Written by Fajar binti Benjamin Photos by Zafra Usman Additional tasting by Vina Paramitha Edited by Nimue Wafiya
The introduction of Family Mart to Malaysia on the 11th of November 2016 shook up the very foundations of our country. Never before had such a convenience store existed in Malaysia (*cough* broken slurpee machines *cough*). Warm bowls of oden, towering cones of matcha soft serve, prepackaged fresh cakes and pastries, unique brands of fruit tea, and calm seating spaces to boot! Say what you like about Japan, they sure know their stuff when it comes to convenience stores.
The franchise spread across Asia like a very profitable fungus, drawing flocks of Malaysians: broke, sleepy, fashionable, but overall, hungry. Not only did Family Mart change the scene by providing new options, it upped the stakes for all convenience stores already around, forcing them to up their game to match. Most notable of the lot is MyNews. Not even 3 months after Family Mart appeared in Sunway, they decided to renovate and expand its merchandise to include the Maru Cafe with menu items suspiciously similar to Family Mart fare.
We think this is great. After all, what’s capitalism without a little competition? And so, in the spirit of embracing the wonderful place our world has become, we will be comparing three similar food items from both shops to judge its price value, presentation and taste.
Item #1 Coffefefeee – Regular Latte
This item is particularly close to my heart. There was a time where coffee was nothing more than a bitter liquid meant for older, more grizzled souls. Well, it is now the nectar of Gods, the salve to my soul, the coolant in my veins, the.. You get the idea. I live for coffee.
Even sugarless, MyNews coffee fills your mouth with a joyful taste of bitter but fatty coffee. It’s potent, with a good kick factor and wonderful aroma to boot. It comes out of the machine hot, but not too hot and it’s good to drink within a few seconds. Even a non-coffee lover conferred to my expert opinion, My News latte sparks joy.
Family Mart on the other hand. Oh boy. Ohhh boy. The coffee is thin with a terrible aftertaste. Whatever milk is in that coffee is not doing it any favours. No kick, cardboard taste and the amount of actual coffee that you get in the cup is exactly what you see in the picture. Where did the rest of it go?! Out of all the coffee you can get around campus, I say with confidence that this should be your last resort.
Once again, MyNews exceeds expectations with a cheerful cup exclaiming, “The best days start with good coffee!” with a sturdy insulator for safe handling. The coffee itself bubbles into the cup as you watch its progress. Unlike in Family Mart, the coffee machine is self serve. For us, that’s a plus because watching the coffee trickle into that cup is like watching your assignment disappear into the submission box. You know relief is near.
Family Mart? Do you see that picture up there of a plain white paper cup? What more can I say? Disappointing once again.
Both cups of coffee are priced exactly the same at RM3.90 a cup. However, it’s clear that MyNews provides you with a tastier, happier, more instagrammable coffee to accompany you on your studies or to class. Next time you need that cheap caffeine, make the smart choice. MyNews wins here no contest.
Item #2: Gimme dat bred – Melon Bun
Interestingly enough, melon buns are not traditionally melon flavoured. The Japanese-origin bread was actually named for its appearance that resembles a melon. The bun itself is supposed to be an “enriched dough covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough”, hence the different consistency that exists on the outside of the bun as compared to inside it.
The MyNews melon bun was savoury with a strange crust to the bottom that we assume was hardened cookie dough. Outside and in, there was only a faint sweetness and a strange dough-y taste that we just couldn’t put our finger on. If it was melon it wasn’t outrightly detectable. The bread was tough and required quite a bit of chewing to get through but overall, it was a filling snack and entirely edible.
As for FM, I have two words for you: sugar galore. This bread was sweet, it was light and it was consistent all the way through. No crust but the outside was crisp, providing the perfect entry crackle with each bite. The taste itself was more or less the same as MyNews’ contender. A strange not-quite-melon hint, but much, much sweeter. Strong dessert vibes wafted off of this bun.
Look at MyNews’ poor deformed melon bun. Just, look at it.
We tried to select a nice one for the picture but honestly, all of them were a bit smushed. The colouring is still there though, and the size is just slightly larger than the one from FM.
