Product Review: Phil Keoghan’s NOW Energy Bar

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the folks who put together and market a product called Phil Keoghan’s NOW Energy Bar about doing a product review.  For those of you who don’t know, Phil Keoghan is the host of CBS TV’s show “The Amazing Race”.  I agreed to take a sample from them and promised I’d do a write up as to what I thought of the product.

Fair warnings….For the past two seasons, First Endurance has been my nutrition sponsor, and I have exclusively used their products (and have talked about their products copiously on this blog).  I typically don’t use solid energy bar products as part of my training or racing nutrition, so trying this bar product would be a little bit of a stretch for me.  Additionally, you should know all the quasi-legal mumbo jumbo…Neither Phil Keoghan nor the makers of NOW Energy Bar compensated me for a good review.  All the opinions are mine (and those of my son, who was also a taste-tester).

Background:

According to the marketing material that came with my samples, NOW stands for No Opportunity Wasted.  This is supposedly Keoghan’s mantra for life.  The bars are gluten free, and don’t include GMO ingredients.  They are dairy and tree-nut free, and incorporate an ingredient called Manuka Honey.  Manuka Honey is a product of New Zealand, and is reported to have immune boosting capabilities due to a higher antibacterial component than “regular” honey.  I Google’d Manuka Honey and found tons of sites supporting this stuff and claiming that it’s practically the best thing since sliced bread.  I have absolutely no idea if Manuka Honey is as good as advertised or if this is all part of a marketing scheme.  Regardless, Wikipedia says it’s great, hence it must be.

There are two flavors of NOW bar:  Peanut & Caramel and Honeycomb with Chia and Raisins.

Each bar carries approximately 280 calories, 80 or so which come from fat.  The bars come with about 8g of fat.  For comparison, a standard-sized Snicker’s bar comes with 271 calories and 14g of fat.  NOW bars also bring 300mg of sodium and 42g of carbohydrates.  Perhaps a better comparison (than a Snicker’s bar) would be a Cliff’s Bar – Cliff markets itself as a high quality provider of on-the-go nutrition products, and frankly, lots of endurance athletes consume these bars.  The Chocolate Chip Cliff’s Bar is roughly the same size as the NOW bar (68g versus NOW’s 70g), and packs roughly the same calories (240), sodium (140mg), fat (5g) and carbohydrates (44g).

NOW bars are available online (here) and cost about $3.00 each.  For comparison purposes, Cliff bars typically retail for around $1.50 each.

The Taste Test

As I mentioned, there are two flavors of NOW bars:  Peanut/Caramel and Honeycomb with Chia & Raisins. 

Upon opening both bars, they look just about like what you’d expect from an energy bar.  You can see some “essence of soy” – basically little nuggests of yellow-ish stuff bonded together into a rectangular bar shape.  The version with Chia and raisins obviously have visible seeds and fruit.  The Peanut bar had little hunks of peanut visible.  But, at the end of the day, these bars look like just about any other bar product I’ve seen.

Neither bar had a distinctive odor to them.  Certainly the peanut flavored bar had a little bit of peanut butter smell – but it wasn’t overpowering.  Nor was the typical “soy” smell that often comes with energy bars.

The bars were soft, pliable, and fairly moist.  They were neither dense (like a granola bar) nor overly soft (like a cookie).  Again, I’d liken them to the texture of a Cliff’s bar.  They will absolutely hold up in a bike jersey pocket; they won’t crumble but also won’t feel like a brick in your back pocket. 

Everything went downhill when I actually tasted the bars. 

Well…not really.  I just wasn’t a big fan of the way the bars tasted.

In reality, the first bar I tried was the peanut/caramel bar.  I couldn’t stand the flavor.  That said, I typically don’t like bars with peanuts in them (even the aforementioned Snickers bar), so I wasn’t surprised that I found the flavor unpalatable.  The Honeycomb bar with Chia & Raisins was not bad tasting at all….but I’m not sure that this bar would be the first bar I’d reach for if there were a stack of other flavored bars on the table with it.  I could not taste the Chia seeds at all (I’m not sure if you’re supposed to).  The raisins were plentiful – almost every bite had at least one raisin in it.  I liked the honey flavor.  The taste was sweet, but not overly so.

I let my son try the bars.  As you may know, he’s a teenaged competitive swimmer.  He’ll eat almost anything, but he’s pretty picky about what he eats in and around training and meets.  He loved both bars.  In fact, he polished off 11 of the peanut bars in about a week and wanted more of them.

My conclusions:

At the end of the day, many solid bar nutrition products targeted for the endurance sports market will pack roughly the same nutritional punch.  The NOW bar certainly falls in line with what many other nutrition companies provide in terms of calories, sodium and carbohydrates. 

For me, the biggest two differentiating factors in determining whether I’d purchase (and eat) one bar over another when there are multiple “similar” bars in the marketplace are taste and price.  Probably in that order, too.

I wasn’t a big fan of the two flavors for the NOW Energy bar.  But…taste is a personal thing.  As I noted, my son loved both flavors.  I was only lukewarm to the Honeycomb flavor.  I suspect that all other things equal, I’d pick a different company’s bar if they provided flavors that I found I liked more.

The other factor to consider is price.  As I noted, the NOW bars are not inexpensive.  A case of twelve bars is almost $36.  That’s a fairly hefty price to pay for a bar when many other bars provide roughly the same nutritional bang for your buck

My ratings:  (Green = Good; Yellow = Average; Orange = Mediocre; Red = Bad)

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