RECENTLY, KRAFT FOODS SENT ME FREE PRODUCT SAMPLES and a gift card to conduct a taste test of a new milk and granola bar. I can only hope Kraft did it’s due diligence and discovered my feelings on most processed foods before deciding to contact me… Anyway, here’s how the test unfolded in my kitchen.
THE SET UP
For comparison, I bought two granola bars my kids have enjoyed in the past: Annie’s Organic Chocolate Chipper and and Clif Crunch Granola Bar (not “organic” but “made with organic whole grains.”) The Kraft products we were comparing to were: Kraft Milk Bite Milk and Granola Bars strawberry and chocolate flavors.
I served samples to Nate (age 8), Van (age 5), and myself (age of a mommy). Nate and Van, while not blindfolded, didn’t know what we were tasting other than they were granola bars. Since we don’t often have granola bars in the house, they didn’t identify which was the “new” bar. I, of course, knew which bars I was sampling since I coordinated the test, so you might want to take that into consideration.
Here are the results of the taste test. Results are based solely on our experiences and beliefs about Kraft products. Further product details, along with my thoughts about the product content beyond just taste, are below.
Nate: Nate loved both Milk Bites, ate all the taste test samples and asked for more. He liked the flavor, sweetness, and smoother texture. He liked the Annie’s as a distant second to the Milk Bites, but wasn’t all that interested in the Clif. His favorite: Strawberry Milk Bite.
Van: Didn’t like the Milk Bites at all and didn’t eat any more after the test bites. He didn’t like the texture or the flavor. Nor did he really like the Clif. His favorite, and the only one he would eat, was the Annie’s.
Me: I don’t really enjoy granola bars in general, but if pressed would pick the Annie’s as my favorite. While I liked the smooth texture of the Milk Bites, they were too sweet for me; the chocolate didn’t taste chocolatey and the strawberry had that über-strawberry taste of a Nutri-Grain bar. I enjoyed the crunch of the Clif, but it seemed salty and, to paraphrase Kramer, “These granola bars are making me thirsty.” The Annie’s was chewy and not too sweet.
One thing I did appreciate about the Milk Bites was the size and density. The Annie’s bar is .98 ounces; the Milk Bite 1.23 ounces and a 2-bar serving of Clif is 1.5 ounces. The Annie’s bar isn’t a decent snack for an 8-year-old, even the 5-year-old was still hungry after. The Milk Bite was the most filling (and has the most protein per serving, probably not coincidentally.)
Ingredients: Organic toasted whole oats (Organic whole oats, Organic cane syrup, Organic expeller pressed sunflower oil), Organic brown rice syrup, Organic fair trade chocolate chips (Organic cane sugar, Organic chocolate liquor, Organic cocoa butter, Organic vanilla), Organic rice crisp (Organic flour, Organic cane sugar), Organic palm oil, Organic tapioca starch, Natural vanilla flavor.
Serving size: 1 bar, .98 ounces
This bar has by far the best quality ingredients with a list that’s all organic and recognizable, fair trade chocolate, and expeller pressed oil. Nutritionally, though, it’s really just a sugar bar that might give a burst of energy but doesn’t provide much else and certainly won’t be a bridge between meals.
Ingredients: Organic rolled oats, Organic dried cane sugar, Organic sunflower oil, Chocolate chips (Dried cane sugar, Unsweetened chocolate, Cocoa butter, Soy lecithin, Vanilla extract), Rice crisp (Rice flour, Barley malt extract, Dried cane syrup, Salt, Calcium carbonate), Honey, Natural flavors, Organic barley flakes, Organic rye flakes, Oat bran, Oat fiber, Sea salt, Inulin (chicory extract).
Serving size: 2 bars, 1.5 ounces
When I look at the sodium content it’s no wonder this made me thirsty, although I certainly wouldn’t call it a high sodium food – the sodium is only a fraction the amount in a ¼ tsp serving of salt and less than a serving of potato chips, but on the other hand, it is 105% more than what’s in an Annie’s bar. This is higher in sugar, too, so nutritionally not so much better than an Annie’s bar plus it has some ingredients that take me back to Chemistry class, which, no offense high school chemistry teacher who’s name I can’t remember because I really didn’t enjoy chemistry, I try to avoid in my foods.
Milk Bites Strawberry
Ingredients: Rolled oats, Cream (from milk), Sugar, Skim milk, Inulin (Chicory root fiber), Soy protein crisp (Soy protein isolate, Tapioca starch, Soybean fiber, Salt), Dried strawberries, Canola oil, Calcium phosphate, Brown rice syrup, Dried cranberries, Oat flour, Molasses, Fractionated palm kernal oil, Honey, Calcium caseinate, Salt, Soy lecithin, Natural flavor, Strawberry juice concentrate, Vitamin D3.
Serving size: 1 bars, 1.23 ounces
The addition of milk to this bar means that it packs the most nutritional punch. Punch may be overstating – maybe more like shove. At 5 grams, it has the most protein plus it has 30% daily value of calcium, and provides some vitamins D, A, and C where the other bars are just sporting goose eggs. The ingredients aren’t on par with Annie’s – some chemistry-speak, fractionated oil, no organics, which means GMOs are likely, and the addition of “natural flavors” which accounts for that super-sweet “strawberry” flavor.
Milk Bites Chocolate
Ingredients: Rolled oats, Sugar, Cream (from milk), Skim milk, Inulin (Chicory root fiber), Soy protein crisp (Soy protein isolate, tapioca starch, soybean fiber, salt), Chocolate, Canola oil, Calcium phosphate, Brown rice syrup, Oat flour, Molasses, Cocoa butter, Palm kernel oil, Honey, Salt, Cocoa powder, Soy lecithin, Natural flavor, Palm oil, Vitamin D3.
Serving size: 1 bars, 1.23 ounces
The chocolate version is nutritionally almost identical to the strawberry. The ingredients are also similar, including some of the usual suspects that show up at the processed food party including soy lecithin, palm oil, and natural flavors. This version doesn’t have the fractionated oil, unless that’s just a typo on the label.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Let’s all take a moment to remember that a granola bar is a glorified cookie that we all rationalize as a better snack because it has the word “granola” in the name.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, think about what is important to you in your granola bar – if it’s quality of ingredients, Annie’s was the hands down winner here. If organics and avoiding GMOs/additives aren’t top on your list for snack foods, and you’re on the run and can’t give your kid a glass of milk (or your kid doesn’t enjoy a glass of milk), then you might want to try out the Milk Bites.
In our house, I told Nate I’d buy the Milk Bites as a treat occasionally. But that probably isn’t true. In the end, I’d rather give my kids a good, hearty, homemade oatmeal cookie than any granola bar out there.