Friday, April 04, 2014

Nature Valley Granola Bars

Another Friday, another granola bar product line review.  And still, no real winners.  I keep trying!

I had hope for Nature Valley.  Many years ago, I discovered their Sweet & Salty Nut Bars, specifically, the peanut variety.  They are basic granola bars, loaded up with plentiful peanuts, and coated in this amazing salty, peanut buttery dip.  Such intense peanut flavor, perfect mix of sweet and salty, and really, really good if you let them get a bit warm, so they are soft, and the peanut butter topping gets all melty.  Such fond memories of these delicious treats!

This time around, I decided to branch out and explore the rest of Nature Valley's product line.  They make all the styles of granola bars that you would expect: standard crunchy or chewy, protein enhanced, trendy greek yogurt covered, diet style thin crisps, and even breakfast biscuits.  None of the varieties I tried this time around even remotely live up to those magic sweet and salty nut bars of my memories though.

Chewy Trail Mix Bars

The "Trail Mix" line is chewy style, loaded with different fruits and nuts.  The classic is the "fruit & nut", but they also have a more specialized Cranberry & Pomegranate and Dark Chocolate Cherry bars.
Fruit and Nut Chewy Trail Mix Bar.
"Three different kinds of nuts and seeds with dried cranberries and raisins" ... or so says the description.  The ingredients label however lists only two types of nuts (peanuts, almonds), not three.  And no seeds.  But yes, there were dried cranberries and raisins, in addition to the oat base.

It was very sweet, with lots of sugar syrup binding together the already sweet raisins and dried cranberries.  The only other filler was the oats.  Not really my thing.

Subsequent tasting notes: [ Meh, generic, sweet granola bar. ] [ Nuts aren’t really good quality either. ] [ It was a chewy bar, but mostly just loaded with sweet binding agent.  Did not like. ]

Protein Bars

The protein bars are classic chewy style, loaded with nuts and rice crips, plus extra protein hidden inside via my "favorite" form, soy protein isolate - yum!  They do all have tasty looking coatings.  Flavors range from coconut almond bars with a coconut flavored coating, salted caramel nut, peanut almond or peanut butter, both with chocolate chips and dark chocolate coating, and mixed berry with Greek yogurt coating.  They boast about 10 grams of protein each.
Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bar.
"A tempting combination of roasted peanuts and luscious peanut butter, all flavored with rich dark chocolate".

They need to work on their description ... "flavored with rich dark chocolate"?  Is that supposed to sound appealing?

Anyway.  This did look pretty good, puffed rice, whole roasted peanuts, mini chocolate chips, and, although you can see it in the picture, the bottom was all coated in chocolate too.

Even though there were peanuts, I didn't taste any of the namesake peanut butter, or even just peanuts really.  The overwhelming flavor was that strange funk of soy protein isolate and whey protein, the magic ingredients turning this granola bar into a protein powerhouse with 10 grams of protein.

I didn't like this, and wouldn't get again.  Even the greatness of chocolate and peanut butter couldn't overcome the strange protein bits, unlike the actually really tasty Peanut Butter Whey Protein Fit Crunch Bar I reviewed last week.

Granola Thins

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Dark Chocolate Granola Thin.
"Delicate squares of granola with a unique, delightfully crispy texture.  Each thin is paired with a delicious melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate flavor."

This was a very thin, very crisp granola bar with good peanut butter flavor flavor.  The chocolate layer on the bottom was decent dark chocolate.  Overall, pretty good, particularly for a crunchy style bar, which I don't normally love.  The chocolate and peanut butter combination was a winner, and the ratio of bar to chocolate was just right.

Crunchy Bars

Crunchy bars are available in a slew of flavors, ranging from the basic Oats 'n Honey to nutty (peanut butter, roasted almond, pecan) to fruity (apple crisp, coconut) to fall inspired (cinnamon, maple brown sugar).

They aren't joking when they call these "crunchy", certainly the crispiest bars I've ever found on the market.
Crunchy Peanut Butter.
"Nature Valley® Peanut Butter Crunchy Granola Bars combine whole grain rolled oats, crisp rice, and peanut butter to produce a sweet and wholesome snack."

This was crazy crisp.  I know they are called "crunchy", but I wasn't quite expecting it to be soooo crispy.

Like the granola thin, it had a really nice peanut butter flavor.  Better than most granola bars I've had lately, which makes me think that perhaps I like the crunchy ones more then chewy ones?

Subsequent tastings: [ Meh, too crunchy ] [ Very very crispy, decent peanut butter flavor ] [ Crispy, kinda honeyed peanut flavor, not bad ] [ Great when you want some serious crunch, fantastic peanut flavor, almost caramelized flavor to it. ]

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Crunchy Oat & Honey.

"Nature Valley® Oats `n Honey Granola Bars combine real honey and rolled oats, to produce a sweet, wholesome snack."

Meh, this was just a hard plain granola bar with a tiny amount of honey flavor.  It was kinda stale tasting because it was so crunchy and there was no other flavor besides the subtle honey. Certainly not for me.
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