What’s the Best Tasting Protein Bar? | Protein Bar Reviews & Ratings

[ 22 ] April 26, 2008 |

We Reviewed and Compared Four of the Leading High-Protein Energy Bars to See Which Ones Are Tops in Taste

Protein bars have gone mainstream. No longer found solely in the bottom of bodybuilders’ gym bags, protein bars are now turning up in airplane snack carts, in gas stations, vending machines, party-stores, and even people’s desk drawer at the office. Sales of protein and energy bars have exploded over the past ten years, from $200 million in sales in 1997 to over $1 billion in 2003.Picture of a High Protein Energy Bar

But not all protein bars are created equal when it comes to nutrition and flavor. Despite having lots of protein, many protein and energy bars also come with a hefty serving of sugar, along with a list of arcane ingredients that only a PhD in food science could pronounce and decipher.

The Protein Bar Tasters Challenge 

So I decided to assemble a 13 person team of intrepid taste-testers to discover which of the protein bars were tops when it came to flavor.

For this round of taste testing, we focused on energy bars that had a minimum of 20 grams of protein. Each taster was given a sample of four top protein bar brands, along with a rating sheet for each. The testers were asked to rate the bar on 1-5 scale (with one being “inedible” and five being “yummy”) in two categories: flavor and texture. They were then asked to provide an overall rating, along with any tasting comments.

And then I asked them the ultimate question: “Would ever eat it again?”

Scores are based on an average rating for each category.

The Protein Bars Tested

The brands I chose to review for this round were:

  • Met-RX Big 100 Bar (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) Meal Replacement Bar
  • Clif Builders Cocoa Dipped Double Decker Crisp Bar (Peanut Butter)
  • Think Thin Creamy Peanut Butter High Protein Bar
  • Detour Carmel Nut Protein Energy Bar from Designer Whey
Who Were the Tasters?

I chose the tasters at random from across the Marketing Team at the office. The sample included a good mix of people who regularly ate energy bars and those who ate them infrequently or never. The sample also was balanced for gender and age. 


So without further ado, let’s take a look at what our tasters found.

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MET-Rx Big 100 Bar (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) Meal Replacement Bar

Price: $3

The MET-Rx Big 100 Bar was the second highest in protein of all of the energy bars we reviewed, with 28 grams of protein per serving. It was also the highest in calories, sugar and carbohydrates and the lowest in fiber. Most of the sugars come from high-fructose corn syrup.MET-Rx High Protein Bar - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Flavor

Our tasters were decidedly mixed on the flavor of this bar. Most people didn’t think it tasted like cookie dough, but rather like a soft graham cracker. People also seemed to be put off by its texture, commenting that it was “gooey,” “very sticky” and somewhat grainy. One person compared it to cardboard and another observed that it had a strange “metallic” taste.

Taster Ratings:

Flavor: 2.5
Texture: 2.4
Overall Rating: 2.3

Would You Eat It Again?

No: 9
Yes: 3
N/A: 1

Comments:

Bethany:Tastes more like a graham cracker. Too chewy. Typical nutrition bar”

Kelly: “Tastes like a graham cracker, NOT cookie dough. Yuck.”

Ryan: “Not so good …”

Kriste: “Cardboard tasting, I’d eat as a last resort.”

Art: “It does taste like cookie dough.”

Courtney: “Does NOT taste like cookie dough … grainy texture … and STICKY!”

MET-Rx Big 100 Protein Bar Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1 Protein Bar 

Calories: 360
Calories From Fat: 45
Total Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Sodium: 200mg
Potassium: 500mg
Total Carbohydrate: 51 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 25 g
Protein: 27 g
 

Ingredients:

Corn syrup, metamyosyn protein blend (milk protein concentrate, calcium sodium caseinate, whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, dried egg white, partially hydrolyzed soybean oil, l-glutamine), chocolate chips {chocolate drops (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, dextrose, soy lechithin, salt, artificial flavor), confectioner’s glaze (shellac, beeswax), gum arabic, corn syrup}, vitamin and minerals (potassium chloride, magnesium oxide, tricalcium phosphate, beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, niacinamide, ferrous fumarate, dicalcium phosphate, retinyl palmitate, zinc oxide, calcium d-pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, manganese sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, copper gluconate, folic acid, biotin, sodium molybdate, potassium iodide, phytonadione, sodium selenite, cyanocobalamin), natural and artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, vanilla creme(fructose, maltodextrin, water, modified corn starch, salt, carrageenan, natural flavors), glycerin, brown sugar.

