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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Probar Sweet and Savory > Test Report by Richard Lyon
SWEET & SAVORY and SUPERFOOD SLAM
Report April 2, 2009
Male, 62 years old
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS
PROBARs are individually-wrapped organic nutritional snacks made with many organic ingredients. Each box of PROBARs states proudly "Vegan - No Trans Fat - Rich in Raw Foods," indicating its manufacturer's marketing focus. On the website PROBAR states "Made from whole, organic, raw foods, and 100 percent vegan, PROBAR is a natural alternative to other nutrition bars which contain unrecognizable, hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Not only are Art’s creations nutritious, but also they actually look appetizing – like real food! Just to top it off, they taste delicious too!"
Manufacturer: PROBAR, LLC. The photos in my Initial Report come from
PROBAR generously furnished a box of twelve in each of three flavors: Superfood Slam, Cran-Lemon Twister, and Cocoa Pistachio. Since receiving these goodies I have eaten one of each so that I can record my initial impressions.
The three flavors have a similar appearance, consistency, and texture. All have the same size, almost-square shape, and weight. While I could easily tell one from another by appearance, mostly color, one general description does apply to all: several of the ingredients are identifiable, as PROBAR advertises. On the Superfood Slam it's the almonds and chocolate chips, on the Twister cranberries, and on the Cocoa Pistachio chocolate chips and several kinds of nuts, including bright green roasted pistachios. None of the bars is particularly sticky, and all hold their shape against light finger pressure yet come apart easily and without undue sticking when bitten into. All are chewy and tasty.
Packaging color and design vary from bar to bar, as may be seen on PROBAR's website, so it should not be difficult to differentiate among them when more than one flavor are in my pack. Each of the packages opened easily when torn at the notch on its edge. When done carefully I was able to open the package without tearing off the small piece of packaging, which bodes well for storing a half-eaten bar in my pack or pocket. As for taste, here are first impressions; I'll give more details after more experience, in my Long Term Report.
Superfood Slam. The predominant (though not overwhelming) taste of this bar is greens, probably what PROBAR calls its "Amazing Grass super-greens blend." I recognized some of the other ingredients when I chewed them, particularly the whole almonds. At left are all the Slam's ingredients, which illustrate PROBAR's emphasis on raw ingredients and bear out its advertising about natural and vegan content.
While the ingredients and some of the numbers change somewhat for other bars (a Cocoa Pistachio bar, for example, has 400 calories), none of the bars has listed a single gram of Trans Fat or Carbohydrates.
Cran-Lemon Twister. No surprise here, cranberries and lemons gave these a tart citrus taste.
Cocoa Pistachio. An understated chocolate flavor, probably due to use of unsweetened chocolate. Quite pleasant (and I'm not a big chocolate fan), and fun to bite into the nuts. Twice a small piece of the bar broke off in my hand during while I was eating it.
I ate two of the three guinea pigs immediately after a vigorous aerobic workout, and while I didn't get a jolt or rush, I did feel less tired five or ten minutes after my snack. I noticed no aftertaste ten minutes after eating a bar.
Enough first impressions; it's time to start testing. Check this channel in two or three months for a full report on the packing, storing, eating, and aftereffects of these bars under various backcountry conditions. Thanks to PROBAR LLC and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test these morsels. This is the first time I can remember looking forward to a vegan meal.
LONG TERM REPORT
The PROBAR goodies have been a big hit with me and with my comrades on the trail. These are the best-tasting energy bars I've ever eaten.
I've eaten the PROBARs supplied for this test for lunch and as a snack while hiking, and I purchased another flavor, Maple Pecan, to try as a breakfast substitute. PROBARs have been an important part of the menu on day hikes, backpack trips, fishing days, and after early morning gym sessions.
Day hiking and backpacking in North Texas and the Hill Country has been at temperatures from 60-95 F (16-35 C), at low or moderate humidity. PROBARs were also in my pack on day hikes near Jackson, Wyoming in mid-June, temperatures 45-65 F (8-18 C), with plenty of rain. Fishing in Montana was in sunny, dry weather at temperatures from 20-50 C (-7 to 10 C). On all these occasions I stored the PROBARs in one of the top pockets of my RIBZ front pack (Test Report available elsewhere on this site). Occasionally I'd stash a PROBAR in the pack alone, but usually (and always when taking more than one) all would be stored in a large zip-top bag that might contain other meal and snack items.
