The bright colours, stickered prices. It’s not dissimilar to a claw machine. Will you get what you paid for? Or much less? University of Auckland’s premier food critics Ben Mollison and Sherry Zhang embark on a sophisticated taste test of a selection of snacks from the University’s vending machines. This food review is going to give Prego, Ima and Amano a run for their money.
However, we really struggled to find a vending machine. Our usual spot, the quad, was suddenly just a giant hole. The basement in the library proved to remain a trusty and fruitful area.
Sherry: Once upon a time I lived in University Halls. And my love for vending machines reached new heights. My go-to classic dinner was beef jerky and yoghurt. I’m a jock, protein hit. What can I say?
My expectations for vending machine food is different. Taste is secondary, ability to stomach in times of anxiety is priority. Because why else would you resort to a food pyramid of pre-packaged food if not for all nighters, or cram study mode?
Ben: Vending machines are familiar enough. In first-year halls they were the second option for drunk food if Sensational Chicken happened to be closed, you were too lazy to leave the building, or you wanted to save a few bucks.
My expectations for this journalistic experiment weren’t high. If any of this stuff came with some nutritional benefits or new taste experiences, well, I would be pleasantly surprised.
Nice and Natural Big Nut bar chocolate
Sherry: I used to have the smol version in my lunchbox in primary school. A nut bar is a nut bar. It was never the first thing I reached for, and if I didn’t eat it by the end of the school day, it would stay there till I did.
Ben: Very nutty. It’s true! Unlike Sherry, I wasn’t much of a nut bar muncher during school so maybe I’ll make this a new go-to?
Sherry: There’s a lot here. Bang for your buck? But these gummies are kind of tough on the teeth. If you’re pulling an all nighter, these puppies are definitely not digesting. I picked out all the milk bottles and ate them.
Deb (our flatmate ate the leftover bag at 12am): The bag proclaims it is “where flavour rules,” but I’m not so sure. The worm wasn’t awful, but I’ve had better. The budget brand and scary bulbous graphics are off putting. All in all, not too bad, but I can’t envisage ever choosing this from a vending machine.
Ben: Was absolutely gutted when these fell off the vending rack and behind was the same pack but with sour gummies! Truly luck of the draw. I was about to reach in (milk bottles are an old fav) but reminded myself not to be a dirty vego and avoid the gelatine. Just a bunch of losses all round.
Fruit and Vege whole food balls banana and spinach
Sherry: Mouth shrivel effect. Even just one bite, it’s hard to get it down. Vegans deserve better.
Ben: Again, really left it up to the vending machine gods with the flavour choice on this one. And banana and spinach? I wasn’t so sure. Really these tasted like chewy apple puree, not much else going on flavour-wise. Kind of felt like it didn’t live up to the wholefood, health-vibe it was pushing. Not bad, just not what I purchased.
Go nuts checker cheese and onion
Sherry: Actual ass. BBQ flavoured stale rice crackers. No flavour to cheese. Le Snak is still superior. I was starving so ate the whole thing. But so unimpressed I stopped by Maccas on the way home and dropped $20 on fries, a chicken wrap, six-pack chicken nuggets, and a cheeseburger.
2/10 because I ended up losing more money.
Ben: Sherry took one for the team here and tried for the both of us. Sounds like it was for the best?
Enduro the energy bar
Sherry: I’d rate this over the Nice and Natural nut bar. Definitely chonkier, and sweeter. Reminds me of the nut bars I’d force myself to eat before each regatta so I don’t pass out. I guess it does what it says on the label.
I’m not a rowing jock anymore but I’ll eat this before my four-hour trademark law lecture and get back to you on the buzz.
8/10 for nostalgia and potential.
Ben: The packaging promises a lot, looks like a classic gym snack (gains). If I was sweating most of my bodyweight while at uni I might buy this. Really yum but it’s pretty much a chocolate bar with peanuts. Lives up to its energy-fueling promises—maybe save this for late-night study?
7/10 a good snack to buy before signing up for UoA Tramping Club.
Frooze balls peanut and jelly
Sherry: This throws me back to cramming a year’s worth of content through double-speed lectures. Was I eating well during those times? No, but these frooze balls help maintain the illusion.
9/10 gets the job done, while also being pretty tasty.
Ben: Coconutty, flavoursome, yom. These ones deliver for me and it’s not all hype; 5.6 grams of protein per ball—massive! The PB and J is a classic combo, and although I’ve never been the biggest fan, in this case I’m happy to make the exception.
9/10 would eat again.
Snax crunches salt and vinegar
Sherry: Like it’s so foul but i can’t stop munching on it? What the hell?
7/10 for witchcraft?
Ben: Very sour vinegar taste, bit of a wake-up when I tried these before my first class. Texture is an interesting one, a bit of crunch going on. If you’re buying these for a healthy alternative you may as well just punch in the number for the Bluebird Originals, they’re going to be better.
Bluebird collection: thinly cut ready salted
Sherry: When my external world is in a state of flux and uncertainty, I just need a classic sometimes. But thinly cut leaves more to be desired.
Ben: Nostalgic, perfect crunch. These aren’t going to fill you up or fit in with your diet plan, but sometimes life is hard and childhood treats really fit the bill.
7/10 pick a better flavour.
Thinly cut sour cream and chives
Sherry: Am I eating herb air?
Ben: The thin chip is underrated imo. Would even take these over the crinkle cut. Still not the best flavour there is.
Chicken originals and Salt and vinegar originals
Sherry: Polarising. I don’t know anyone who loves both. You are either a chicken fan, or a salt and vinegar fiend. This is where the food critics divide. At least we were both left with the roofs of our mouth slit from this one-ounce king hit fight.
Ben: Definitely divisive. Pick your winner. Salt and vinegar = the best flavour there is (fight me).