In the early 1880s, pharmacist John Pemberton had a problem. A former Confederate colonel, Pemberton had been injured in the Civil War. To manage the pain, he’d been given morphine and was now an addict. He knew this, and set about creating an alternative. His solution was a beverage that was derived from both coca leaves and the kola nut (also sometimes called a cola nut). Hence, Coca-Cola.
The original Coca-Cola contained both cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was removed in the early 1900s, while the caffeine remains. Today, Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable soft drinks in the world, and a target of much competition. Aside from its most visible competitor, Pepsi, makers of cola abound throughout the United States, from local bottlers to grocery store versions.
Aldi sells a line of soft drink options (or soda, or pop, or soda pop, depending on where you live). Most of those options are stocked under the Summit private label, and one of those soft drinks is a traditional cola.
Summit Cola is a Regular Buy at Aldi. That means you can find it in stores all year long. At the time of this post, Aldi sells a few different versions of Summit Cola: a 2-liter bottle, a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans, and a six-pack of 7.5-ounce cans. As you would expect, the 2-liter bottle is usually the cheapest per ounce (currently about 1.2 cents per ounce), but it also will go flat within a couple of days of opening. The 7.5-ounce cans are the most expensive per ounce (6.0 cents per ounce), while the 12-pack of 12-ounce cans is usually somewhere in between (2.5 cents per ounce). Which one you get will depend on your situation.
While all of the versions are formulated the same, for this review, we got the 7.5-ounce cans. Smaller cans are a recent trend in the soft drink business, marketed as a lower-calorie option. (Those little cans have been a sales bonanza for soft drink companies.) In looking at nutrition, I compare it to similarly sized cans of other brands.
Summit is very similar in composition to the others, with roughly the same sugar content as Coke and Pepsi, and the same sodium content as Pepsi. It has less caffeine than either. Also like both — at least in the United States — it is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
As for taste? Summit Cola is not Coca-Cola and it’s not Pepsi. It is similar as far as colas go, but it’s not quite as good. And I don’t think it’s as good as many local sodas, especially ones that are made with cane sugar.
But I also don’t think Summit Cola is that bad. In fact, I think it’s better than it was when I tried it a few years ago. One reason: it appears to have been reformulated at some point since 2018, and this new version differs from the old in a couple of ways, including the addition of sodium. Those changes, I think, make this a better cola than it was a few years ago.
Summit Cola isn’t a dead ringer for Coca-Cola or Pepsi, and it isn’t quite as good. But Aldi’s cola is better than it used to be, and in our view it is a lot closer now to being a respectable soft drink. It’s also incredibly cheap, especially if you go the 12-ounce can or 2-liter bottle option.