Elevation by Millville Strawberry Protein Meal Bar (Aldi)

Packaging for Elevation (by Millville) Strawberry Protein Meal Bar, from Aldi
Sickeningly sweet. And that's coming from me.

Well, I’ve taken a look at a couple different products by EbM and was pretty well won over by both of them. They are more expensive than the average Aldi product—their excellent mint chocolate protein bars come in a six-pack that retails for $1 per bar, putting it uncomfortably close to the national brand in terms of cost—but they have great texture and taste that help to offset the “investment”.

With that in mind, I decided to push my luck: I realized I always stuck to the familiar flavors that I enjoyed—such as, in this case, chocolate—and never really branched out to try anything new. Right then and there, I made the decision to try a flavor that I wouldn’t normally get…but I did chicken out a bit by offsetting my potential disappointment by buying the cheapest box I could find. This set of 6 protein bars came in at a respectable $4.19, which isn’t too bad at all, especially for six full-size bars.

Oh wow, the smell hits you right away, like you’re in an enclosed laboratory space where a vat of strawberry natural flavor just got dumped all over the floor—it’s pretty evident that this ain’t real strawberry that we’re dealing with. But you know what? That’s not a problem with me, because it reminds me a lot of the strawberries and cream oatmeal packets, which are some of my absolute favorites.

The flavor matches the scent pretty well—for better for worse—by offering a clearly fake strawberry imitation that is very, very sweet at first, and then continues to snowball from there. The yogurt-based coating (I’m assuming that’s what it is, anyway) provides a nice exterior texture that melts in your mouth, providing a counterpoint to the puffed rice-style interior of the bar. To help put your mind at ease, there are also chunks of dried strawberries laced throughout, although they are in such small increments they don’t really do anything for either flavor or texture.

This is pretty much a strawberry overload of flavor; I happen to have a palate that skewers toward the sweet, but those that are sensitive to sweet flavors will be disgusted and overwhelmed. Even with my own high tolerance for the saccharine, I find that this bar is about the perfect size to test my limits: right as I’m nearing the end is when my stomach starts gurgling, and right as I finish the last bite I start to feel sick, as if my body is shutting itself down to protect itself from potential sugar (and artificial strawberry) overdose. I don’t know that each bar actually has as much sugar in it as it tastes like it does, but regardless of that, it’s…overwhelming.

And that was just the first bar...by the end of the first box, it wasn't finishing the bar that became so much of an issue: it was building up enough courage to start it. Even now, a couple months on, the mere thought of it still gets my stomach a-rumblin'...and that's exactly why I'm hesitant to get it again, and even more hesitant to recommend it.

Overall: 4/10. The price ($4.19 for 6 bars) is actually very reasonable and the taste isn’t all that bad…at first. But gradually, the unrelenting onslaught of fake strawberry mixed with a bucket of sugar overpowers the tastebuds with a syrupy sweetness that always leaves my stomach churning by the time I reach the final bite. Even thinking about eating a bar now leaves my poor tummy feeling queasy, and I ate my last bar over a month ago. And if it's enough to overpower a guy like me—an avid purveyor of sweets—then I can only imagine just how off-putting it will be to most other people. So much for trying a different flavor for once…looks like I’ll be back to sticking to the familiar flavor of chocolate for the foreseeable future.