Meijer Fruit Punch Drink Mix Sticks (Meijer)

Outer packaging of Meijer Fruit Punch Drink Mix Sticks
Good, but way overpriced compared to the competition.

I'm not typically a silver-lining kinda guy, but this damn viral outbreak has at least done some good for our family: It lead to my wife having a bit of an epiphany on the grocery store front. After inexplicably favoring Kroger over everything else for the better part of ten years, she changed her tune once she deemed herself the sole grocery shopper for the household during the coronavirus outbreak, in an effort to limit our possible exposure to the pandemic. (I didn't argue, as I've been trying to practice social distancing my entire life.) This is good for three reasons: Meijer generally has good prices, I haven't tried many private label items from there, and Kroger sucks complete asshole. If I never set foot in one again I'd be more than happy (although that's, unfortunately, not much of a possibility given their convenience).

And that is how we ended up with Meijer drink mix sticks, which I've never had the pleasure of ingesting. And in fruit punch, no less, which is one of my favorite overall flavors, despite its vague connotation. Let's see how their version stacks up to the competition, shall we?

I tried halving the stick - spreading one out into two servings, as I am wont to do - but since I haven't had this kind before, I didn't really have a good idea of how much to put in, which gave me an undersweetened, light-red hue of grossness. So I just said "screw this" and threw in a whole packet, which usually results in the direct opposite problem: oversweetness. Immediately, I could smell the artificial sweetness pouring out of the bottle; it's pretty strong, but inviting to me, because I love fruit punch of all artificialities.

Yep, this is about what one would expect here, with a taste akin to a jumbled mass of unidentifiable fruits jostling together with a bunch of sugar (I know these are sugar free, that's just the flavor profile). There is a weird texture that accumulates in the back of the throat after taking a few drinks, along with a weird aftertaste—I don't know, maybe that's in all of them and I'm just so used to it that I haven't noticed, but I definitely notice it here. It's not gross or anything, mind you, just some sticky saliva that collects in the back of the throat, along with a kind of medicinal, cough-syrupy flavor that sticks along with it. Granted, I've also gotten used to stretching out one stick into two servings, so maybe it's just the overload of flavor that's making me notice it a bit more. 

This is one of those things that you already know what to expect going in, and it doesn't deliver anything more or less than those expectations: it's a nice, potentially refreshing (if halved), overly sweet combination of fakeness that I tend to like. If you're not a fan of typical fruit punch concoctions, then you won't be a fan of this one. It's that simple. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, it just gives you a standard wheel, which makes sense, considering if you want a wheel you wouldn't want a different version of a wheel, or...whatever.

However, despite the familiar, expected taste, there is one huge caveat: the price. And, of course, this is ironically after I harped on how inexpensive Meijer generally is, at least when compared to Kroger: each 10-pack costs a whopping $1.99. Now, that's not a whopping, outrageous number by itself, but considering both Aldi and even Kroger routinely offer theirs for around $1.29, that's enough of a markup to pretty much negate the value proposition, especially considering these are no better than any of the others out there. I'd get them if I saw them on sale in the future, but otherwise, I'm making a mental note to steer clear from Meijer powdered beverages for the time being.

Overall: 5.5/10. It's strongly sweet in its full-flavor form, as many of these drink mixes tend to be. It's also incredibly hokey, with what seems like a jumbled mess of a handful of artificially-flavored fruit flavors blending together to form one even larger indiscernible mass of flavor. All that said, it's pretty much a typical fruit punch, meaning chances are good that anyone picking this up already knows what to expect. However, $1.99 for the standard amount of ten sticks? Considering Aldi and Kroger routinely offer theirs for $1.49 or less, that makes this a pretty high markup which certainly negates the value proposition, especially considering the flavor offers nothing different from other store brands.