beyond the traditional “shark and taties”, commonly  known as “greasies”, wrapped up in newsprint.

A new wave of shops have gone upmarket, offering a wide variety of fish species cooked to order, often attractively served in boxes with condiments such as lemon wedges.

Tauranga’s Bob Palmer has been in the trade for well over 30 years and once had seven shops, one for each of his sons.

His Western Bay Seafoods is down to three now, operating as Bobby’s Fresh Fish Markets.

When Bob, 61, left school he said he had three options – “the bush, the mill or the pakeha”.

He chose the latter and ended up with plenty of pakeha working for him, along with the extended family.

He said fish ‘n’ chips were as popular as ever.

He used 380 tonnes of chipped potatoes last year, all cooked in beef fat.

He has always served a wide variety of fish and reckoned the only thing that has changed was the prices.

“You can come down here and feed your family for 20 bucks and they go away from here full,” he said.

“Young families always come here. Once you’ve got the trust, you’ve got everything.

“Something the pakeha taught me, if you want to be around for a long time, don’t be greedy.”

He was speaking mid afternoon on Tuesday and all 19 of his tables were full.

A Chinese tour bus had just left with 22 people on board all eating hot fish ‘n’ chips, savouring a New Zealand experience.

“When the cruise ships come in we’ll have 18 or 20 for breakfast and they’re back for lunch.”

“Great tasting fresh fish and chips served on trays at the waterfront,” Jennie Gutry posted on Bobby’s website. “Great value and one of the best fish and chip meals I’ve had in New Zealand. They even had vinegar! Popular for a reason.”

“You can choose your own fresh fish and get it cooked there and then,” said another. “It is a place we usually take overseas visitors for real kiwi kai.”

My own favourite is Kilbirnie Fish and Chips in Wellington owned by hard working Chinese couple Pek Lin and Pihong Yang that always uses the underrated blue warehou. Huckle and Co in Seatoun, previously the awfully named Greasy Groper, has lifted its game. In Nelson it’s hard to go past Haven Fish and Chips on Wakefield Quay and The Smokehouse on Mapua Wharf is superb, as long as you don’t mind waiting. Lesser known ribaldo and elephantfish were fish of the day on recent visits.

There is nothing more Kiwi than fish and chips and everyone has their favourite.

Even the heavily promoted American-based hamburger and chicken chains cannot beat that tradition.