Friday, June 23, 2017

belVita Breakfast Biscuits

I'm always on the lookout for tasty, easy, grab and go breakfasts.  Most days I get fabulous breakfasts at work, but when I'm travelling, or sometimes on weekends before heading to brunch, I just want something easy.

When I was in college I lived on Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bars, strawberry or apple cinnamon.  I think they are totally nasty now, I'm not sure why I was so into them then.  But I loved them.  I've also tried all sorts of other breakfast bars, many better than the Nutri-Grains, but none that I really want more of.  The "easy to grab breakfast bar that I like" slot has remained unfilled for a while.

I stumbled upon belVita while reading some reviews for something else.  Their products sounded intriguing: breakfast ... biscuits?  They proclaim to be "found in the cookie-cracker aisle".  Cookies, for breakfast?  Reviewers love them.  They are marketed as being a decent choice nutritionally, with a good amount of protein, whole grains, and not too much sugar.  Formulated to slowly release energy all morning long.  But, they are cookies (uh, biscuits), not bars made up of weird chemicals and soy protein isolate.  And they come in a variety of flavors: blueberry, apple cinnamon, cinnamon brown sugar, golden oat, and chocolate.

I had to seek these out, and I am quite glad I did.  They quickly turned into my favorite on-the-go breakfast item, and it seems I am not alone, as their product offerings expanded considerably since I first encountered them (and wrote this original post).

In the US, they now have four product lines, all featuring the breakfast biscuits, but in different styles: crunchy, soft, bite size, or even as sandwiches, with peanut butter or chocolate cream filling.  Yes, still considered healthy breakfast.

Internationally, they have also taken off, and I've found their products while traveling in the UK and in Australia.  Just like in the US, you can find them in nearly every convenience store, making for a very easy-to-grab breakfast on the go, precisely as marketed.

US Edition

Breakfast Biscuits / Crunch -> Crunchy

When belVita was introduced to the US, they had only one product line: breakfast biscuits. Now they have several, so the basic biscuits are now branded "belVita Crunch", and later "Crunchy" and they come in six flavors: golden oat, blueberry, apple cinnamon, cinnamon brown sugar, chocolate, and toasted coconut (er, in 2015 the apple cinnamon was replaced by cranberry orange). I never found the chocolate ones, but I tried the other varieties. All come 4 to a package.

I've tried many of these over the years, as they were the first product I was introduced to.
Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits.
"Our Blueberry crunchy Breakfast Biscuits are lightly sweet, crunchy biscuits made with high-quality and wholesome ingredients, like rolled oats and real blueberries."

For my first venture into belVita, I picked the blueberry flavor.  This somehow seemed the most breakfast-like.  I opened my package, not quite sure what to expect.  What was a breakfast biscuit, anyway?  The answer ... basically, a cookie.  But, in muffin flavors.  Thin, crispy-style.  Sorta a cross between a cookie and biscotti.  Normally, I really dislike crisp cookies and prefer soft ones, but in this case, it worked.

I've never had a blueberry cookie before though.  The blueberries made it "breakfast", but seemed strange in concept to have in a cookie.  The blueberries, while small dried bits, were incredibly flavorful.  I was shocked by the flavor.  They did indeed remind me a blueberry muffin!

Overall the  biscuits were sweet, but not too sweet.  And they went really well dunked in my cappuccino, just like a biscotti, since they were so thin and crispy.

Definitely an interesting product, and I'd have them again.

I gave Ojan a packet of these to try, since I know he likes blueberry muffins.  I had talked them up at this point, so I was worried I was over-selling.  He took a bite, and exclaimed, "That does taste like a blueberry muffin!"  He joyfully ate the whole package.  And then ordered another box.

Update: I've since had these plenty more times. I continue to love them. Seriously, cookie-biscotti-muffins!  The blueberry flavor is really incredible, and I stress, they go sooo perfectly dunked into a cappuccino   Love, love love these things.  And not just because I get to eat cookies for breakfast, although that is obviously a selling point!
Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits.
"Apple Cinnamon crunchy Breakfast Biscuits are baked with real cinnamon and the delicious taste of apples, making them the perfect way to start the morning right."