Taste. With any food product taste is the first criterion (maybe the second and third as well). Perhaps the best way to describe the PROBARs I tested is to say that they don't taste like an energy booster, they taste like a homemade dessert. The fruits and nuts taste fresh, there is nothing to overwhelm these ingredients' flavors, and I noticed no lingering aftertaste. Keeping many individual ingredients whole gives these bars a delectable texture; I like biting into a chocolate drop on one bite and a pistachio nut on the next.
My clear favorite taste-wise was the Cran-Lemon Twister, but I am generally partial to tart flavors. These were especially good as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Cocoa Pistachio was equally good as a snack or lunch substitute. They are perhaps the first chocolate-flavored snacks that haven't left my mouth coated and cloying with chocolate and me trying to wash away the aftertaste. I acquired a taste for the Superfood Slam, even though I wouldn't call its taste Sweet & Savory. More sweet than savory, with pecans and raspberries evident along with the "Amazing Grass" referred to in my Initial Report. Good at lunch and as a snack.
Since filing my Initial Report I have tasted four other PROBAR flavors. I had two Art's Original Blend left over from a giveaway package I earned skiing in a telemark race, and I purchased some individual Koka-Moka, Maple Pecan, and Whole Berry Blast bars. I highly recommend Maple Pecan as a backcountry breakfast substitute for pancakes – a wonderful sugary start to the day. All the others were delicious as well, with the Whole Berry Blast ranking a close second to Cran-Lemon Twister as my personal favorite.
Freezing did nothing to deaden the PROBARs' taste. I stored a couple of Superfood Slam bars in my freezer at home for several days, let them thaw at room temperature for about forty-five minutes, and then ate one for breakfast. I found the taste to be as fresh as ever.
Storage. As long as the bars remained in their original packaging I had no problems whatever with storage – no melting, crumbling, cracking, or flattening. Some of this may have been due to keeping the bars in my RIBZ pack, where there has been less chance than in my backpack of meeting up with a sharp corner or overstuffed compartment. As noted in my Initial Report, a Cocoa Pistachio bar occasionally lost a corner when being consumed from the package, a minor annoyance. This hasn't happened with any other flavor.
While the plastic packaging on the PROBARs has thus far proven impermeable to inadvertent tears, not all of the packages have a visible notch that I can use to open the package quickly with one hand and without a scissors or knife. Trying to locate a weak spot for fingers-only opening has been frustrating at times.
Dosage. Two of the flavors supplied for this test have 350 calories per bar; Cocoa Pistachio has 400. All other flavors listed on the website fall within this range. That's about twice as much as I care to eat for a single mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, making a PROBAR the perfect treat to share with my hiking partner (except the Superfood Slam; she doesn't like raspberries). Sharing or saving some for later is easy; the bars break apart with gentle pressure and without crumbling. If I'm alone I can use the excess packaging (note the difference between package size and bar size given in my Initial Report) to wrap up the uneaten portion for the next break. The PROBARs' generous size and caloric content make them, for me at least, a full breakfast or late lunch.
I can't really say that PROBARs deliver a punch more or less effectively than other energy food I've tried. 200 calories of any kind boosts my energy and, if the calories come from something as tasty as a PROBAR, my spirits as well. Lack of an aftertaste helps avoid any sense of eating too much or feeling sluggish, and I have not noticed a marked trough in energy following an initial sugar high.
WHAT I LIKE
WHAT I'D CHANGE
I'd like to see them available in a smaller size.
More attention to the notch on the package, so I could open one reliably one-handed.
A WORD ABOUT PRICE
Here's PROBAR's answer to the Frequently Asked Question "Why is the PROBAR more expensive than other bars?": "PROBAR is made with premium, whole food ingredients and weighs a whopping 3.0 ounces. Check our price per ounce and you will find that we are very competitively priced." The latter statement does not pass muster with me. At $3 US per bar (when buying by the package) a PROBAR costs about one dollar an ounce or 1.25 cents per gram. That's more than twice as expensive as any other energy bar I've seen at health food stores or outdoor emporia. I've never paid great attention to organic or vegan products, so these characteristics of the PROBAR don't justify the price premium for me. But the great taste surely does; a PROBAR or two are likely to be in my pack on many future hikes.
My Test Report ends
here. Fortunately that doesn't mean that
I have to stop eating PROBARs. My thanks
to PROBAR, LLC and BackpackGearTest.org for the testing opportunity.
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon
Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Probar Sweet and Savory > Test Report by Richard Lyon