Friday, March 11, 2016

Bobo's Oat Bars

Update Review, March 2016

A few months ago, I reviewed several flavors of Bobo's bars, which you can read about in my original review below.  They really shocked me, as I'm not generally a huge lover of bars, and these were quite great.  I describe them as oatmeal, but, in bar form.  Which doesn't sound like it should be good, but it is.  Oh, and some are gluten-free too.

So, I tried more varities (including some more fun ones!), this time, I went for the smaller "Bobo's Bites".

Bobo's Bites

"The perfect size for school lunches or a quick snack on the go. Enjoy a tasty Bobo’s Bite any time you want a small snack to keep you going!"

Bobo's recently introduced a new product line: "Bites".  These are smaller, 1.3 ounce bars,  ~180 calories, rather than 3 ounce, nearly 400 calorie "bars" I tried before.  This size makes more sense to me, as I found it odd that the larger size one had a serving size listed of 2, because who would really eat half a bar?

The Bites are all gluten-free, and offered in only three varieties: original, apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly.  I thought it was interesting that they only make gluten-free versions of the Bites, whereas the bars are available in both gluten-free and regular.  My guess is that they are more successful in the gluten-free market, and these are their most popular varieties?

Anyway.  I continue to think Bobo's bars/bites are awesome.  I don't entirely understand why, but, they are.  Get them.
Original Gluten-Free Bobo's Bite.
"Bobo’s Bites Original Flavor has all the great flavor of our Original Bar in a smaller snack size Bite!"

If you step back, this does not sound exciting, in any way.  Gluten-free and vegan.  A little packaged bar.  When do I ever like this sort of thing?  And, just in a plain, "original", flavor?  Please.  How good can some gluten-free rolled oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar, possibly be?  The only other ingredient in the entire bar is what seems like the components of Earth Balance (oil, water, annatto extract).

I realize, as I describe this, that it doesn't sound good.  I don't know how to convince you otherwise though.  These things are awesome.  Yes, even the plain flavor.  Oats, brown rice syrup, and Earth Balance ... nothing more.

Unlike most "bars", these are soft, even though made of oats.  Think of them like a dense ball of oatmeal.  Almost doughy inside ... but not really.  Sigh.  I can't do better than this at describing these.  You'll just have to try one.

Dense, perfectly sweetened, nice chew.  The "bite" will be gone before you know it.

Even the totally plain flavor is great on its own.  Just plain.  Room temperature.  No alterations.  For real.

One day, I was at home, and decided I'd try to get more creative, so I threw it in the toaster oven at low temperature for a few minutes to warm it up.  I pulled out honey butter and my mom's homemade jam to slather it with, as if it were a muffin or scone.  But first I took a bite warm.  I realized I didn't want anything else on it.  It really is just perfect as is, cold or warm.  I did like it warm, perhaps slightly more than at room temp, but warming it is really not necessary.

These are perfect for grab-n-go breakfast, or afternoon snack, but of course, I love desserts, and can also imagine crumbling one over some fruit to make a crisp.  Or just dunking it in whipped cream.  But ... again, not necessary.
Peanut Butter & Jelly.
"Bobo’s Bites Peanut Butter & Jelly Flavor packs the perfection of a PB&J into a perfect snack size Bite!"

Ok, now this one sounded GOOD!  Given that even the basic plain variety is amazing, I couldn't wait to try the PB & J flavor.  Again, made from the same base of gluten-free oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar, with the bonus ingredients of organic peanut butter and raspberry jam.  (Ok, slight strike against them, I prefer strawberry jam!).
Peanut Butter & Jelly: Inside.
I eagerly took my first bite.  Just like the others, I enjoyed the dense, oatmeal patty nature of it.  Slightly crumbly, slightly sweet.

The peanut flavor was subtle, but present, and I think there were little chunks of peanut inside.  The jam too was subtle, but provided a sweetness and slightly fruity quality.

But I'll be honest: I expected more.  Bigger bits of peanut, maybe some swirls of jam.  You can see the inside here, and, there isn't any visible peanut butter or jelly.  The flavors were there, subtle but there, but I really wanted to think "PB & J!", and, I didn't.