Given the success of the blueberry flavor, I finally decided to branch out and try another.  I wanted to try the cinnamon brown sugar, but I couldn't find them at any of my local stores.  So, I settled for my third choice, apple cinnamon.

Unlike the blueberry, there were not large chunks of fruit visible in the cookie. The aroma however, was clearly apple and cinnamon.  They smelt amazing!

The style was quite similar to the blueberry, a crispy cookie.  The flavor wasn't quite as intense as the blueberry, but there were little chunks of dried apple that added fun chew to a few bites, and the cinnamon was quite strong.  As a plain biscuit, I felt these were a bit lacking, but once I dunked them into my coffee, I again loved them.  Just like a biscotti, they soften up when dunked, and create such a great pairing.

I think they probably would be quite good covered in peanut butter as well, in the same way that I love apple slices covered in peanut butter.  I'll try that with my next package.

Overall, still a success, although I liked the blueberry more.

Update: I've continued to really enjoy these, dunked into coffee.  Or tea.  The apple cinnamon goes slightly better with a cup of tea than coffee.  The dunking is key, as it softens up the cookie a bit.  They are great for breakfast, but also perfect for afternoon snack.
Golden Oat.
"Golden Oat crunchy Breakfast Biscuits are simple, crunchy biscuits made from wholesome, fine ingredients like rolled oats."

I wanted to try even more flavors, but alas, the cinnamon brown sugar that I really want to try has remained elusive, and chocolate, while obviously something I like, just didn't sound that interesting.  So, I went for the very basic: golden oat.  It sounded the simplest, and least likely to succeed, but I wanted to give it a try anyway.

And, I'm glad I did.  Yes, they were simple, more like a plain graham cracker.  Well, a sweetened graham cracker.  Same crispy texture as the others.  Still not great if you just eat them plain, but magically transformed when dunked into coffee.

Since they were so plain, I also tried topping them with peanut butter and jelly, but that just masked their yummy flavor, and they weren't exactly dunkable like that.

Golden Oat was my least favorite flavor, but I still enjoyed them, and would gladly dunk some more.
Cranberry Orange.
"A little sweet, a little tangy, belVita Cranberry Orange Breakfast Biscuits are a delicious blend of cranberry and orange flavors that are sure to complement any balanced breakfast."

This is not a flavor I would have ever selected since I don't really like cranberry nor orange, but, a friend brought it to me so I could try more flavors (thanks!).

I was really shocked when I bit into the first one.  Yes, it was a regular crunchy, hearty, oaty belVita biscuit.  But it tasted exactly like Apple Jacks.  Or Fruit Loops?  One of those breakfast cereals I haven't had in years.  The flavor was uncanny.  The first bite in, I immediately was struck by, "uh, I know this!  It is sweet and fruity and tastes like it is covered in sugar".  It took a few more minutes, and bites, to narrow in on the taste, but, wow.  And no, it wasn't covered in sugar coating, so I have no idea where that was coming from.

If I tried hard I could distinguish cranberry and orange flavors, but really, this was just sweet fruity breakfast nostalgia.  Woah.

Soft Baked

Just when I thought I couldn't love belVita more, they introduced a new product line, in addition to the already existing biscuits: soft baked breakfast cookies!  The moment I heard about them, I eagerly sought them out.  Available in 4 regular flavors: cinnamon (discontinued), banana bread, oats & chocolate, banana peanut butter (discontinued, replaced with oats & peanut butter), and mixed berry with blueberries and raspberries and 2 higher protein flavors (blueberry almond and oats, honey & chocolate).
Soft Baked Oats & Chocolate.
"Our belVita Soft Baked Oats & Chocolate Breakfast Biscuits are not only a tasty morning treat, they’re also a nutritious way to start your day. Made with ingredients like rolled oats, rye and barley, we think we finally found a way to sneak chocolate into a wholesome breakfast!"

