About a month ago, I was poking around the REI Outlet website when I came across a discounted variety pack of Pure Bars. I’d never noticed the brand before, so – like I do – I asked the little people that live in the interwebs for more info.
I went to the company’s website at www.thepurebar.com and read that ‘Pure Bars are made with simple, whole ingredients and are gluten-free, vegan, and kosher.” Seven of the bar varieties available are organic, and three additional varieties are “all natural” (which I like to equate with ingredients that don’t sound like chemical compounds). In fact, the organic bars are produced in Canada since that is the location of the only facility that met the company’s standards for organic, kosher, and non-GMO manufacturing.
I sent a sample request through the website, and Veronica Bosgraaf, the company’s founder, responded directly, generously affirming. In fact, she ended up sending me nine of the ten bars to try, which was way more than I expected (and much appreciated!). I will point out that I tried eight of them and offered up the ninth, the Superfruit Nutty Crunch bar, in a contest on this blog since it has peanuts, which I try to avoid (and it also happened to be a great excuse for a contest). If peanuts are an issue for you, keep that in mind of the Superfruit bar.
At this point, you might have gathered that I like to eat bars considering that this is my third “bar” product review. As such, it’s difficult not to compare products, and actually I think that it makes for a more relatable description. With that in mind, Pure Bars are essentially the same size (at 1.7 ounces) as LARABARs with comparable calories (190-200). They also have a similar texture (firm but easy to chew) since they too are primarily made with dates.
The one feature that I think really makes Pure Bars stand out is that they are made with rice protein concentrate. This is the first time I’ve seen that in a bar. Not only does it make the texture a little less smooshable and a little more “doughy” (or firmer), but also it tempers the sweet flavor that tends to overwhelm me with certain date bars. And actually, among all of the varieties, there is a subtle underlying taste reminiscent of protein bars (think PowerBar), and my best guess is that it is the rice protein concentrate. It’s weird, but I like it. With the rice protein also comes a slight grittiness, but I actually prefer it as a substantive add from the usual “gumming baby food” feel of other bars.
Another exciting bit about this brand is that the company has gotten pretty creative in crafting the variety of flavors in its repertoire. Each bar has an assortment of nuts as well as various fruits, natural sweetener (agave), and chocolate to round out the flavor. See below for my assessment of the individual flavors, listed in the order I tried them:
- Organic Dark Chocolate Berry – The flavor of walnuts first hits the palate, followed quickly in succession by cherry and then a deep cocoa chocolate. All of the flavors are competing for attention with none of the flavors a clear winner. FYI. ingredients: dates, agave nectar, cranberries, rice protein concentrate, cashew butter, almonds, walnuts, cocoa, raspberry, natural flavor. calories 190. total fat 7g. carbs 28g. fiber 4g. protein 6g.
- Organic Apple Cinnamon – This bar quickly became my favorite. It contains sizeable chunks of apple, which are moist like apple rings but thicker (not crunchy/hard like apple chips). Generously spiced with cinnamon. FYI. ingredients: dates, agave nectar, walnuts, cashew butter, almonds, rice protein concentrate, cinnamon. calories 200. total fat 8g. carbs 27g. fiber 3g. protein 5g.
- Organic Cherry Cashew – This one was tart and chocked full of big whole dried cherries. As I bit into it, the hollow crunch of walnuts attracted my attention. Yum! FYI. ingredients: dates, cashew butter, cherries, rice protein concentrate, walnuts, agave nectar, almonds. calories 200. total fat 8g. carbs 25g. fiber 3g. protein 7g.
- Organic Wild Blueberry – This one had a solid blueberry flavor and was jam-packed with the fruit. Other than that, not particularly noteworthy. FYI. ingredients: dates, cashew butter, walnuts, rice protein concentrate, wild blueberries, agave nectar, almonds, lemon juice concentrate, blueberry flavor. calories 200. total fat 8g. total carbs 26g. fiber 4g. protein 6g.
