Climbing Food Review: Clif ZBars

by Tom Markiewicz on November 19, 2008

Today’s guest post is from Ryan Wanger, a climber who writes at The Reluctant Eater.

Picture 5.pngClif. The name is synonymous with climbing (perhaps it’s the logo?). If you’re like me, then you’ve always enjoyed Clif Bars, but rarely buy them because frankly, you’re a cheapskate. Nutritious? Yep. All natural? Absolutely. Tasty? You betcha! In fact, it’s amazing that anyone can successfully sell any product to a bunch of jobless, dirtbag climbers like ourselves, right? We’d rather just eat the dust of last weeks trail mix!

In recent years, Clif has been on a tear to diversify and expand their product line, releasing 9 new food products since 2004. However, since I’m rather oblivious to that sort of thing, and haven’t spent much time in climbing gyms recently (traditional Clif strongholds), I failed to notice…well…ALL of them. A recent sample of Clif Shot Bloks at an ultimate frisbee tournament piqued my curiosity, inspiring a flurry of research (read: tasting).

Today, we discuss: Clif Kid Organic ZBar.

My first thought? Clif has a line of kids products? Well, they do now, having released a second item, Clif Kid Twisted Fruit, last year.

I eat local, organic, non-processed food almost exclusively, so I’m always a bit skeptical of anything in a package, and generally that means foods with as few ingredients as possible (especially those ingredients that sound like they came from a laboratory: monogluxysodiobenzoate?). However, it’s hard to argue with the ingredients of the Peanut Butter ZBar:

Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Peanuts, Salt), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Fig Paste, Organic Peanuts, Organic Oat Flour, Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Organic Chocolate (Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin), Salt, Baking Soda.

Let’s just call it: a bunch of whole food ingredients pressed together.

What do they taste like? Basically ZBars are smaller, less dense (more bread-like) versions of Clif Bars, with a little drizzle of frosting on top. And tasty! Yes, I’m an adult, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying food aimed at children. Right?

My thoughts on the 6 different flavors, listed in order of preference:

  • Peanut Butter – My favorite! I don’t like peanut butter cookies, but love any peanut butter & chocolate combo. This tastes more like the latter.
  • Chocolate Chip – Reminiscent of Quaker Oats Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. Or even the S’more flavor. That’s a good thing!
  • Blueberry – Tastes like a dense, chewy blueberry muffin.
  • Apple Cinnamon – Surprisingly good considering I generally don’t enjoy this flavor.
  • Chocolate Brownie – Still decent, basically a chocolate-chocolate chip taste. Though somehow less chocolaty than the Chocolate Chip?
  • Honey Graham – My least favorite, and the “least strong” in terms of flavoring. It also happens to have the least amount of sugar.

Again, I try to eat local, organic food whenever possible and usually make my own goodies from scratch, but I realize that isn’t always possible. Clif has similar beliefs, expressed right there on the packaging: “In raising our family, we always wish to find organic snacks to nourish our kids as they compete in sports, study or just play with friends. We prefer to make them food from scratch, but life gets busy, so it’s not always possible. That’s why we created Clif Kid Organic ZBar – a baked energy bar made with whole oats..”. You get the picture. They do a great job with consistent, healthy, authentic products.

(Photo missing. Next time I’ll remember to take a picture BEFORE eating!)

Although I was a little saddened that the bars are frosted (just a snaking drizzle across the top), they still serve as a huge step up from most food products aimed at children in terms of healthfulness (no high fructose corn syrup!), organicness, and environmental responsible…ness. The real selling point is that they retail for roughly half the cost of a Clif Bar. So grab one for yourself…er, I mean your kid.

Thanks to Ryan for the guest post. If you enjoyed this, please check out his other posts at The Reluctant Eater, where he writes about eating local, organic food, and promoting a healthier relationship with food. Ryan also has a best of The Reluctant Eater collection.


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