03 August 2012

Review: Good 'n Natural Whole Food Energy Bars

I was recently sent a selection of four energy bars from Good 'n Natural, a local New York manufacturer.  And since FedEx delivered them just after dinner, Walt and I decided to do a taste test as dessert. 

Since I was expecting them, I had done a little research and discovered that the company was founded by an athlete and a caterer who wanted “to create a wholesome, great-tasting nutrition bar.”  

The website mentions the popularity of their products, so we were really looking forward to them.  Walt doesn’t generally eat energy bars, preferring candy instead but I eat two or three a week when school is in session and I am need something filling between classes or during study marathons at the library.

We tried the lemon first and it smelled lemony and fruity.  The taste was okay but not what I was expecting from the smell.  Unfortunately, the ingredient list states that they use “natural lemon flavoring.”  This generally means that they use extracts rather than lemon juice, which tends to leave a chemical aftertaste due to the alcohol content.  Very often extracts are used to enhance fragrance rather than for taste.  The label also listed “other natural flavors” a phrase I never like to see.  About a minute after tasting the lemon, I got a weird muddy aftertaste.

The peanut butter was next which smelled and tasted fine but which also had a muddy aftertaste.  The cranberry almond was the best flavor for me, but Walt spit it out when it brought back a childhood memory of prolonged illness and cranberry flavored medicine.  Not the fault of the bar, certainly, but disconcerting nonetheless.  This bar also featured “natural flavors,” which can be anything, and the perplexing addition of citric acid.  Citric acid is usually added to packaged foods to give the product a tartness that doesn’t exist in the more pure form of the ingredients.  Were the dried cranberries not tart enough?

Finally, we moved on to the chocolate.  It smelled like dark chocolate but the taste was not at all like chocolate in any form.  It tasted like dark molasses and left a burned sugar taste in my mouth.  Cocoa powder was listed 12th out of 19 ingredients.  

To be fair to Good 'n Natural in case the bars simply didn't agree with my dinner, I put the remainder of the bars away and tried them again in the morning.  The taste had not changed for most of the bars, but the lemon had lost most of its fragrance and all of its flavor, leaving a flavorless oat bar.

I am completely stymied as to why a company that wants to make organic, natural energy bars that appeal to the health conscious vegan would use extracts and additives rather than the real flavors.  For those of us who eat fewer junk foods and more whole foods, the taste is unappealingly fake and muddy.   Unfortunately, my inquiries to the company have gone unanswered.

I want ALL vegan companies to succeed so this is especially disappointing.  Since one of the co-founders has many friends who like these energy bars, according to the website, there appears to be a market for them.  However, I won’t be buying them, and I’m afraid I can’t recommend them.  I hope they change to a more natural flavoring policy in the future.

Fianna MacGregor | Blog | Blog | Twitter | Email
New York City Fianna has been vegan for 36 years. She is currently working on a second M.A. in Human Rights from NYU. When she isn’t veganizing every cookbook she can get her hands on, she’s working her urban farm in New York City. She also writes extensively on veganism, running and green living. Her newest project is to trace everything she buys to find out if it’s cruelty-free (both animal and human) and eco-friendly. Fianna and her fiancĂ© are animal rescuers of dogs, cats and birds.

Photo credit: Good 'n Natural Whole Food Energy Bars Disclaimer: A sample was provided by Good 'n Natural Whole Food Energy Bars