I brewed up a cup of coffee to pair with my treat, and excitedly opened my package.  I was expecting something sorta like a flat muffin perhaps, just based on the hard breakfast cookies, and the title soft baked.  I was a little disappointed when I opened the package.  It was soft compared to the regular breakfast biscuits yes, but it wasn't anything like a muffin.  And, as you can see, it had exactly three little bits of chocolate.  Upon closer examination, I saw that each of the three spots had 2-3 tiny chocolate chips.  But there weren't chips anywhere else in the bar.  Hmm.

Still, I knew the hard biscuits weren't much to look at either, so I still dug in.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was basically a strangely shaped oatmeal cookie.  belVita did it again, serving me yet another cookie, and calling it breakfast.  If you like oatmeal cookies, you'll like this.  It also did taste sorta healthy.  Very hearty from all the oats and rye flakes.  They were sweetened, but in a way that didn't taste fake or too much, just a deep flavor from the molasses.  The bits of chocolate were a nice addition, and they were a quality semi-sweet chocolate, but honestly, just the oatmeal base would have been fine.

I'd really like to try these in just about any other flavor.  I think all of the flavors that they make the original breakfast biscuits in would work.  And that elusive mixed berry ... I must find it!

Highly recommend, for breakfast, or, even for a snack.  Pairs great with coffee.
Mixed Berry.
"Our belVita Soft Baked Mixed Berry Breakfast Biscuits are chewy and oh so delicious. Each wholesome biscuit is made with nutritious whole grains and tasty fruits like blueberries and raspberries."

When I first tried belVita Soft Bakes, I wasn't ever able to find the mixed berry flavor, and lamented about this on my blog.  A friend came to the rescue, showing up at my desk recently with several of the varieties I hadn't yet tried.

I'm glad he did.  I did make the mistake of throwing it my bag so it got a bit mushed, but it didn't matter.  It was really good.

It was soft, like the perfect soft baked oatmeal cookie.  It was sweet, such that I questioned if it was ok to have this for breakfast, when it seemed indulgent (in reality, 10 grams of sugar).  I loved the flavor bursts from the bits of dried berries (cranberries and blueberries).  It had a slightly gritty texture from the oats that I enjoyed.

I really enjoyed this, as a breakfast alongside my coffee, but it really reminded me of a fruit crisp, and I think I could be totally satisfied dunking it in whipped cream and pretending it was dessert.

Bites

Well, belVita has introduced another form factor for their breakfast biscuits: Bites!  Mini sized, crunchy like the originals.  Bites are available in only three varieties, mixed berry, chocolate, and cinnamon brown sugar.  These come packaged in individual bags.

These were the only product I wasn't quite able to figure out.
Chocolate.
"belVita Bites Chocolate Breakfast Biscuits offer a convenient way for you to get your four hours of nutritious, steady energy on the go."

I expected my bites to be mini compared to the full size regular biscuits, but, I wasn't expecting them to be this tiny!  They are about cereal sized, which is smaller than I expected, not really a "bite".  A handful created a "bite".  When I flipped the package over to see the serving size was 44 bites, well, that suddenly made sense.  

Once I got over my surprise at the size, it was time to dig in.  Crispy, crunchy, chocolate biscuits.  Slightly hearty healthy taste from the whole grains, nice tang, decent chocolate on the finish.  They almost reminded me of the cookie part of an Oreo.

They were good, but, I found myself wanting to do ... something with them.  So, thinking Oreo, I made tiny little cookie sandwiches with whipped cream in between two.  They were really too tiny for this, so then I just switched to dunking them in whipped cream, but I really wished I had frosting or icing (do you remember Dunkaroos?  Just like that!).

Then, thinking cereal, I put a few into a bowl of milk, let them soften a tiny bit, and ate them that way.  These methods were all fine, but still, it didn't feel right.  I could also imagine making a great crust out of them (a la graham crackers) or even something like rice crispy treats or ice cream toppings.  But just nibbling on them for breakfast wasn't quite right for me, even though I liked the flavor.

Nutritionally, these are exactly the same as a package of full size crunchy biscuits (230 calories, 8 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 19 grams whole grains, 4 grams fiber), so really, it just is a question of how you like to eat your biscuits.  Or maybe these are better for littler kids?  I might not be the target audience.

Sandwiches

In the US, belvita makes biscuit sandwiches in four tempting flavors: peanut butter, dark chocolate creme, strawberry yogurt cream, and vanilla yogurt cream.