Clif Builder’s Cocoa Dipped Double Decker Crisp Bar (Peanut Butter)

Price: $2

The Clif Builder’s high-protein bar was nutritionally the best protein bar in the group.  Unlike many of the other bars, it contains no corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup and had a fair amount of fiber. Carbs and sugar were still a bit high, but its ingredient list wasn’t filled with hard to understand ingredients.CLif Builder's High Protein Bar - Peanut Butter Flavor

The Clif Builder’s bar also did quite well in terms of taste with our reviewers.

Most people described it as crunchy and crisp with good flavor, and one person actually compared it to a Watchamacallit candy bar.  A few people thought it was a little dry and ”sandy” and didn’t have enough peanut butter in it.  Overall, however, this bar was a winner with eight of our reviewers who indicated that they would eat the Clif Builder’s protein bar again. 

Taster Ratings:

Flavor: 4
Texture: 3.8
Overall Rating: 3.7

Would You Eat It Again?

No: 2
Yes: 8
N/A: 2
Maybe: 1

Comments:

Bethany:Tastes more like a real candy bar! I would eat as a dessert. Yum!”

Kelly:Tastes like a Snickers.”

Ryan: “Not enough peanut butter.”

Nicole: “It had a nice combination of crunchy and chewy texture. Tasted like a candy bar.”

Art: “Tasted ‘sandy’ and not very peanut buttery.”

Courtney: “Like the soft/crunchy combination of taste and texture. Tastes more like a ‘sweet treat’ than a protein bar.”

Lisa:Like the crunchy texture.”

Chris: “Multitude of textures. It’s like a health nut’s Whatchamacallit candy bar”

Josh: “Holds very true to a real candy bar …”

Clif Builder’s High Protein Energy Bar Nutritional Information
Serving Size (bar) 1

Calories: 270
Fat Calories: 70
Total Fat:  8 g
Sat. Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 260 mg
Potassium: 250 mg
Total Carbs:  30 g
Dietary Fiber:  4 g
Sugars: 19 g
Proteins: 20 g

Ingredients:

Soy Protein Isolate, Chicory Syrup, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Palm Kernel Oil, Dry Roasted Peanuts, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Soy Protein Concentrate, Cocoa, Vegetable Glycerin, Natural Flavors, Peanut Flour, Rice Starch, Inulin (Chicory Extract), Cocoa Butter, Salt, Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Soy Lecithin, Organic Sunflower Oil.

thinkTHIN Creamy Peanut Butter High Protein Bar

Price: $2

The thinkTHIN high protein bar, from Think Products, is billed on the company’s website as one of the “top rated bars in the natural industry.” I included this bar in the taste test because is was gluten and sugar free and because, frankly, I thought it had a cool label and package. Created by a Lizanne Falsetto, a former fashion model, I kind of had high hopes for this protein bar.thinkTHIN High Protein Bar Peanut Butter

Unfortunately, my tasters set me straight.

This was clearly the least favorite protein bar of the bunch with our tasters. In the flavor category, it barely broke a “1″ — although it did slightly better in terms of texture.

Several people commented that this energy bar had a strange ”aftertaste” and none of our reviewers thought it actually tasted like peanut butter. One person quipped that you’ll be “thin after eating this protein bar because you’ll never want to eat again.”

Taster Ratings:

Flavor: 1.3
Texture: 2.2
Overall Rating: 1.3

Would You Eat It Again?

No: 13
Yes: 0

Comments:

Bethany: “Horrible aftertaste! Blaah!”

Kelly: “Bad aftertaste.

Nicole: “Tastes kind of like BEEF! But has the texture of extra thick peanut butter. Very weird.”

Ryan: “You’ll be thin because you won’t want to eat again.”

Art: “No flavor.”

Courtney: “AWFUL! Tastes like dog food and dust!”

Lisa: “Tastes like ass.”

Chris: “Um …. I’m speechless.”

Josh: “Horrible. Grade ‘F’”

Jen: “Creamy texture was okay, but taste was not good.”

Vickie: “Yucky. There is NO peanut butter taste!”

