Energy bars have come a long way. When introduced more than two decades ago, they sacrificed taste for function and were "enjoyed" almost solely by hard-core athletes and hikers. Today, thanks to a boom in competing brands, some are actually worth savoring--while others are still harder to swallow than compressed wood shavings.
To determine the best and worst, 15 Sierra Club staffers blind-tasted and scored bars from 25 companies that work to preserve the environment. Our eaters didn't sugarcoat their opinions: Some bars garnered comments like "looks and tastes like bear scat," "I'd rather have a root canal," "should not be sold to the public," "like sticking your tongue in a mousetrap," and "kitty litter." But other brands pack as much flavor as t hey do nutrients. Here are Sierra's top five in order of how they ranked.
White Chocolate Macadamia
$1.39 | lunabar.com
Fans called it "simply delicious," "natural tasting," and "not too dense" and noted its "nice crunch" and "tempting" appearance. They detected vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a "sweet and salty combo," which inspired comparisons to Rice Krispies Treats and popcorn Jelly Bellies. But not everyone loved this bar. "Weird aftertaste," one complained. "A bit commercial," said another.
Luna bars, marketed to women by the makers of Clif Bars, are 70 percent organic. A portion of the company's proceeds goes toward eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer.
2. OLYMPIC GRANOLA
Almond Chocolate Trail Bar
$2.99 | olympicgranola.com
Raves included "I'd get this for a hike, no doubt," "one of the best," and "I'd eat these every day." Our panel appreciated the "hearty, well-balanced mixture of nuts, oats, seeds, and chocolate"; the "chewy," "light and airy" texture; and that it "looks like food." One naysayer commented that there's "too much going on."
Olympic Granola's corn-syrup-free bars are made of non-genetically-modified ingredients that are grown without chemical sprays.
3. ONE LUCKY DUCK
Chewy Almond Crunch Bar
$6.50 | oneluckyduck.com
Despite being chided as an ugly duckling--one taster said it looked "terrible," and another found its green seeds "off-putting"--One Lucky Duck's taste soared. The "hearty" bar is "well executed" and has "a nice collection of nuts, seeds, honey, and oats accented with raisins," with "just the right amount of moisture, chewiness, and sweetness." "This could be served as a dessert at a nice restaurant," one taster opined.
Handmade in small batches, this pricey bar is from a company that sells only raw, vegan, organic products.
4. CLIF BAR
Cool Mint Chocolate
$1.39 | clifbar.com
"The icing pulls you in and the minty flavor finishes you off," summarized one taster. The bar was called "refreshing," "chewy but not too dense," and "like a Thin Mint." "Caffeine?" someone surmised. (Yes, actually--one of the ingredients is green tea.) Though a few found it "weird" and "too potent," most were "surprised to like this one so much."
Clif Bars are 70 percent organic, and the company engages in many sustainable actions, including diverting most of its waste and using biodiesel for its fleet.
5. HONEY STINGER
Peanut Butter 'n Honey
$1.49 | honeystinger.com
This "crumbly," "simple-looking bar" was divisive. Those who gave it a thumbs-up said it "tastes almost like candy" with an "excellent flavor," "melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter," and a "nice crunch." But those who didn't like it commented on a "terrible chemical flavor." One taster wondered, "Will the chocolate base melt in the heat?"
Honey Stinger is 100 percent wind powered, and employees get time-off credit for carpooling, bicycling, or walking to work. The company recycles all paper, glass, and metal and maintains a community vegetable garden outside of its building.
Click through the jump to see how the rest placed.