- Organic Chocolate Brownie – This one had a strong cocoa flavor, accentuated by the walnuts, but otherwise didn’t really stand out in my mind. FYI. ingredients: dates, agave nectar, rice protein concentrate, cashew butter, almonds, walnuts, cocoa. calories 190. total fat 7g. total carbs 27g. fiber 4g. protein 6g.
- All-Natural Chocolate Almond – This bar tastes more like a brownie than the brownie flavor. I like brownies. Enough said. FYI. ingredients: dates, almonds, agave nectar, rice protein concentrate, cocoa, chia seeds, agave fiber, natural flavors. calories 190. total fat 8g. total carbs 25g. fiber 5g. protein 7g.
- Organic Cranberry Orange – This delicious bar reminded me of marmalade. My friend April also had a bite, and she said, “Fruitcake but orangey-er,” and I’m inclined to agree with her. For the record, fruitcake is my absolute holiday season favorite (except I can’t eat it anymore…gluten). This flavor closely trails apple cinnamon for the number 1 spot. FYI. ingredients: dates, cranberries, cashew butter, walnuts, rice protein concentrate, agave nectar, almonds, orange peel, orange flavor. calories 200. total fat 8g. total carbs 26g. protein 6g.
The last one, Banana Coconut, warrants special attention, not for the flavor as much as for my experience. The bar itself was pretty tasty; even though banana isn’t my favorite flavor, the coconut came through really strongly, which was a nice surprise.
(FYI. ingredients: dates, agave nectar, cashew butter, rice protein concentrate, walnuts, almonds, organic coconut cream, bananas, natural flavor. calories 190. total fat 9g. total carbs 25g. protein 6g.)
Instead, the issue that I had with this bar is that I felt like I nearly destroyed my tooth. Each bar’s wrapper clearly warns, “May contain pieces of nuts, shells, stems, or pits,” yet I was still surprised to bite into a bone-hard fragment half an inch long and a quarter inch wide. My molar legitimately felt loose for days after this – not dangling-by-a-thread loose, but the tooth was definitely startled by the jolt. I might be over-reacting, but I’ve never had a cavity in my life and prefer to keep it that way.
I contacted Veronica (the company founder), and she was uber-responsive, going as far as emailing me back while traveling in Nicaragua. Veronica apologized profusely for the experience and asked for the date of manufacture so that she could bring the issue to the attention of her vendors. Then a few days later, Pure Bar’s head of quality control followed up, requesting that I forward a picture of the fragment so that she could better address the problem with Production. I can’t say that this made my tooth feel any better, but the level of responsiveness did go a long way toward creating goodwill.
As far as pricing goes, I’ve seen them both at Whole Foods and at Trader Joe’s, where they range from $1.50 to $2.00 per bar. Between the Pure Bar website and Amazon, I was able to find bars by the box for as little as $1.33 per bar for the “all natural” varieties and $1.50 per bar for the “organic” varieties, although the pricing is inconsistent across flavors.
Also, a little shopping research trick I use is www.warehousedeals.com, which is Amazon’s site for overstocked and soon-to-expire items. On this site, I managed to find the chocolate almond variety for as little as $1.19/bar. It takes some digging, but (depending on what you’re buying) the savings can be worth it.
As for whether or not I’ll bring Pure Bars on my trek, I really like them, but I think I’ll have to do a fuzzy cost vs benefit analysis. There’s a solid chance that I got the one dud in a million. And the company response was commendable. Even so, once bitten, twice shy.
Would it be worth it to me to spend $2.00 per bar and have to be super cautious with every bite (and/or worry about breaking a tooth)? Maybe not. On the other hand, would it be worth it to me to spend closer to $1.00 per bar given the same parameters? Likely.
I still have a few months before my trek to ponder this one. In the meantime, I’m going to sit on the fence and keep an eye out for good deals.