Written by Adam, GrubGrade Contributor
Granola bars are like sports teams. We’re given a healthy dose of experience with a select few by way of our parents, and even at a very young age we develop fierce loyalties to one or two above all others. Recently I decided to check out a new bar that caught my eye, the Sweet and Salty Crunch Toffee Almond Granola Bar from Quaker.
If you grew up in the 1990s and brought your lunch to school like I did, chances are the ubiquitous Quaker chewy granola bar found its way into said lunch box on more than one occasion. As you got older perhaps your mom grew bolder in her shopping pursuits, and maybe you even found yourself in possession of a Nature Valley Oats and Honey bar or even a Kudos bar from time to time. These bars are familiar, and they are sweet. Both from a taste standpoint, and in terms of their awesomeness. Relying basically on such time-tested concepts as chocolate tastes good, oats suck without sugar, and who wants to eat anything too complex anyway, the aforementioned granola bars earned their way into the hearts (and stomachs) of millions of Americans. At some point things changed however, and now “granola bar” conjures up images of literally dozens of different objects, some of them even tasting like snack food. You’ve got your healthy bars, your kids bars, and of course the always hit-or-miss performance/athletic bars. Heck, nowadays you’ve even got eight or nine different major brands of “all natural bars.” (Please. If you didn’t go dig it out of your back yard there is no way these things are all natural. And you know what, that’s more than fine with me. A little HFCS does a body good anyway.)
Another new type of granola bar to that seems to be springing up are those of the “sweet and salty” variety. Marketed by the likes of companies like Quaker and Nature Valley, these bars harness the taste and complexity of a food fad which I have been told is all the rage these days, and not just in Europe either. As for these particular bad boys, Quaker bills them as having a “rich, decadent flavor of toffee and salty nuts” while being baked to a “light and crispy crunch.” They are also touted as having 30% less fat than other leading sweet and salty granola bars, which I’m guessing refers to the Nature Valley product line. I’m not a big fan of nuts, but the toffee flavor intrigued me enough that I felt expeditious enough to give it a go. My first bite was – from a flavor standpoint – actually quite good, with a nice initial toffee flavor and subtle saltiness coming in after chewing. From there however it was all downhill. Crunch wise these things feel hollow; it’s more of snap really, almost completely opposite to the “hard” crunch feel of Nature Valley’s more recognizable products. Once more the almonds are dominated by huge chunks of peanuts during certain bites, which overwhelm you with saltiness and mask the toffee flavor of the bar. Worse yet, the bars are fairly truncated, leaving only room for a few bites before finishing. By the time I was done I felt confused. I got salty at times, I got sweet at times, and I’m pretty sure I got both in the same bite. There just was no “wow” factor in terms of this great pairing everyone seems to talk about.
I’m not going to say this bar sucked, but I will say that it won’t be making my short list of snack items anytime soon. Maybe it’s because I’m a simpleton when it comes to this whole sweet and salty food fad, but I just don’t get it. For my crunchy granola bars I’ll be sticking with my good old standby in Nature Valley’s Oats and Honey, which unlike Quaker’s Sweet and Salty Crunch Toffee Almond doesn’t involve too much thinking on my part.
Pros: Toffee Flavor in a granola bar feels exciting and bold. Subtle, complex sweetness of the bar works well and feels “natural” without the annoying marketing of being organic. The almonds are not overpowering. Less calories and fat than Nature Valley bars.
Cons: Salty/Sweet fad is too chic for me. No “wow” factor. Peanuts dominate certain bite and overwhelm with saltiness. Has a weird and hollow crunch. Ingredient list includes partially hydroginated oils, likely leading to mass hysteria among soccer moms. Non-milk chocolate covered peanuts leave me mourning the days of kudos bars in my power rangers lunchbox.
GrubGrade: 6.75/10 (Mediocre)
Price: $2.99 Box of 6
Serving Size: 2 Bars
Fat: 5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Trans Fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 210 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 25 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2 grams
Sugars: 9 grams
Protein: 3 grams