REVIEW: Quest Birthday Cake Coated Protein Bar

If pumpkin spice is the seasonal signifier of the basic b, then birthday cake is the quintessential staple of the basic’s day to day favorite flavor. My tastebud’s tendencies keep me right in line with all the basic ladies of the world, and just like I love me some spice I love me a good birthday cake flavored treat. Ice cream, candy, lotion, candles, and yep, protein bars. While this trend is far from new, in fact I think it peaked a couple years ago, the biggest player in the protein bar game are extremely late to the party. This week Quest showed up when everyone was already wasted and stumbling with their Birthday Cake coated protein bar.

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This bar is a bit of a deviation for the company, using a coated outer layer similar to Oh Yeah’s One bars instead of the usual plain outer skin. It certainly looks pretty enough, studded with a smattering of fun confetti dots and a semi-glossy coating that is incredibly soft and smooth.

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Biting in the initial taste is very creamy, sweet, and slightly salty, making a combination that truly does remind me of a well balanced buttercream. The texture is soft, chewy, and fresh, leaving a pretty positive initial impression. Unfortunately after the first couple chews a very strong and unpleasant artificial sugar flavor takes over that is inescapably powerful. While Quest bars do tend to carry a bit of a sucralose finish, this bar leans way too heavy on an astringent artificial flavor that takes away from any birthday cake potential it had. While the outer coating provides some nice creaminess, the inside of the bar is very bland and flavorless, leaving little reason to want to eat more of these bars.

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The biggest issue here, aside from the fact that the bar legitimately doesn’t taste good, is that there are far too many better options already on the market. Oh Yeah One’s Birthday Cake is a staple with comparable macros, and very strong offerings from MuscleTech and Fit Joy have been out for over a year as well. Quest has had some pretty solid releases recently with Mocha Chocolate Chip and last years Cereal Bars, but this one is a major step backwards for a company that at this point really needs to be pushing the envelope with portable protein supplements. If someone showed up to my birthday party with this bar I would revoke their party privileges and show them to the door.

Rating: 4/10
Found at: GNC ($2.39)
Quick Nutrition: 180 cal – 5g fat – 3g sat fat – 220mg sodium – 25g carb – 14g fiber – 1g sugar – 21g protein

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BAR BATTLE: Grenade Carb Killa Chocolate Cream vs. Chocolate Crunch

After the insanely impressive success of the White Chocolate Cookie bar and the relative letdown of Caramel Chaos, it seemed only fitting to pit Grenade’s two U.S. available chocolate flavored bars – cream and crunch – in a completely irrelevant and awesome bar battle to the death.  In reality this is just two reviews crammed into one, but all that sounds pretty fun doesn’t it?

First up – Chocolate Cream.

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This bar has a chocolate cream center with a layer of caramel coated in milk chocolate, all revolving around a whey protein base.  Unfortunately, this bar was neither creamy or particularly chocolatey and resulted in immediate disappointment.

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The inside looked gorgeous, with a fluffy protein core topped by thin whispy caramel and was very similar to the Caramel Chaos without the elements that made that bar redeemable – the caramel flavor and crisp crunch.  The promised flavor fell completely flat and left me searching for more bite after bite.

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This bar is fine, as in passable, but it isn’t adding anything new to the protein bar game, which a truly creamy chocolate bar would.  When I hear chocolate cream I think of truffles or the center of a Cadbury egg, or at the very least a rich deep cocoa flavor, and none of those were present in this bar.  What’s good about this bar is the same thing that makes white cookie so great without any notable strong flavors or inventiveness.  Ultimately it’s perfectly edible and has solid macros but isn’t replacing any of the other established chocolate protein bars (Combat Crunch, Quest) that have been doing it for years.

Rating: 6/10

And the challenger – Chocolate Crunch.

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This bar comes in a golden wrapper – does that mean it’s actually the reigning champ and not the challenger?  Is this foreshadowing?  Yes.  This bar is solid.

The name “Chocolate Crunch” is a bit misleading because a prominent flavor in this bar is peanuts.  Listed in the description, peanuts, in both their taste and texture, play a bigger role in making this bar successful than the chocolate, which is present but greatly amplified by the nuts.  The half real, half artificial (you know the taste) flavor of peanuts is the first and last thing you taste, rounded out very nicely by the coating of chocolate.
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Speaking of successful, the caramel here is very different than the other three bars – it’s thick and solid with a chewy texture that is new and awesome.

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This bar, much like its white chocolate all star, is channeling a liquor store classic – SNICKERS.  The peanuty protein base becomes distinctly like the texture of nougat and the nuts and caramel work together to complete the package.  This isn’t as dead-on of a copy as the white cookie but it took me by pleasant surprise that this bar tasted nothing like I expected.  I didn’t anticipate the bar to taste bad I just had no idea it would take me back to the candy aisle and eager to reach for another.

Rating: 8/10

Chocolate Crunch absolutely destroys Chocolate Cream and will earn its slot in any Snickers-loving protein bar munchers’ rotation with ease.  A great nutritional profile with flavor to back it up, the gold wrapper is a fitting home for a bar that channels one of the greatest candies of all time.

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OOEY GOOEY CHAMPION!

REVIEW: Quest Beyond Cereal Bars (All three flavors)

The all-influential and trend-setting folks at Quest Nutrition are back at it again with a new line of portable protein – Beyond Cereal bars. The bars attempt to emulate the mainstream cereal bar, somewhere in between the Lucky Charms 7/11-available variety and the popular Red Berry line by Special K.

