|Friendly Farms Ranch Dip, $1.09 for 16 oz. at Aldi|
The first is Friendly Farms Ranch Dip. Like most chip/veggie dips, it is packaged in a 16 oz. plastic container. When opening it for the first time, it has a rather unpleasant appearance...almost like there's a small sheet of film on top of the dip, or that it is severely dried out...however, this goes away (unlike the Kroger brand ranch dip, which looked dehydrated every time I opened it, and didn't taste very ranch-y to begin with). Future openings will instead reward you with a small puddle of liquid sloshing about, which is typical of dairy products in general. All it takes is a chip or carrot, and a few seconds worth of stirring, and it goes back to looking delicious.
Opening qualms aside, this is some solid ranch dip, made even moreso by its $1.09 price tag. It has a delicious ranch smell that is just like the taste: strong, but not overpowering. The flavor does remind me of dip made out of those dip mix packets, but maybe that's just me. And I happen to love dip mixes, anyway. It goes equally great with chips or veggies. Hell, it goes great with cheese-garlic croutons and garlic focaccia sticks and pizza crusts--in other words, I'll dip just about anything in this stuff.
Note that, in true Aldi fashion, the flavor has changed within the last few months, so if you haven't tried it in a while, it will more than likely have a different taste. Despite being fairly knowledgeable on the grocery chain, I'm not exactly sure of its inner workings. More specifically, their use of private labels can be semi-confusing: Just when you get used to a certain product "line", they will do one of three things: Change the company name, change the ingredients (and thus, the flavor), or both. Sometimes, this can work to their favor, as a few of their products could use a little tweaking.
Other times, the effects are little more than baffling: Such is the case with their ranch dip, which used to have a stronger (albeit different) ranch flavor, and a much more appetizing appearance, consisting of red and green specks that I will just assume were bits of vegetables. Whatever they were, it just looked delicious--now, it's nothing but a white plane of sour cream base with smaller, less frequent green flecks. While the "new" dip is very good (with a much different ranch flavor than before), I don't see why they needed to change the product in the first place, especially so radically. This isn't just a "tweaking" of their original formula...it's an entirely different dip.
Overall: 8/10. A very good dip with a strong ranch smell, and an equally appetizing flavor that goes good with just about anything.
|An empty bottle of N2 Lemon Lime.|
Secondly, and rounding out my initial offerings, is Puraqua's N2 Lemon Lime sports drink. The "N" in this case stands for "infuse", which is the name of Aldi's sports drink line. The "N2" is obviously a nod/rip-off of Gatorade's G2 products, which aim to capture all the flavor of regular Gatorade with far fewer calories. But how does N2 stack up against its national brand namesake?
I do a lot of shopping at Aldi, but there are certain things I will buy at other stores if I happen to be in there, and see them on sale. Soda is one of them, as Aldi's Summit soda line is rather lacking in certain areas (namely their Sprite and Mountain Dew knockoffs, which don't taste anything like either, and don't even taste good on their own terms). However, sports drinks are one thing that I refuse to buy anywhere else. Actually, I just lied, because I do enjoy the rare taste of an All Sport every now and again when I stumble across them (although those aren't even as good ever since they dropped the slight carbonation they used to have several years ago). But as far as Gatorade or Powerade is concerned, Infuse takes the cake.
First off, is its price: 69 cents. For the 32 oz. size. That's a lot of energy to be had for well under a dollar. Of course, all the savings in the world cannot make up for a horrible taste...but on the contrary, N2's Lemon Lime has a very strong lemon lime flavor that really does wake up the senses, all with fewer calories I cannot compare it flat-out to Gatorade's simply because it has been so long since I've had it, but I can guarantee there's no way theirs can be that much better, especially when they're charging at least 30% more for theirs (and that's generally on sale).
A quick comparison between labels reveals that G2 has fewer calories per 8 oz. serving (20, compared to N2's 25), less sugar (5g, compared to 7), and less carbohydrates (5g compared to 8). They are equal in potassium (30 mg) and sodium (110 mg). Yet Infuse takes it one step farther by including some nutrients that not even Gatorade has, like 10% of Vitamins C and E, 25% Pantothenic Acid, 25% Niacin, and 25% Vitamin B6. And keep in mind there are four servings per 32 oz. bottle, so guzzle the whole thing, and while you may end up with quite a bit of sodium (440 mg), you also will end up with 100% of your recommended daily intake of three different vitamins. I'm not going to pretend like I know how this rehydrates my body after a particularly grueling hockey game, but it just sounds good. And it tastes good. And did I mention it's 69 cents?
Overall: 10/10. Beats Gatorade at its own game by boasting incredible flavor with a ridiculously affordable price. Also gets extra points for not offering an off-brand of Gatorade's ridiculous "G Series". Do you really need Gatorade before, during, AND after your sporting event? What the hell ever happened to water? Are people really buying into this ridiculous marketing ploy?
Sorry for the digression. Infuse is the best sports drink money can buy. So buy it.