Availability is often a factor in which brand of FD food you can get. Yes, you can order from the internet, but I like to see what I'm buying. Alpine aire is difficult to find around me; REI carries a very small and limited AA inventory.
In the months prior to - or shortly after - hiking season, I search the stores for "new additions" to the currents brands' offerings. If something sounds good, I'll buy ONE of each to try at home. We will set up a tasting panel in the kitchen and try several items at once. We are prepared to supplement items with various spices, chopped onion, pepper, etc. - things that can be carried in bulk on a hike and added as needed to certain meals. We have learned that most manufacturers overstate the amount of water needed to rehydrate (apparently some folks don't bother to stir well when adding water), so always start out with 2 ounces less than called for. We'll adjust from there. Rarely have we had paste or soup that way.
Once the winners (if any) are determined, their names (and any additions and water changes deemed beneficial) are added to our "good to go" list and stored with our hiking gear. Anything we deemed acceptable is eaten for that day's lunch; everything else is fed to the disposal.
The only thing worse than getting on the trail and discovering that the new dinner entree that looked so nice in the store turns out to be dehydrated molten lava is to realize that you have two more of these in your food bag and it's six days until resupply.