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As with most Quest products these bars are laced with both protein (12 grams) and fiber (7 grams), and only 110 calories each. The big difference here is the amount of sugar, clocking in at 8 grams, or four times the amount typically found in a Quest protein bar. The kicker is apparently the listed grams of sugar aren’t actually the same as the ones normally listed because they come from allulose, which has one tenth of the calories of actual sugar (despite being required to be listed in the sugar column).  This is the first widely distributed product on the market made with allulose and to be honest I have no idea how it works, but its flavor is certainly more convincing than the other alternate sweeteners typically used in protein products.

The bars launched this week with three flavors and I’m going to rate and review all three from most fire to most tepid, but heads up, they’re all pretty solid.

Waffle: This bar is delicious. Immediately upon opening the package you’re hit with the strong smell of maple syrup, not the stuff that actually comes from trees but the Aunt Jemima Log Cabin Sunday morning nostalgia kind of syrup. Somehow the taste isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and the use of allulose allows the bar to avoid the artificial Sucralose taste that sometimes plagues Quest products. The texture is soft and chewy like a Rice Krispy treat with an undercurrent of buttery graham cracker. What makes this flavor particularly intriguing is there are no other products with this profile currently on the market. If this bar were an actual cereal it would be Golden Grahams, and it’s a damn fine substitute.  I had to buy this bar a second time to make sure I liked it as much as I thought and it’s without a doubt my favorite Quest product of the year.
Rating: 9/10

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Cinnamon Roll: Beautiful cinnamon flavor with a slight buttery toasty undertone – this bar is Cinnamon Toast Crunch all the way. It is the only one where the white drizzle on top seems to really stand out, adding a nice touch of creaminess and sweetness to highlight the spice. The spices aren’t overwhelming but are very much there, and this is the first time I’ve really marveled at the fact that this whole line isn’t actually cereal. Really cool for people with gluten intolerance to be able to enjoy something that emulates a cereal bar so well. Only downside to this one is it is the only bar of the three that has a bit of a fake sugar Sucralose flavor, even though it uses allulose as its primary sweetener.
Rating: 8/10

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Chocolate: This bar has less of everything. Less aroma, less sweetness, less pop on the initial bite. The texture is a bit softer but also grainier than the waffle or cinnamon, and its main strength is a deep cocoa taste. The chocolate here is not suggesting milk chocolate like Cocoa Pebbles but it isn’t as bitter as straight cocoa either. It’s got a natural chocolatey-ness that’s more convincing than most Quest products. The base flavor is not too far off from a less sweet Oreo, and doesn’t emulate any particular name brand cereal I’ve had on the market (RIP Oreo O‘s and shoutout Junk Banter for that comparison). If you’re a fan of Cocoa Puffs you will likely dig this but don’t expect it to taste exactly like the actual cereal you grew up loving.
Rating: 7.5/10

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Overall the Quest Beyond Cereal lineup is a slam dunk.  They have managed to make something awesome that I didn’t even know I needed in my life and I will be a repeat customer.  A quick fix snack bar that provides the comfort of a nostalgic breakfast with portability, protein, and fiber to boot.  The only issue with this line is the price point – being offered at a very similar cost to a regular Quest bar in most retailers ($2.39), but only having around half the protein and fiber you would typically get at that dollar amount.  A great snack but probably not suitable for a meal replacement, although you can always just crush two if you’re feeling spendy and hungry.

Overall Quest Beyond Cereal rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition:
110 calories – 4.5g fat – 10mg Cholesterol – 170mg Sodium – 17g Carbs – 7g Fiber – 8g Sugar – 12g Protein

REVIEW: Fit Joy Iced Gingerbread Cookie

This summer Fit Joy burst onto the protein scene, pecs-a-boomin, and have been relentless in their attempt to dominant the market ever since. I’m not sure who their connect is but based on their prominent displays and promotions at GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, and others, they really truly have the plug. After launching with six flavors, Fit Joy followed up with a limited seasonal Homemade Pumpkin Pie bar (which was okay), and are now trying to tempt Kris Kringle with additional holiday offerings. The first of these winter collection bars is Iced Gingerbread Cookie.

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Visually the bar is the same as all other non-cookie dough and mint Fit Joy‘s – a whey protein rectangle dipped in yogurt and topped with a garnish. The topping on this bar looks like little pieces of gingerbread cookies with the mellow aroma of cinnamon. The overall smell of the bar isn’t much different from the pumpkin pie or cinnamon bun with a sweet and subdued spice.

Biting in, a slightly crunchy texture from little crispy balls hidden inside the protein base gives way to a yogurt-driven sweetness that turns into a wonderful sharp ginger flavor. The ginger tastes authentic and finishes with the perfect spicy tingle that leaves you wanting more. The sweetness is on par with other Fit Joy flavors – definitely a dominant role but not overpowering or fake tasting in any way. The cinnamon crisps on top of the bar do a good job of emulating some of the snap you would get from a ginger cookie while also adding more cinnamon flavor.
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What makes this bar successful is that “Organic Ginger” appears in the ingredient list ahead of Stevia, and the experience as a whole feels more like eating a gingerbread cookie and less like a stick of fake sugar, which can’t be said for all protein bars.  Other companies should take notice and try and use more real ingredients when emulating flavors – especially spices.  Fit Joy’s mission statement is to use no artificial preservatives or sweeteners and the resulting experience is clean and refreshing.

Overall this bar is more impressive than their Homemade Pumpkin Pie and ranks among the best of their initial launch line, in the same class as Chocolate Peanut Butter, French Vanilla Almond, and Chocolate Iced Brownie. Great to see a protein bar company tackle a slightly different flavor than what’s on the market and have lots of success.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10mg Cholesterol – 190mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 10g Fiber – 5g Sugar – 20g Protein