Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bars

Skratch Labs turns a big six years old this week, and they're growing up so fast!  It seems like just yesterday that they were convinced it was impossible to make an energy bar that wasn't dry and terrible.  "Fresh food is better for you," they said.  "Chewing shouldn't burn more calories than your actual workout," they maintained.

Unfortunately, their fans and athletes couldn't keep things simple for them.  Yes, we all like freshly made portables to fuel our endeavors, but sometimes we just don't prepare in time.  We end up stopping at the gas station and picking up something that we know isn't going to sit well.  And inevitably, we either find ourselves somewhere along the continuum of gastrointestinal regret, or crashing because we've decided that the wise decision was to eat nothing at all.  For many athletes, bars are a necessary evil, and Skratch Labs stepped up to make a version that we could feel good about eating.

I'll admit I was a little skeptical at first.  As much as I wanted to believe that the company who had turned my opinion of sports drinks around could do the same for bars, all of my experience told me it was a long shot.  And then from my first bite, I knew they had delivered.  And the second bite.  And soon I had scarfed the whole thing down without a trace of dry mouth or insecure stomach.

Like all of their creations, Skratch Labs went in with the idea that simpler is better, using as few and as minimally processed ingredients as possible, with no artificial coloring or flavoring.  In addition to the higher moisture content, they lack preservatives, which does mean that they have a shorter shelf life than many similar products.  Realistically though, I can't imagine a box of these being in my house and even coming close to the expiration date.  The bars are easy to open, and made in a manageable size, all somewhere around 200 calories a piece depending on the flavor.  And despite having an overall macronutrient profile that's comparable to many other bars, the actual sugar content is pleasingly low, with the highest coming in at only 7 grams.

For those of you with allergies or on restricted diets, all three flavors are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and kosher.  They do, however, all contain nut butters if not solid nuts (almond and cashew).

Of the three flavors, the Chocolate Chip & Almond are probably the most mainstream.  They're made with non-dairy chocolate chips, which I didn't even realize until someone else told me, but is great news for vegans or lactose intolerant folks who miss having good chocolate options.  What surprised me about these was actually the dried cranberries, which are tart enough that I actually thought they were cherries at first.  Just sweet enough without being overpowering, and a great variety of textures in every bite.

If I had to pick a favorite, Cherries & Pistachios might be it.  Just different enough from flavors I've gotten used to in the past, a nice balance of sweet and salty, and soft overall with enough crunch to keep it interesting.  These have found a permanent place in my backpack, as well as in my wife's bag for when pregnancy hunger randomly hits.

Ginger & Miso.  Yes, a miso flavored bar.  This has to be the most polarizing of the three flavors, but has consistently disappeared at every demo I've done.  The ginger and miso provide an overall savoriness that's perfect for breaking up the taste saturation we often encounter from an overabundance of sweet options.  Fair warning though, these things also have red pepper that can range from unnoticeable to unexpectedly spicy from one bite to the next, and I tend to avoid them when my stomach is already feeling overly acidic.  That being said, I love them right now when I'm out climbing in sub-freezing weather, with that kick providing the illusion of warmth on top of an already solid flavor.

Of course I still love to cook, and having a fresh batch of cookies or other bite sized energy out at the rocks is something I'll continue to look forward to, but it's so nice to finally have a convenient pre-packaged option that I can happily share with my friends and family.  Well done Skratch Labs.  Check them out if you haven't already!

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