Energy bars are a dime a dozen (figuratively; literally, they tend to be provocatively expensive), so it’s always nice to see someone bringing a new approach to the product.
Minnesota-made by a local startup called Five Friends Food, Fresh Bars (née Güdbars until threatened legal action by Hershey’s) promise a fresher, moister experience than the typical shelf-stable energy bar, and demand refrigeration in return for the experience.
The trade-off is fair. We tried four varieties of Fresh Bars and found them to be surprisingly light, rich in flavor, and persuasively natural — everything we tasted could be tracked back to a recognizable whole food or spice. You’d think that Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana bar would be a sweet mass suggestive of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but it’s actually mellow and extremely banana-forward, with no off flavors and a gentle sweetness that’s derived from honey and applesauce. The Pumpkin Carrot Pecan bar comes with a recommendation to microwave before eating, so we gave it a shot — it evoked warm pumpkin pie, heavy emphasis on the pumpkin (and nutmeg, and cinnamon), heavy de-emphasis on the sugar. Apple Banana Almond Raisin Bars were profoundly banana-flavored like their Chocolate Peanut Butter cousins, with a pleasant almond finish, and the Cherry Pear Walnut bars were our favorite — a strong natural pear flavor dominated, supported by big bright bursts of cherry that make the bar a veritable rectangular fruit bowl.
The bars are reasonably high in fiber and protein without being grossly caloric or sugar-laden, making them a good snacking alternative to candy bars (a category that should probably include some products currently marketed in the energy bar category.)
Fresh Bars are available at Lunds, Byerly’s, and co-ops including Seward and the Wedge, with a suggested retail price of $4.79 for a three-bar, 8.3-8.5 oz. package.