For those who aren’t already aware, Larabar is a brand of energy-bar type food product. They are typically found in the energy-bar section of a grocery store. So why would this fall into my Mother Earth Monday postings? Several reasons; first is that they are absolutely wonderful as food for hiking, second is that the company really does live up to the earth-friendly mantra, and lastly is that they are healthful.
In the interest of disclosure, I will clarify a few things before moving on to discuss the product. While some of my reviews will include affiliated links, this one does not. When I contacted the company to find if they had a link they used with bloggers, the answer was no. They then went on to offer me free samples of the product. Said samples turned out to be full sized bars rather than the sample sizes I would have expected. At no time has the company tried to coax a better review out of me. They have however been very helpful in providing anything I might need to complete a review regardless of what the outcome might be.
With that out of the way, let me begin by saying how much I love this company and their product. I did not once have one while hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I wish I had. This has become my go-to bar for hiking and camping. I will address the aspects of the bars, the company and the individual flavors in a moment and then make mention of what didn’t work for me.
First off, the product had me at hello almost. As long as the taste was acceptable, it was going to get high marks. I make a point of glancing over the label of anything I eat. Some items that can appear are instant negatives on a product because of their health risks. Even if not known as being dangerous, many ingredients can end up being modified GMO byproducts or petroleum based.
Don’t think that eating ‘Organic’ means you are entirely safe from this. Certain less than natural products are allowed by law in ‘Organic’ goods thanks to a bit of lobbying. When I turn over a package of Larabar, I see as few as 2 ingredients on some and rarely more than four or five. Of those, dates is always first on the list, most likely for the sugars and nutritional quality as well as the ability to hold everything together. Next is a nut of some sort, typically almond. After that, the rest are always simple and real. No mono- dextro- or any other thing that twists the tongue. Cherry, blueberry, chocolate chip, etc. Unsweetened fruit means that the few cases they do use a concentrate, it isn’t a code-word for sugar as is the case so often with pear, apple or grape concentrates in other products available.
Clearly from the ingredient list, one realizes something is special about the way this company works. There is a proud display of the fact that all of the fruits are unsweetened and that the bars all follow a large number of special dietary needs. These include kosher, gluten free, vegan and raw (though they do not label them as such due to a lack of any market standard). Most of the bars are also soy free and all are dairy free, though they do not state this on the label of those bars with chocolate chips due to a very minute chance of cross-contamination from the supplier.
The company even goes so far as to ensure that the wrappers of the bars themselves are recyclable. I like the fact that they are moving in a very good direction. They are one part of a larger whole of course, but it is certainly the right direction.
Most of the bars have roughly the same texture. It reminds me a lot of cookie dough, but a bit thicker. Almost all of them have nuts, as well as many having bits of fruit mixed through, so there is some texture variation beyond that. There isn’t much to say on texture beyond that aside from the fact that it doesn’t vary much when cool or warm. Slightly thicker when chilled, but aside from the ones with chocolate, there is nothing to melt when they get warm. Bonus there for hiking in the summer.
This is the important one. All of the rest is meaningless if they don’t taste good. Obviously I already said a bit on this, but let me explain further. Of the main line of bars (those I am reviewing), I have had nearly every available flavor. In all of those flavors, only one wasn’t at least good to me. I didn’t care for the Cappuccino. That wasn’t really a surprise since I am not a coffee drinker. I did check with a few others who were coffee fans and they didn’t care for it either.
Many of the bars have names that evoke a sense of flavor and texture, such as Coconut Cream Pie or Chocolate Chip Brownie. My opinion on this is that most of them didn’t match up with the name well. Tropical Fruit Tart, Cherry Pie, Blueberry Muffin and Peanut Butter and Jelly were probably the most spot-on for their names. One down side, for me anyway, was that most of those that were made to taste like fruitless items, like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bar, still had a fruity note to them. I imagine this is unavoidable thanks to the dates and isn’t a huge detraction, but is worth being aware of before taking a bite.
If I had to pick just one, Cherry Pie would be it. They absolutely got it right on this one. The subtle level of sweet and tart mingling along with the texture that reminds me of the crust of a good cherry pie after taking a bite is amazing. Out of the ballpark for me and certainly going to show up in a lot of my hikes. Tropical Fruit Tart and Blueberry Muffin are close runner-ups that made for a tough choice.
To date, only two brands are bar have ever been worth my time for hiking and camping. The first are Luna Bars. Before you say it, yes I know they are supposed to be for women, but they taste so darn good. I can balance out the vitamin issues with the other things I eat while hiking. If a bar tastes bad, I wont eat it and that isn’t doing me any good.
Larabars taste good, which puts them on equal footing. What puts them heads above is the fact that they are appealing on so many more levels than just taste and calories. They stay in step with my philosophies. They are something I can share with others regardless of special dietary needs outside of those with nut allergies. They are free of GMOs and are made from simple, natural foods. The company has proven more than cooperative and confident in their product. They are everything I could ever want out of my energy bars.
In the future, I might do reviews of some of their other products. As of this writing, I have not tried their Uber, Alt or Jocalat bars. I encourage you to go to their website and look over their products and company information for yourself. Certainly I would recommend you buy a few of the bars and give them a try. I suspect that they will become one of your own go-go bars for the next trip you take. They might even find a place in your daily life just as an enjoyable snack. They’ve certainly done so in mine.
As a frequent hiker/backpacker, I’ve found these bars fit my requirements. However in the interest of disclosure, I’m also a fan of “Cliff” bars.