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Southern Grove Asian Trail Mix (Aldi)

Trail mix is like the “casserole” of the snack world: What started as a rather simple combination of peanuts, raisins, and M&M’s has exploded into what has to be a multi-million (if not multi-billion) dollar industry, where food companies seem to be throwing whatever excess products they have together just to see if it’s marketable.

Here we have an Asian-inspired trail mix, courtesy of those (usually) fine folks over at Southern Grove. Southern Grove is Aldi’s “nut” brand, but it’s also the moniker they use to release their myriad of trail mixes under…rather fitting, considering nuts are usually the foundation of any good trail mix. How will this combo of peanuts, wasabi peas, sesame sticks, chili crescents, and probably other ingredients I’m forgetting about, fare?

That first bite is…interesting, as is pretty much every bite after that. I can’t say whether or not it’s “interesting” in a good way, or a bad way, but I would tend to lean more toward the latter.

For starters, although there’s a lot of sodium (par for the course) at least the ingredients help to offset some of the salty hit to the tongue…but it seems to come at the expense of taste. For example, the rice crackers, which seem to be around in abundance, have a rather bland, “flat” flavor that is honestly just pointless, but it seems to help keep the whole mix “neutral”, by providing a counter to the stronger-flavored items.

In my opinion, the two worst ingredients of the bunch are probably the only two that qualify to give it the “Asian” designation: the wasabi peas, and the “Japanese style peanuts”. I’m sure most are familiar with the former: dried peas with a spicy coating that gives off a rather weird flavor, along with a mild helping of spicy heat. They aren’t my favorite things in the world to begin with, and I could see maybe using them as an occasional “exclamation point” throughout the mix…just here and there to give the whole concoction some unexpected heat. However, the issue is that they seem to be in overabundance: every bite you can’t help but get one or two. Regardless of what you think of wasabi peas, I think we can agree that it’s a pretty unique taste, and not one that goes really well with many things (besides maybe paint chips and lead); to have so many of them here just doesn’t do the mix any favors.

And that takes us to the Japanese style peanuts. I had never heard of them before, and I think I was a better man for it. It’s not really that they are “bad” so much as incredibly bland: they’re like the Japanese version of pretzels (if they’re even actually used over there; never know with these Western products). You know what I mean: pretzels seem to be in almost every kind of “party”, or “snack” mix, even though they’re so texturally dry and tastelessly boring that most people probably just pick them out and throw them away.

Visually, they’re pretty cool, and kind of insinuate that you’re getting something more unique than what you’re getting: they’re large, beige-ish ovals…kind of like an M&M. Which also can help in describing the experience of eating one: imagine an M&M being removed of all taste. When you bite in, there’s a crunchy outer coating, a la the popular American candy, but it’s all just a production number. Your tastebuds expect to be hit with something different, or unique, and instead just get hit with nothing. So crunchy is it, that most of the time you don’t even notice you’re also eating a real peanut with it, which is hiding inside, probably also wishing it were in an M&M instead. If you have any teeth issues, I’d probably avoid these, because they feel like they could tear a filling right out. I’ve never worked the jaws and teeth so hard to receive so little in return.

The rest of the mix are mostly standard-issue trail mix items: peanuts, honey roasted peanuts, sesame sticks (my favorite), and almonds. The only other noticeable addition are “chili crescents”, which are half-moon shaped crackers, possibly of cheese origin (hard to tell with all the coating), covered in chili powder. They have good flavor, without adding much heat, and are a nice addition to the blend.

The one area where you can always count on trail mixes to shine at Aldi, is in the price department: a large 26 oz. bag is just $5.05, which is only a dollar or so more than the smaller bags at other supermarkets. Of course, in the case of their lesser offerings – such as this one – that just means you’ll get used to that sinking feeling when you realize there’s still more left.

Overall: 5.5/10. Too many wasabi peas and Japanese peanuts doom this Asian-inspired combination…and, rather ironically, it’s those ingredients that are what makes it “Asian” to begin with. The wasabi peas offer up their trademark weird taste, which often clashes somewhat with the other ingredients, while the Japanese peanuts seem to be the Asian equivalent of the pretzel, offering up a big crunch with literally zero flavor. It’s edible, and comes at a great value, but there’s not much else noteworthy here at all.

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