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You're probably better off just getting the national brand vitamin C powder.

Great Value Orange Early Rise Drink Mix Sticks (Walmart)

Well, a trip to the in-laws in Tennessee can only mean one thing: Another visit to Walmart! And what does that have to do with you, dear reader? Why, more product reviews for you to revel in!

As I’ve said before, family vacations are about the only time we ever shop at “Wally World”. (By the way, is that actually a widely used slang term for Walmart, or just something niche my stepdad latched onto? Either way, it’s the stupidest store nickname ever.) I’ve covered the reasons at least a couple of times elsewhere, but just to recap: They’re cheaper than local options, can be found everywhere and actually have some good products. (So then why don’t we shop there more at home? It’s often a nightmarish experience, there are closer places my wife prefers to shop at, and we have two Aldi stores within a shorter distance of the closest Walmart.)

One quick observation I have that I’m just going to throw out there: It’s weird how most people tend to get the same things over and over again when grocery shopping at home. Like it’s just going through the motions of a life lived on autopilot. The same applies to us yet, when we go on vacation, we seem get a little more adventurous and buy things we typically wouldn’t. Sure, part of it is because we’re also usually picking up things for other members of the household, as well. But even beyond that, shopping on vacation just feels different; like we’re also mentally breaking free of the comfort of monotony.

Semi-depressing inner monologue aside, here we have Great Value’s Early Rise, an orange-flavored powdered drink mix stick that contains 100% vitamin C. (It’s funny how people – myself included – use these percentages as a talking point, yet I have no idea how they actually even affect my diet.) I’m always down for a boost in vitamins, and the animated orange on the packaging certainly didn’t look like it would let me down, so I bought a pack.

True to the packaging’s insinuation, this is an orange-colored powder that morphs clear water into a cloudy shade of orange. It still looks pretty refreshing, although the smell kind of takes some of the appeal away; it smells like those expensive, name brand packets that feature unnecessarily-large quantities of vitamin C. 

And sure enough, that’s what these taste like. For those who have never had those packets, the flavor is kind of hard to explain. It starts off tasting like orange, but then it completely veers off into slightly bitter territory. They don’t taste bitter in a typically-medicinal way, though – I guess the best way I can think of to convey the flavor is to say they also include the rind, instead of the juicy middle. It’s maybe not quite that bitter, but there are notes in there that just seem to clash with the tastebuds.

Great Value’s version isn’t quite as bitter as those packets, thankfully, but they’re a lot closer than I was hoping for. Especially since they’re made to be added to water bottles (the other packets are meant to be added to small amounts of water). I expected a more refreshing orange taste, but these aren’t quite anything I’d reach for to quench my thirst. At least to me.

Onto value, and I must say this is where I notice the cost of goods going up everywhere. Just a few short months ago (on our last trip to Tennessee no less), Great Value’s drink mixes cost somewhere around $1.29. Now, they’ve shot up to the $1.70 range. However, similar private label products from other stores have also increased, and these still remain somewhere in the middle of the pricing wars, so value is still strong compared to the competition.

But, there’s another variable to take into consideration: The vitamin C packets are pretty darn expensive, with a name brand pack of 30 retailing for around $10. Even private label versions, such as Aldi, hover around the $8 range. Sure, they contain lots more vitamin C (about 20x more than these sticks) – and I swear they do help fight off colds and other sicknesses – but scientifically, excessive boosts of ascorbic acid (an alternate name for the vitamin to avoid being repetitive) have been proven to do nothing. So do we really need 20,000% of one vitamin? These provide a much more down-to-Earth amount and for a much more down-to-Earth, middle class price.

Overall: 5.5/10. I was hoping for a more refreshing orange-based experience, but Great Value’s Early Rise Drink Mix Sticks do provide 100% vitamin C inside an affordable package. They smell and taste a lot like the name brand packets that cost almost 10x more (although, to be fair, those do come in packs of 30 and also provide around 20x more vitamin C), although not quite as…”off”, for lack of a better description. I would never get these with any sort of regularity, but for the occasional pick-me-up in the morning…aww hell, I probably won’t ever get these again.

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