FM’s bun however was pristine. Its pattern perfectly formed with beautiful sugar crystals on top and a packaging design that’s much more attractive to the eye.
MyNews’ bun was priced at RM2.70 whereas the Family Mart bun was RM3.00. The 30 sen difference there makes sense though. Family Mart’s bun was thoroughly more enjoyable to the average sweet-toothed person and had no deformities in its design. MyNews bun was more bready and had more substance to it, but it did have a more peasantry feel. Between the three of us taste testing, we could not reach a conclusion as to the clear winner and agreed that it really does come down to personal taste. FM is sweeter, MN is bready-er. For technical merit alone, FM wins this round.
Item #3: Soft soft soft serve – mixed flavour ice cream
In the past, there have been times where both franchises just happened to be selling the same flavours of ice cream at the same time as the flavours are seasonal, changing every couple of months. Family Mart’s staple has always been matcha (or green tea to you normies) but Maru cafe seems to still be looking for a signature flavor. The available mix at Family Mart was matcha-Belgium chocolate and at MyNews it was mango-milk.
Upfront, the matcha-chocolate soft serve tasted infinitely better than anything a mango-milk combo could bring to the table. The contrasting bitter and sweetness of matcha and chocolate respectively met inside our mouths, bringing a symphony of different emotions to the Gustatory Cortex. Not too sweet but undoubtedly a dessert, the combo was one to win over our hearts at first lick.
While the mango milk wasn’t bad, the milk flavour was almost completely unnecessary. It provided no conflict against the mango, becoming completely overpowered in the face of mango’s sickly sweet taste but also leaving a powdery aftertaste that did not agree with the senses.
As for the cones, FM won with its simple wafer that was infinitely better on merit of being better than the burnt cardboard-textured ones that MN offers.
The colour contrast of the matcha chocolate was just beautiful. Although the size of the ice cream cone and subsequently, ice cream tower was noticeably smaller, the marriage between green and brown just worked, especially with the lighter coloured cone and white paper wrapper. However, the mango ice cream definitely didn’t look bad either; a cheery sunny colour with what seemed like more hold to its shape ⎯ and as mentioned, a much larger serving size ⎯ wonderfully contained within a golden brown cone that held promise of delight.
Again, both ice creams were priced the same at RM3.90 a cone. And once again, MN’s portion was significantly larger but the quality of FM’s ice-cream this round is just unbeatable. Maybe in a few months when the flavours rotate we’ll have a different opinion but for now, Family Mart wins.
While MyNews has done an admirable job to become proper competitors to Family Mart, it can’t be denied that Family Mart products have better quality than Maru Cafe with the exception of their coffee. Beyond that, the ambience in Family Mart is homelier with softer lighting as compared to MyNews and its harsh hospital lighting. The profit margins in FM for normal convenience store items are higher than MN which places the latter at a distinct advantage when it comes to gaining business from the average broke student, but, FM has a huge edge in the form of branding.
A bonus to MN, in Sunway at least, you’re more likely to recognise the friendly workers behind the counter as opposed to the harrowed looking student workers in FM who rotate in and out of the job like revolving doors. That warm smile from the worker behind the counter at MN might just make your day more than the food bought itself.
Bonus round: Warm bunzzz – Kaya Pau
There is no winner here. Both convenience stores sell steaming hot and pillow soft pau which is a sort of bun made from flour and yeast (duh!) that has the texture of cotton candy. The kaya (coconut jam) filling is sweet and silky, perforating the plain cloud around it creating a delicious mouthful in every bite. Is one prettier than the other? Sure! But like in real life, the outside doesn’t always reflect the inside and that’s all we’ll say on the matter. If you’re looking for a quick, cheap (RM2.70) snack, either one of these stores can provide you with the best bread to ever exist.
We’d say that the competition really is fascinating to watch (and taste). As constantly tired students, all we really want is the right snack to fill our bellies on the go. We leave hoping you’re a little more informed on where to buy what. Next time, hand that bit of your allowance to the cashier with a little more conviction than before (you know you have it right this time). Happy snacking!