Kriste: “Tastes like nothing. I could not force myself to eat this.”

thinkTHIN Protein Bar Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1 bar (60g)

Calories: 240
Calories From Fat: 80
Total Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 3.5g
Trans Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Sodium: 260mg
Potassium: 80mg
Total Carbohydrate: 25g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 0g
Sugar Alcohol: 13g
Other Carbohydrates: 9g
Protein: 20g

Ingredients:

Protein Blend (Calcium Caseinate, Soy Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate), Coating (Maltitol, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate Liquor, Sodium Caseinate, Dairy Oil, Soya Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Salt), Glycerin, Maltitol Syrup, Ground Peanuts, Cocoa Butter, Water, Peanut Flour, Natural Flavors, Soya Lecithin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt., Vitamins And Minerals: Ascorbic Acid, D-Alpha Tocopherol, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Electrolytic Iron, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Copper Gluconate, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin B12.

Detour Carmel Nut Protein Energy Bar from Designer Whey

Price: $2.09

The Detour Carmel Nut protein bar was the clear winner in our taste test, nudging out Clif Builder’s for the title “Best Tasting Protein Bar.” 

Extremely high in protein (30 grams) this bar was a hit with nearly every person.Detour High Protein Energy Bar - Caramel Peanut Flavor Relatively low in carbohydrates and sugar, the bar’s only nutritional sins are its high sodium content (490 mg) and fat content, which was higher than any of the other bars (11 grams.) Like the MET-Rx bar, the Detour Carmel Nut protein bar was also a bit higher in calories than the other products reviewed. Also, it’s sweetened with sucrolose, so if you are trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, you might want to pass on this particular energy bar.

Our tasters loved this bar, describing it as having great flavor, and tasting like a real candy bar, but less sugary.  Several people noted that the bar had real peanuts in it, which gave it a great chunky, but chewy texture. One person commented that while it initially tasted great, it did have a slightly “bitter” aftertaste (this could be the artificial sweetener.)

Taster Ratings: Flavor: 4.4
Texture: 4
Overall Rating: 4.3
Would You Eat It Again?
No: 1
Yes: 11
N/A: 1
 
Comments:Bethany: “Tasty!”Kelly: “Strong peanut flavor — light and fluffy.”Nicole: “Had a great flavor like real nuts and caramel. The texture was a little chewy (I don’t like chewy.)”Ryan: “Like a candybar.”Art: “Good!”Courtney: “Tastes great! My favorite by far!”Lisa: “This is a winner! Tastes like a candybar.”Chris: “Very good. Good nutty flavor.”Josh: “Very easy to chew and swallow. No funky aftertaste.”Jen: “Tastes like a candybar!”

Vickie: “Good flavor at first, and then turned bitter.”

Kriste: “Best of all of them, sort of like a Snickers bar, but less sugary.”

Detour Deluxe Whey Protein Energy Bar Nutritional Information
Serving Size 1 bar (80g)

Calories: 310
Fat Calories: 90
Total Fat: 10 g
Sat. Fat : 4 g
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium: 480 mg
Potassium: 150 mg
Total Carbs: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Sugars:12 g
Protein: 30 g

Ingredients: 

Designer Whey Protein Blend (whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed whey protein, pduf whey protein isolate), water, Glycerlean™ (99.7% USP glycerine, L-leucine, L-taurine, CLA), chocolate coating (sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat dry milk solids, cocoa processed with alkali, whole milk solids, soy lecithin, natural flavor, salt, artificial flavor), peanuts, caramel, soy protein isolate, gelatin, calcium caseinate, inulin, peanut flavor, rice flour, salt, sucralose (Splenda® brand), potassium sorbate.

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Category: Diet and Nutrition, Product Reviews and Ratings

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  1. LEXY (1 comments) says:

    uh not good!

  2. Brad (3 comments) says:

    Great post, a few years ago I was a distributor for a MLM health and nutrition company and they did fantastic protein bars, time moves on and so did I but I miss them bars

  3. D Rodgers (1 comments) says:

    Fission Energy Bars, a healthy snack energy bar made with all natural ingredients including soy and real fruit and no corn syrup, have been added to the iNutrition weight loss and fitness good health for a long life nutrition product line.
    http://www.fissionbars.com

  4. KT (1 comments) says:

    Just recently, I ordered a vegetable protein powder from bodybuilding.com. They included (as a gift) one single protein bar called (Brand: Optimum) LIFT! Bar. The flavor was Peanut Butter.

