Sorry folks, this one is going to be longer and more rambly than usual, so just bear with me: if you’re really just in it for the review of the drink mix sticks, which (spoiler warning!) are a complete waste of money, scroll down a few paragraphs. Thanks for your time.
We were in Cincinnati celebrating our anniversary (definitely not as easy or fun to do in a COVID world—every place we wanted to see was closed or had weird hours—but those are stories for another day), when we stumbled on a place that we had heard of, but had completely forgotten about: Jungle Jim’s! In case you aren’t familiar with the place, it’s widely known as one of the “coolest” and most “fun” of all grocery stores, with large interactive displays, a wide variety of samples (again, not in COVID world, but typically), and foods and other goodies from all around the world. It’s kind of like Trader Joe’s, if their stores were 10 times larger and had less of a focus on organic and healthy stuff.
Unsurprisingly, the trade-off for having such a large store are higher prices, something that we noticed on just about every item—clearly, they’re more focused on the experience of shopping there, rather than being affordable. And there’s nothing wrong with that—unless you happen to be a shopper without much of a disposable income, at which point it can become pretty tough to get what you need on a budget.
I was actually noticing their complete lack of a private label brand (something I would not have expected, given their reputation and popularity), when one caught my eye: Essential Everyday. “Pretty stupid name,” I thought to myself, though it quickly occurred to me that “Everyday Essentials”, a much prettier, more appealing name, has probably already been trademarked. (I still think it sounds awkward, but maybe that’s just me.)
Anyway, I naturally had to do some research, figuring that EE was Jungle Jim’s exclusive, private label brand—and that’s when I stumbled upon a firestorm of betrayal, intrigue, and deception…okay, not really: it seems that Essential Everyday just manufactures private label products, and offer them to any retailer looking to add “cheaper alternatives” to their product selection. So unlike a store brand, their stuff isn’t linked to any one specific retailer (in fact, they have a “store locator” on their website so you can actually see the stores carrying their brand nearest you), and can instead be found at a variety of different places throughout the U.S. Kind of interesting, right? Sure.
|These packs look just like Aldi’s brand…but don’t be fooled because these are a gyp.|
Anyway, take a deep breath because you made it…we’re on to the actual review!
The packaging of the “stick” itself looks suspiciously like the same packaging of Aldi’s own drink mix sticks; I immediately figured it was the same product, and had an expectation of what flavor to expect before I even tried it. But lo and behold, things are not that simple, because these go in the opposite direction of many fruit punch flavored drink sticks, by attempting to break your tastebuds with flavor overload.
Just take one sniff and that’s all you need to know if these are right for you: it can virtually clear out your sinuses. I mean, this is some pretty strong stuff. Just to stretch out my dollar (and because most sticks have too much flavor on their own for one water bottle), I tend to try to flavor two servings per stick—that is not at all a problem with these.
Once again, as was the case with the Essential Everyday toaster pastries, this one completely falls apart in the value department; to their credit, they at least don’t try to hide it, I suppose. Each box of 10 flavor packets costs a whopping $2.25. I guess in the thrill of grocery shopping (actually, we went down this aisle toward the end of our trip when I was getting restless, bored, and exhausted), I didn’t stop to think that Aldi sells similar products for about a dollar less, and even most national brands come in well under that price tag. Maybe they were grouped with more expensive items to make it look like more of a deal—at any rate, even though these are technically good, if you’re on a budget, they’re a complete waste of money.
At least you can do what I did, and drag these out to 20 servings, which would actually make the per serving cost more palatable, and more on par with what you would expect out of a “private label” product. However, considering you can do that with most other drink mixes—including ones that are already a dollar cheaper per box than this one—that just makes it more of a moot point than anything. Avoid these like the plague, assuming you’re actually a budget-conscious shopper trying to stretch their grocery dollar farther.
Overall: 3/10. This mix is actually really tasty, delivering up a strong flavor that’s closer to the “tropical punch” flavor of the name brand “just add sugar and water” packets that everyone grew up on. However, they are incredibly overpriced, something my tired, exhausted mind didn’t even notice as I blindly threw them into the cart just to make the grocery trip end as quickly as possible. And since the main point of this blog is all about value, that means there’s no way in hell I’d recommend these to anyone. In fact, I’m kind of starting to despise the Essential Everyday name—they seem to just package up the national brand items in their own packaging, and then find ways to charge even more than the brands they’re mocking. Avoid.