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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Clif Bar > 2011 Clif Bar assortment > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Clif Bar Assortment

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

A Selection of Clif Bars


INITIAL REPORT - January 17, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - April 27, 2011



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada and the Boundary Waters between the US and Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
January 17, 2011

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Clif Bar and Company
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Country of Manufacture: USA
Manufacturer's Website: www.clifbar.com
Flavors Tested: See below
MSRP: USD $15.00 (box of 12 of a single flavor)

Listed Weight (per bar): 68 g (2.4 oz)
Measured weight (Average of 4 wrapped bars): 69.4 g (2.45 oz)
Measured size: 3.25 x 2.25 x 0.625 in (83 x 57 x 16 mm)



ITEM DESCRIPTION

According to the Clif Bar website, a Clif Bar is an "all natural and organic energy bar that delivers the optimal blend of nutrients for sustained energy." The site describes how the idea to make a better energy bar originated when the company's founder was dissatisfied with current products during a long bike ride in 1990. After two years of experimenting in the kitchen, the Clif Bar company was founded. Since that time, they have expanded their product line to include a number of types of energy bars and other similar items for the active life.

Clif Bars are kosher (dairy) and vegan. Although they contain neither dairy nor animal products, the vendor who produces the non-dairy chocolate chips used in this product makes chips containing dairy in the same building. Also, these bars are made with 70% certified organic ingredients, including organic oats and soybeans. There are no GMO (genetically modified organisms) products in Clif Bars. They do contain nuts and gluten products so may not be suitable for folks with those food allergies. In general, each bar packs 230-240 calories and has around 10 g of protein, although the exact composition varies depending on the flavor selected. One of the nice things about the Clif Bar product line is that it has expanded over time to include 16 flavors, so there are a wide variety of choices.

The complete list of flavors is as follows:

Apricot Banana Nut Bread Black Cherry Almond Blueberry Crisp (previously reviewed by BGT)
Carrot cake Chocolate Almond Fudge Chocolate Brownie Chocolate Chip
Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch Cool Mint Chocolate Cranberry Apple Cherry Crunchy Peanut Butter
Maple Nut Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Peanut Toffee Buzz White Chocolate Macadamia Nut


Some of these flavors have been around for many years, whereas the more exotic varieties seem to be relatively new.

For this test, I will be sampling the following 10 flavors:

Calories grams Fat grams Carbs grams Protein
Apricot 230 3 45 10
Banana Nut Bread 240 6 42 9
Carrot Cake 240 4 46 10
Choc Almond Fudge 250 5 44 10
Choc Brownie 240 5 44 10
Cool Mint Chocolate 250 5 43 10
Crunchy Peanut Butter 250 6 42 11
Maple Nut 240 5 42 10
Oatmeal Raisin Walnut 240 5 43 10
White Choc Macadamia Nut 240 7 41 9


Full nutritional information is available on the Clif Bar website, although there is a caution that the information on the web may not be completely accurate and that the actual information is printed on the back of each bar. Although not stated, I assume this may be due to lot-to-lot variation in manufacturing, and the differences will be small. I did note that the printed information that accompanied the bars, which is the same as the website, was slightly different from that printed on the bar. For example, the apricot bar shows 9 g of protein on the back, as compare to 10 g as listed above in the printed information used to populate the table above.


INSTRUCTIONS

As a comment, the Clif Bar website recommends that the bars be eaten 1-3 hours before strenuous activity along with some water. They can also be eaten during prolonged "lower intensity exercise such as hiking or bike touring" or just if I need a boost of energy during a long, busy day. Interestingly, the website recommends that kids under 10 should not eat a whole Clif Bar, but that half may be ok on occasion. Of note, the Clif Bars have "best by" dates. On the bars I received, these are anywhere from 6-9 months from now.