    I promise you I have never in my entire life eaten a protein bar this good! I am addicted! It vaguely reminds me of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup – but it has a much better texture and tastes much better, lighter.

    Unlike most nutrition bars, this one definitely has ZERO protein powder health food flavor.. it tastes so wrong – that it’s soooo right.

    I have been calling around to every nutrition store in Seattle (where I live) and no one is carrying it yet – apparently it’s new, which would explain why it came free with my purchase.

    I wrote an e-mail to Optimum (and called them) to find out how I could get more – but they’re pretty expensive through their web site.

    I did tell them, however, that I would be glad to advertise the Lift! bar in any commercial or radio or .. anything .. for free.

    Obviously I’m a huge fan – Please try this for your next tasting!!

    -KT

  5. Jesse (2 comments) says:

    This review is not an apples to apples comparison.

    Given the benefit of the doubt that we’re just comparing taste here, whey protein, being arguably more effective than soy protein, will take a different recipe to taste enjoyable and vice versa.

    Big 100 may have not ranked high here, but in comparison to it’s class of bars, whey protein blends, it’s one of the better tasting ones out IMO.

    I’m not a heavy bodybuilder but do keep fit and try to replace 1 or 2 meals a week with a protein bar, researching into the different contents of each can dramatically improve your fitness results.

  6. Matt (194 comments) says:

    Jesse, thanks for stopping by. I know that the Clif product is heavy on soy … but my main objective was to compare protein and energy bars that had similar total protein levels.  In my opinion, this is apples-to-apples from that perspective.

    But you are correct that this was primarily a taste test, and not a one-for-one comparison of protein bars with the same identical types of protein (which, frankly, would be very difficult to do considering how different each brands ingredients and mixtures are.)

  7. the mtn man (1 comments) says:

    my fav is Mt-n-Man Chia Bars found at http://www.mtnmanchiabar.com they taste great and are moist with all the good stuff in them. they are a natural bar too.

  8. Jamie (1 comments) says:

    I was part of this free sample offer from this up and coming business last year.  They sent out these homemade samples of protein bars.  There was a low carb one, and even a bread one tasted like german choc cake with a mix of banana bread.  I forget the other two but they were unlike anything I had ever tasted!!  And they were natural!  Yeah I have a huge fitness fanatic so I have had my fair share of cardboard bars these were really good. 

  9. nate (4 comments) says:

    This is a great new idea in the way of protein bars. Its a protein bar pack.  The ingredents are all 100% natural. Its a no back recipe pack that makes 12 protein bars at less then half the price of most protein bars. On there web site they list a whole bunch of different recipes you can make with the protein bar pack. All of them simple,no bake and take less then 2 mins each. Low carb,lower fat,high cals,bulk bars, low sugar and more.

     Looking at whats in all protein bars on the shelf these days its amassing no one came up with this idea sooner.  A way to get 100% natural protein bars and for less then half the price of other bars. Not a single thing on there ingredents list is a hard to read forum substance. Its perfect and they taste amassing
    [email protected]
     

  10. nate (4 comments) says:

    http://needtobuildmuscle.com/

    why did this site delete my post.

  11. nate (4 comments) says:

    if a bar comes already wrapped and can sit on a shelf for more then a month then there is no way on this earth for it to be 100% natural. That is all lies

  12. nate (4 comments) says:

    OOOOOOOOO I see.  This site don’t want to know what people really want to say. It picks and choices lolol what a joke

  13. Matt (194 comments) says:

    Nate, relax bro. You’re getting all bent out of shape over nothing.  You submitted you comment at 8:52 last night, and then started to get belligerant at 11 pm when it hadn’t been approved yet.

    Here’s how it works: I review all comments as owner of this site and approve nearly everything, unless they are obvious spam or comments that clearly are intended to drive affliate clicks or sales.

    In your case, I think your comments straddle a fine line between participating in the discussion here and self-interest in driving clicks to your nutrition bars.

    However, the real reason that they weren’t approved last night is that I usually review them in the a.m the next day and then push them live. You commented later in the evening, and I didn’t see them until this morning.

    No foul.

    A suggestion: In the future if you want someone to take you seriously and consider your product, approach them personally through email and ask them to check out what you are offering. Simply posting your pitch in a comment and then posting additional comments within minutes of each other taunting the website or linking back to your site isn’t going to make people very open to your product.

