When I was contacted about getting samples of Sunbelt’s Sweet & Salty granola bars to review on ZOMG, Candy!, I told their PR contact that granola bars were outside the domain of this blog. I did, however, offer to review them on Sugar Savvy, which I also write for. Soon, a generous shipment of 3 boxes (8 bars each) arrived via UPS.
Unfortunately, Sugar Savvy is currently under reconstruction, so I’m bending my rules and publishing the review here after all. I promised them a review, and I won’t renege on that.
Let’s check out the bars’ press release, shall we?
“Each bar combines whole-grain oats and roasted peanuts, with a chocolate coating on the bottom and a stripe on top.”
Compare that with what’s on the box and the bars’ wrappers: “Chewy Peanut Sweet & Salty Granola Bars.”
Notice the difference? The latter never mentions the chocolate (though it does proclaim the bar to be “fudge dipped”). That’s because there are food labeling laws that require a product to contain cocoa butter (in other words, actual chocolate) in order for it to be called chocolate. A quick glance on the Sweet & Salty bars’ ingredients reveals a total lack of any cocoa product. The “chocolate” on the bar is actually made from palm and soybean oil.
Funny how the labeling law doesn’t seem to apply to press releases. Or to putting photos of chocolate on the box, if not the word “chocolate.”
The granola part is mostly whole grain oats mixed with crisped rice and the occasional peanut. The texture of the bar is soft and squishy, and it has a soft bite that gives easily. It’s a bit slipperier (yes that’s the correct form; I looked it up) than I expected from a granola bar, but not exactly greasy.
It tastes mostly of salty peanuts against the oaty nuttiness of whole oats. The bar is a good amount of honeyed sweet – enough to be noticeable, but not so much that it’s cloying or feels like you’re eating a candy bar. The non-chocolate sort of comes through as a light chocolatey finish, but just barely, and it tastes too weak, with no cocoa notes to bolster it.
All in all, the bar tastes pretty decent for a granola bar. It’s not revelatory or anything, but I’ve yet to find a granola bar that blows my palate away. But the complete lack of real chocolate is a letdown, and the nutrition stats are pretty rough. Each bar is 190 calories, 9 grams of fat (14% of your recommended daily intake) and 4.5 grams of saturated fat (a whopping 23% of your recommended daily intake). With those numbers, you might as well have a candy bar.
Sorry, Sunbelt. If you’d used real chocolate instead of all that palm oil and soybean oil, the bar would’ve tasted better, and I daresay it may have been healthier as well. With your current formula, however, you get a null score of —.