TRYING IT OUT

So far, I have tried both the Crunchy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie flavors. In general, Clif Bars have a slightly mushy and sticky texture, which reflects the fact they are made with organic brown rice syrup as the first ingredient. I'm no food expert (other than eating it) but I presume the syrup serves as the 'glue' to hold the bars together. The Crunchy Peanut Butter flavor is very nutty, and tastes much like solidified peanut butter should. It is not particularly sweet and definitely made me thirsty after eating. The Chocolate Brownie flavor has a rich chocolate flavor and is much sweeter, as would be expected for chocolate. It has a similar texture to the Crunchy Peanut Butter, but without the crunchy stuff. So far, I quite like both flavors. As a chocolate lover, I could eat the Chocolate Brownie any time, but might get a little tired of the heavy peanut flavor of the other after a time. For this short sample, I ate the bars instead of lunch (1 bar each day) at work. I felt satisfied and did not get hungry again for at least 4-5 hours after eating one bar.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS and EXPECTATIONS

I have eaten Clif Bars in the past and have been pleased with their overall taste, texture, and nourishment value. In the small sample I have tried from this batch, I continue to like these features. I am quite excited to try some of the newer flavors, since I get bored eating the same things over and over.


THE STORY SO FAR

    Impressive
  • Good texture
  • Excellent variety of flavors
  • Tasty (at least the flavors sampled to date)
    Concerns
  • None at the moment
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LONG-TERM REPORT
April 27, 2011

It has taken me some time, but I have finally eaten my way through the entire box of the Clif Bar assortment. I ate Clif Bars on a 10 mile day hike in mid March on the Archer's Fork Trail in Southern Ohio, but many of them were consumed for lunch, typically after exercising in the morning.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

I have a few general comments about the Clif Bars, and then I will address each of the flavors individually. First of all, I found that if I waited until I was really hungry before I ate a Clif Bar, they did not fill me up. However, I did start to note feeling better after about 15 minutes, which I take to be the time it takes from the nutrients to get from my stomach into my system. When I ate a Clif Bar in anticipation of being hungry in the next half hour (which is the way I usually operate on the trail), it kept me free from hunger for about 4 or 5 hours. The time was somewhat shorter, more like 2-3 hours, when I was exercising hard they way I normally do on the trail. I did not notice a lot of difference among the different flavors in either of these parameters.

The other thing I wanted to mention as a general comment is that some of the Clif Bars became quite hard when exposed to the cold This happened both on the trail, when it was about 40 F/ 4 C and when the Clif Bars were left in my car overnight, with similar temperatures. I did not make note of which bars became extra crunchy in the cold and which ones didn't but I know that both the Cool Mint Chocolate and Maple Nut flavors got quite hard, whereas the Oatmeal Raisin remained quite a bit softer. Regardless of the temperature, the Clif Bars are solid and resistant to crumbling or flaking. I carried a few bars in my work backpack for about 2 weeks. Despite the constant jostling and crushing, they retained their shape essentially no different from bars fresh from the box. I have found this property rather handy for trail food!

Overall, from a nutrition viewpoint, I was quite satisfied with the way the Clif Bars performed. Let me now turn to my impressions of the various flavors tested. These impressions are based on a sample of 3 bars each. In general, I ate the different flavors in a random order so as not to eat 3 of one flavor in a row, or something like that.

Apricot
Out of all the flavors tested, this was probably my least favorite. The flavor is unusual and very sweet. I was expecting it might taste somewhat like dried apricots, but it is much sweeter than that. To me, it has almost a lemony taste, like a lemon-poppy muffin or something like that. I asked my wife, who loves dried apricots, to sample the apricot Clif Bar because I thought she might like it better. In fact, she REALLY couldn't stand it. She told me it tasted "weird", and nothing like apricots!

Banana Nut Bread
When I first tried the banana nut bread flavor, I was impressed by how nutty these bars taste. It had a strong nut taste, which seemed like walnuts to me. The banana taste seemed more like an aftertaste. After eating the first bar, I checked the ingredients list. These bars are indeed made with walnuts and bananas, along with chocolate chips. When I was looking at the bar, I thought there were chips in there but they didn't add much taste that I could discern. When I ate the other bars, I did notice more of a banana taste than I originally thought. All in all, I liked this flavor, despite the fact that it doesn't really taste like banana nut bread (at least not the recipe made by the fabulous Mrs. K). To my mind, the recipe could use more chocolate chips and/or nuts, but that might just be my taste.

Carrot Cake
OK, so maybe I'm picky, but this is another flavor that doesn't really taste as advertised. I found that the Carrot Cake bars don't taste like carrot cake or even carrots really. These bars are also somewhat sweeter than expected, but not nearly as sweet as apricot. The taste is hard to describe, but it is not bad. After sampling all 3 bars, I would say that the flavor of these bars is more piquant than most of the others. I liked it as a change of pace flavor, but I don't think this is one that I would want to eat many times in a row on the trail.