Yes, they sound, and look, like cookies you should have for dessert, but are again, really are breakfast appropriate, in such a decadent, satisfying way.
Peanut Butter (Oops, I broke them).
"With a smooth creamy layer of peanut butter sandwiched between two wholesome breakfast biscuits, belVita Sandwich Peanut Butter Breakfast Biscuits offer a seriously delicious way to start your morning."

As a peanut butter lover, this was an easy pick.  What was not easy however, was protecting my biscuits in my bag.  Ooops.  Yes, this package was supposed to contain two sandwiches, aka, 4 biscuits stuffed with peanut butter, and instead contained a pile of rubble.  This is entirely my fault.  Don't just them.

Not that it mattered.  They were still delicious.  Same slightly sweet, slightly wholesome, crunchy biscuit-cookie on the outside, and a moderately thin layer of peanut butter inside.  The peanut butter wasn't as generous as I'd like, nor as creamy, but, for a healthy breakfast item, I can't really be upset that they didn't make them more indulgent.  These really can do double duty as a dessert, even like this.

The serving of 2 biscuit sandwiches is 230 calories and 4 grams of protein, just like a package of the original 4 biscuits, which seems a bit suspect to me.  4 biscuits plus some peanut butter should have different stats, shouldn't it?

UK & Australia Edition

Breakfast Biscuits

The UK and Australian product line also includes the hard style biscuits, but the flavors offered are different: chocolate, fruit & fibre (with figs), cranberry, honey & oat, crunchy oats, and milk & cereals.
Milk & Cereals.
"Biscuits made with wholegrain cereals, milk and added vitamins minerals."

It had been a while since I had belVita in the US when I had a package in London.  They also came 4 to a package, but I swear these were a different size, they seemed longer, and perhaps thinner?

I was intrigued by this flavor description.  How do you represent milk and cereal in a biscuit?  I figured they would be similar to the Golden Oat US variety, fairly plain.  The "cereals" used are wheat, oat, buckwheat, barley, rye, and spelt based, and there is both whole and skim milk powder as well.  And yes, indeed they add extra minerals, like magnesium and iron.

It is hard to describe what these tasted like.  They were slightly sweet.  Slightly buttery, although they don't include butter.  Again like a cookie, and crispy.  But there was a subtle nuttiness to them, which must have come from some combination of the grains in the cereal.

I anticipated that I'd want to slather them in peanut butter, but I found it unnecessary; the flavor was good enough on its own.  Like the american versions, they were also delicious when dunked into a foamy cappuccino.

I'm still a bit stumped by the entire concept of breakfast biscuits, but I love them every time!

Duo Crunch / Yogurt Crunch

The Duo Crunch / Yogurt Crunch line has not yet made it to the US, but in the UK and Australia, they make breakfast biscuits with a yogurt and fruit filling, almost like the sandwich cookies available in the US, but with healthier sounding fillings (the US breakfast sandwich cookies come with chocolate cream or peanut butter, not yogurt).

BelVita has long suggested pairing your breakfast cookies with yogurt and fruit, so, it only seems natural that they'd try to bake it all in to one easy to grab package.
 Strawberry & Live Yogurt.
"Biscuits Made with Wholegrain Cereals with a Live Yogurt Filling (13.5%) and a Strawberry Filling (13.5%) and Added Vitamins and Minerals."

Each package came with two sandwiches, so, 4 biscuits total.

The biscuits were the same standard BelVita biscuits, crunchy, slightly sweet, slightly healthy tasting, sorta like a graham cracker that doesn't crumble as easily.  A good base, but fairly plain.
Strawberry & Live Yogurt: Inside.
Inside was two lines of "live yogurt filling" and a line of strawberry filling.  Both were ... fine.  The yogurt was certainly sweetened and tasted a bit like the standard creme filling you'd find inside a sandwich cookie.  The strawberry was sweet goo, sorta identifiable as strawberry I guess.

Overall, these were perfectly fine, and went great dunked into a coffee, but they weren't nearly as exciting as I somehow thought they would be.  The fillings just didn't add much to the base product.
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