These bars taste great and the crunchy texture is amazing. They are however a bar high in protein and low in sugar, without much other nutritional benefit.
- Crunchy texture
- Very good taste across 3 flavours
- 20g of protein par bar
- 2-4g of sugar per bar
- High presence of soy protein
- Many ingredients with little nutritional value
- 5g of saturated fat per bar
Optimum Nutrition is a global leader in sports nutrition and one of their more recent releases is the Protein Crunch protein bars. It's manufactured in Canada and imported into Australia with each 56-57g bar touting 20g of protein and just 2-4g of sugar per serve.
Nutrition & Directions
The primary protein source in these bars is from the dairy protein blend (21-23% depending upon the flavour), comprised of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate. Soy protein isolate is also a key protein source, listed after the dairy blend.
While it's great to see a high quality blend of dairy protein listed first, we really don't know how soy protein ranks as compared to any of the individual sources of dairy. Soy protein is a much cheaper and less bioavailable form of protein as compared to whey protein and this is not desirable in a product from such a premium brand.
Much like many of the newer low carb bars, these bars do have isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) as a base. This is a source of carbohydrate and why we see the carbohydrate content relatively high (12-14g per bar) even though it is resistant to digestion. We also see polydextrose featuring quite high, which is a synthetic polymer of glucose and classified as a dietary fibre.
The protein and the IMO are the main components, then we have a whole bunch of ingredients that contribute to the taste and texture, varying between flavours (this includes vegetable oil, butter, unsweetened chocolate). Worth noting, these bars do include maltitol (a sugar alcohol sweetener) and sucralose (an artificial sweetener) which may deter some. We do not know if the flavouring is natural or artificial (it is noted as "flavour" on the ingredients list). There is added sugar in the peanut butter and toffee & pretzel flavours, which explains why these flavours are 2g higher in sugar than the chocolate.
Ultimately these bars are a protein hit without much sugar and except for the added tocopherols (vitamin E), there is not much other nutritional benefit to them. There are a lot of artificial components to them and really, it serves its purpose as being a "protein bar". From an ingredients point of view, there isn't anything that is fantastic and nor is there anything that is particularly bad.
Given that protein is such an important component of this bar, it would have been great to have seen the soy protein removed altogether. I am however going to give this slightly above average for the category given the high presence of dairy based protein in the total mix.
There are roughly 220-230 calories per bar with 20g of protein, 7 grams of fat (4-5g being saturated) and 12-14g of carbohydrate (2-4g being sugar).
They have hit the nail on the head in terms of protein per serve. 20g is a reasonable amount for anyone looking to have a snack on the go. The low sugar count is particularly impressive - especially in the chocolate flavour with just 2g of sugar per bar.
The higher amount of carbohydrates will worry some, though I don't feel they are excessive. For a protein bar, this is mid-range.
The drawback to these bars is in the relatively high amount of saturated fat per serve coming from ingredients such as the unsweetened chocolate, vegetable oil and butter.
Generally, the label is transparent listing all the macro's and ingredients, without making any misleading claims.
There is one exception, the "Dairy protein blend" which is included as ingredient number 1 on the ingredients list. This unfortunately does not allow us to determine the true positioning of the four main sources of protein (whey isolate, whey concentrate, milk concentrate and soy isolate). Since the main benefit of this bar is the protein component, I feel that this is an extremely important oversight that deters from the overall transparency of the product.
Directions & Servings
There aren't any directions...but really, do you need instructions on how to eat a protein bar?
The serving size is 1 bar as you would expect.
Taste & Texture
We have three flavour options available in Australia; Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Toffee & Pretzel flavours. Within the protein bars category, this places these bars mid-range, ranking in the top 31% based on flavour options.
Optimum Nutrition is known for taste, and these bars do not disappoint.
The Milk Chocolate has a strong chocolatey taste to it. The outer coating is a sweet chocolate icing which is balanced out by the inner puffs. I feel however that the chocolate does not have much depth to it and while the taste is very good, it's missing that rich, thick and indulgent taste that you would otherwise expect from a candy bar.
The Peanut Butter tastes exactly like sweetened peanut butter. It is very nutty and creamy. While it's sweet, it's not sickly sweet, though it does taste sweeter than the milk chocolate.
Finally, the Toffee and Pretzel is probably the sweetest and best suited for anyone with a sweet tooth. The sweetness is balanced out with the pretzel taste and this flavour is also saltier than the other two. It's a really unique flavour and I've got to say that I was pleasantly surprised after tasting this for the first time. However if you prefer an average level of sweetness in your protein bar, this one may be a tad too sweet for you.
Overall, the taste is impressive across all three flavours. The peanut butter and toffee & pretzel flavours are not all that common in a protein bar and ON has done a great job with the flavour profiles overall.
Flavour Rating Consistency
Toffee & Pretzel comes in at 100% which is a fantastic result given this incredibly unique flavour. Milk chocolate averages at 98% and peanut butter ranks third at an average score of 93%.
With a 7% variation in flavour consistency, this ranks these bars in the top 38% of all products in the category.
Solubility & Texture
I believe that this is the biggest selling point of these bars - the texture. It's a crunchy crisp bar and the texture is absolutely amazing. It's not too crunchy and it's not soft either. The puffs in these bars give the product a very pleasant texture which would rival that of any standard candy bar.
This is one of the top sellers in the protein bar category ranking, yielding full marks!
Rate of Repurchase
Customers are very satisfied with this product and this is demonstrated by the high rate of repurchasing, ranking within the top 3% of all the bars that we sell.
On average our customers have rated these bars at 95% (4.75 stars) which places them in the top 22% of the category when compared to other ratings.
Value for Money
The packaging for a standard protein bar is an individual plastic and foil wrapper. There are 12 bars to a box. This is as one would expect for a protein bar.
We weighed a random milk chocolate bar (57g on the label). It came in above expectations at 60g.
Per bar you're looking at somewhere between $3-$4 which is quite reasonable for any standard protein bar. This bar is unique in both the texture and taste and so I do believe that this is a good offering if you're looking for a protein bar that's high in protein and low in sugar.
When we compare this to the category on a price per serving basis, it ranks in the top 27% of other protein bars.
The ON Protein Crunch is a protein bar that tastes good with an amazing texture. Although there is a high prevalence of soy protein, you are getting a reasonable protein hit. The ingredients really don't have much else to offer besides protein with "some other stuff', but the macro's stack up well and this product serves the purpose of being a convenient snack at a reasonable price.
This is a great treat and certainly a good replacement for a chocolate bar to fend away cravings.