Chocolate Almond Fudge
I'll admit that I am a bit of a choc-o-holic, so I was really looking forward to testing the chocolate-based flavors of Clif Bars. The Chocolate Almond Fudge (or CAF) is really not that sweet, and is probably the least sweet of the chocolate flavors. It has a bit of a coconut taste, but this may really be the flavor from toasted almonds. The almonds are cut up into little pieces so you don't get the big chunks of nuts despite the nutty flavor. I found this to be a good flavor when it was cold out or when I was hungrier than usual, because the CAF bars have a very heavy flavor.

Chocolate Brownie
This flavor is the most chocolate-y of the group, and has a nice blend of chocolate flavor and sweetness. Like the CAF flavor, the chocolate brownie bars are somewhat heavy, but they really seem like a dessert flavor. I'm not usually a big fan of sweets on the trail, but I could see stocking my pack with these babies.

Cool Mint Chocolate
The Cool Mint Chocolate flavor is obtained by having a chocolate flavored bar topped with a mint glaze. Despite the fact that this sounds like it might be a very strong flavor, my first impression of the Cool Mint Chocolate (CMC) bar was that it is relatively bland. It is not nearly as flavorful (neither chocolatey or minty) as a chocolate peppermint candy for example. I don't mean to imply that the bar is bland, just not as strong as taste as anticipated. When I ate the second and third bar, I appreciated the mint flavor more, although the chocolate was still somewhat muted in taste. Since I tend to avoid sweet things on the trail, this is definitely a flavor that would enjoy in the backcountry.

Crunchy Peanut Butter
As noted in the Initial Report, the Crunch Peanut Butter bars are….well, very nutty with the strong flavor of peanuts. They do not really taste like peanut butter, which is another food I often eat on the trail. They are less sweet than most peanut butters. Overall, not a bad flavor, but I found that if I wasn't in a peanut mood, I really didn't want one of these.

Maple Nut
The Maple Nut flavor is also very nutty, but it is the flavor of walnuts, rather than peanuts. There is a maple flavor to the bar, but it is not particularly strong. In other words, this flavor tastes much more like "nut" than "maple". I was expecting the Maple Nut to be sweet like maple syrup, but it is not. Since I like the taste of walnuts, I really liked this flavor. It has just enough of a maple taste to make it delicious.

Oatmeal Raisin Walnut
This bar also has walnuts, but it is much more subtle. Out of all the bars tasted, this one is probably the sweetest next to the apricot flavor. To me, this bar tastes like oatmeal that has a lot of brown sugar in it. I suspect that a lot of the sweetness comes from the raisins, which were also quite plentiful in this bar. It wasn't bad, but I would have preferred more nuts and a little less sweet taste. It did not feel quite as filling to me, probably because of the fact that it is so sweet.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut
When I first tried this flavor, I characterized it as "pleasant, but a little bland." However, after eating bars 2 and 3, I liked the flavor more. It definitely tastes like macadamia nuts, with a somewhat toasty flavor. This flavor also has an icing (which is the white chocolate I think) which gives the bar a bit of a sweet aftertaste. Definitely an excellent choice for those who like macadamia nuts.


SUMMARY

Overall, I have found the Clif Bars to be an excellent source of quick energy that lasts for a few hours. Although they are nearly indestructible, I found some of the flavors a little hard on my teeth when it was cold out. I guess this means I should transfer a bar to my inner jacket pocket for a while before eating it on the trail. I love the fact that Clif Bars come in so many flavors, which makes it likely that I can find varieties to fit the tastes of all my backpacking companions. Out of all the flavors, I would rate my favorites as the Chocolate Brownie and the Maple Nut. However, I would be happy to have a box of any of these out with me for a few days, particularly if I had a variety I could and match to my mood. The only exception might be the Apricot bars. Based on this test, I have already purchased a box of assorted Clif Bars for my next backpacking trip.

Things I liked about the Clif Bars:
  • Great assortment of flavors
  • Give a good boost of energy that lasts a few hours
  • Crushproof and easy to carry
Things I disliked about the Clif Bars:
  • Apricot
  • Bars got hard at temperatures around 40 F/4 C

This concludes my report on the Clif Bar assortment. My thanks once again to Clif Bar and Co. for providing these yummy bars for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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