    I would be glad to review your bars and have some people try them out and provide an independent opinion of them. Please contact me directly via the form on the site and we can talk off line.

    BTW, it is possible to create an "all natural" bar that has a shelf-life of more than 1 month. I get your point, and your product sounds interesting, but the CLIF Bar, for example, does not contain any artificial preservatives.

    The main issue with bars is around rancidity of oils — but most oils are heat and light stable for at least 3 months. So if they are properly packaged and regularly rotated, there is really very little need for preservatives.

    BTW, I would not classify Detour or Met-RX as "all-natural" or preservative free, because they aren’t. This was primarily a taste test with some nutritional analysis. 

    Contact me directly and we can give your bars a look.

  14. JR (1 comments) says:

    Has any one tried a Raw bar called Miracle Reds?  I tried it and it is very tasty and has probioticts. Here is there website for you to look into. http://www.miraclereds.com

  15. Rich (2 comments) says:

    I’ve read that the company that makes Detour bars has filed for bankruptcy.  This is a shame, because IMO they produced the best-tasting, less than 15g of sugar, protein bar on the market.  A can of soda has about 40-45g of sugar in it.  Some of these protein bars have 20-30g of sugar (meaning it’s like drinking 1/2 to 3/4 of a can of soda).  I have reactive hypoglycemia, so I cannot eat any protein bar that has more than 12-15g of sugar (plus I really don’t think ingesting that much sugar at any one meal is good for you in any way).  Does anyone know of any other good tasting protein bars that have less than 15g of sugar in them, since it looks like Detour bars won’t be around much longer?  Thanks. 

  16. Cheryl (2 comments) says:

    On pure taste alone, Muscle Brownie from Lenny & Larry’s is by far the best tasting. May not fit the bill for low sugar, low carbs, but it is all natural and isn’t loaded with soy protein like Clif Bars. 

  17. J. Garrison (1 comments) says:

    I’m a bodybuilder and I’ve been training for over 10 years.  Needless to say I’ve tried more protein bars than I can even remember.  I’ve finally found a bar that I can eat and actually look forward to having.  Supreme Protein Carb-consicious Carmel nut bars.  They taste like a cross between a kit-kat and twix candy bar.  They have 30 grams of protein and only 4 impact carbs. (sugar) The fat content is high at 15 grams. The texture is firm and crisp but not chewy like many bars.  There is no hint of a chemical protein aftertaste. I have used Detour caramel nut bars for years and honestly got so sick of them.  I have never had a protein bar that I actually crave.  I do travel extensively so I eat these bars more than the normal person might at around 1-2 boxes of 12 per week.  That’s how much I like them and can actually still look forward to having.

  18. David S (1 comments) says:

    I was at Gold’s Gym this weekend and a new vendor named Benedetto was handing out samples of their protein chocolates. At first I thought, great, here’s a chocolate company trying to get into the protein bar space… but, to my surprise, when I read the label… the little bits were packing 18 grams of protein! Apparently they’re actually a high protein core that is then flavored with natural ingredients and covered in organic dark chocolate. Interesting… So I decided to try it out. I took a bite and it was soft and incredibly delicious, I was in heaven. They’re FREAKING AMAZING! I thought I was eating a Godiva chocolate or something luxurious. I have been eating protein bars for years now and I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed one as much as I enjoyed Benedetto. I highly recommend you try them out..

    I had the Cubetti Mini Espresso, here’s the nutritional stats from their site:

    18g protein
    4.4g Sugar
    5.2g Fat

    Ingredients (all natural):
    Protein blend (whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate), glycerol, Dark Chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, chocolate liquor processed with alkali, cocoa butter, butterfat (milk), soy lecithin, and vanilla), water, natural flavors, Coffee.

    Go check them out:  www.benedettofoods.com

  19. Wahab Mohammed (1 comments) says:

    The best tasting protein product HAS to be ViSalus Vi-Pak. I really havent found anything even remotely close to it in taste. It tastes like cake batter!!

    http://www.MyViVenture.com is the place to get it from.

  20. Scott (5 comments) says:

    Some good choices here. Out of all of them I’d recommend the Clif’s. Great tasting and did the job. Although I’ve now resulted to making my own as they’re cheaper and I know exactly what is in them, and best of all they only take 10 minutes to make! Check out my blog if you want to try for yourself.

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