It was still good, still a bit better than the basic flavor, but not quite what I was hoping for.
Apple Pie.
"Bobo’s Bites Apple Pie Flavor tastes like home made apple pie in a perfect snack size bite."

As you can expect, this is made with the same base of gluten-free oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar.  To get the "apple pie" flavor, it also has dried apples and "natural apple pie flavor".  Yes, for real.  Where do I buy that?

Anyway, this sounded like dessert, in a bar, for breakfast.  Yes!

It was ... ok.  Basically, apple-y oatmeal.  Which, it turns out, just isn't really my thing.  It wasn't bad, and I still liked the oatmeal aspect, but, apple just isn't really for me.  The spicing was nice.  Turns out, the original is my favorite flavor.

Original Review, August 2015

You know I can't resist trying assorted bars, particularly when they are most soft, almost more like baked goods than granola bars.  And particularly not when they are delivered to my desk by a co-worker to try out.

I was pretty excited about the Bobo's Oat Bars once I saw them.  Cute packaging, but also, they pretty much looked like square muffins.  These are the types of bars I like most often, like the SuniBrite muesli bars from Australia that I recently reviewed, or the Nature Valley's Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares.

Bobo's Bars look very small scale production, so I assumed they were locally made.  It turns out, they are made in Boulder, and available nationwide.  They are more mainstream than I realized, sold at REI and Whole Foods in San Francisco, and, I even saw them at the grocery store in my hometown in New Hampshire.

The bars all have the same simple base of rolled oats and Earth Balance, and are sweetened with brown rice syrup and sucanat.  All are wheat free, non-GOM, and vegan, although only the specifically gluten-free bars use gluten-free oats.

The regular flavors start with the basic "original", and then expand to include just one or two other ingredients: coconut, almond, chocolate, banana, strawberry, apricot, peanut butter, cinnamon raisin, and cranberry orange.  The gluten-free options are peach, maple pecan, lemon poppy, chocolate almond, apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly.

Honestly, the GF flavors sounded the best.  Maple pecan! Apple pie!  PB & J!  Um, yes?  My selection was given to me by coworker to sample, so I didn't pick the flavors, and I think she (rightly so) picked the appealing flavors for herself.

Now that I know how delicious even the less exciting flavors are though, and how easy they are to find around San Francisco, I may need to seek out some of the more tempting sounding flavors sometime, you know, when my never-ending supply of products to review somehow runs out.

The bars are heavy and dense, a whopping 3 oz, which means the serving size listed on them is actually 2 servings.  I kinda hate that, who really only eats half?  What am I supposed do with the other half? And really, FDA, why do you think that 1.5 oz is the appropriate serving size?  (Side note: Bobo's also has a newer product, Bobo's Bites, that are only 1.3 oz.)

Anyway.  The bars.

Regular flavors

Almond.
"Bobo’s Almond Flavor has pieces of roasted almond in every bite."

I started with the basic sounding almond bar.

Almond shows up as both dry roasted almonds and almond extract.  The almonds were tiny little bits distributed throughout; they didn't really add much crunch, but you could see them.  The almond extract however was quite powerful, it flavored the entire bar in a really pleasant way.

The bar reminded me of a solid chunk of oatmeal, which, I realize doesn't sound good, but, it was.  The oats were soft, not hard like a typical bar.  The sweetness level was perfect.  It was a treat, but definitely not too sweet.  It really was as comforting and satisfying as a bowl of oatmeal, but in a convenient form, perfect for a grab and go breakfast alongside my coffee.  I was pleasantly surprised by this, and would gladly add it into my regular breakfast bar lineup.

Gluten-Free

Peach (GF).
"Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Flavor has pieces of delicious peach in every bite."

The peach bar I tried was gluten-free, so the regular oats were subbed out with gluten-free ones, but besides that, the ingredients were exactly the same, mostly just oats and Earth Balance.  Of course, it had bits of dried peach in place of the almond components.

I didn't notice any texture difference between the gluten-free and regular bar.  It again was basically just a dense chunk of oatmeal.  Which again, I realize doesn't sound good, but really was pleasing.

Grab-and-go oatmeal, who knew they made such a thing? The peach flavor was subtle and delicate, quite nice.  I'd get one of these again too, but I'd really like to try some of the other flavors.
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