I tried 6 protein bars to find the best-tasting options at the grocery store, and there are only 2 I'd buy again

  • I tried protein bars from One, Think!, Quest, Pure Protein, Clif Builders, and Barebells.

  • The Clif Builders protein bar was a bit high in calories but I enjoyed it.

  • The Barebells bar was my top pick and I might even choose it over a candy bar.

Protein bars are becoming really, really popular.

The multibillion-dollar protein-bar industry is projected to grow to over 7 billion by 2029 — so it's no surprise there are a lot of bars on the market. But they can't all be winners. And they don't always taste great.

To help find which is the best to buy at the grocery store, I bought protein bars in similar flavors from six different brands to review. The amount of protein, calories, fiber, or added sugars a person is looking to consume will vary, so I focused my reviews on taste.

All six of the bars advertise 20 grams of protein and contain between 200 and 290 calories. Of them, only the top two tasted like something I'd want to eat again.

Here's my ranking, from my least favorite to my top pick:

6. One (peanut-butter pie)

One protein bar wrapper with unwrapped bar next to it
One's peanut-butter-pie protein bar wasn't for me. Ted Berg

The packaging of One's peanut-butter-pie flavor shows what appears to be chocolate syrup drizzled over the dessert it aspires to taste like, but the outer shell of the bar is a peanut-butter-colored coating and there's no discernable chocolate in flavor or in the ingredients.

Although none of the bars tasted much like peanut butter — a revelation so surprising that I doubted my taste buds and cross-referenced with some actual peanut butter — the One bar, especially, tasted nothing like peanut butter to me.

In my opinion, it tasted more like chewing gum, except with a grainy texture and a somewhat unpleasant, almost medicinal aftertaste.

The 220-calorie bar is fairly high in fiber (8 grams), but I don't think it's very good. Other One bars might taste better, but I wouldn't try this flavor again.

5. Think! (creamy peanut butter)

Think! protein bar with unwrapped bar next to it
The Think! protein bar has a chocolaty coating. Ted Berg

Think! offers both creamy and chunky peanut-butter protein bars, so I can overlook the lack of texture in the creamy variety.

This bar is coated in chocolate, though there's seemingly no indication of that on the bar's packaging. It had a hint of peanut-butter flavor — but not much.

The bar's interior was surprisingly cakey and it threw me off. I found myself desperate for a cleansing sip of water after my first bite.

The 230-calorie bar has no added sugar, but only 1 gram of fiber. Even so, I probably wouldn't reach for one again.

4. Quest (chocolate peanut butter)

Quest protein bar wrapper with unwrapped bar next to it
The Quest bar I tried had no coating. Ted Berg

The Quest bar had no outer coating at all, giving it the feel of the first-generation protein bars that were marketed toward endurance athletes.

It had a dry, nougaty texture, and with the chocolate chips nestled inside it, it tasted a little like cookie dough. Again, the peanut-butter flavor was very mild. I'd say it was an inoffensive protein bar overall, but not a particularly tasty one.

Notably, it's got the fewest calories (190 calories) and most fiber (11 grams) of the bars I tried.

3. Pure Protein (chocolate peanut butter)

Pure Protein protein bar wrapper with unwrapped bar next to it
The Pure Protein bar had a thick layer of chocolate. Ted Berg

The 200-calorie Pure Protein offering can't match Quest's for fiber, with only 1 gram. But it's a bit tastier, thanks in large part to the fairly thick layer of chocolate surrounding a chewy interior with occasional bites of crunch.

While chewing I tasted a hint of something artificial-tasting that reminded me I was eating a protein bar. I might buy the Pure Protein bar again if it were my best option, but not if either of the top two offerings were also available.

It's also worth noting this was the smallest of the bars I tried, shorter and blockier than the others, and only 50 grams (the others were 55 grams or larger).

2. Clif Builders (chocolate peanut butter)

Clif Builders protein bar wrapper with unwrapped bar next to it
The Clif Builders protein bar had a pretty high calorie count. Ted Berg

The Clif Builders protein bar is a bit different from the rest on this list in that it's the only one with substantial amounts of added sugar, 17 grams. None of the others has more than 1 gram of added sugar.

The distinction means that at 290 calories, it has a higher calorie count than any other protein bar I tasted. But a difference of 60 to 90 calories doesn't seem that huge in comparison to how much better this tastes than any of the options below it on the list.

It's chocolaty, crunchy, and substantial — enough so that, if I chose this as my protein bar, I could rest assured I wouldn't be tempted to eat other, less nutritious food alongside it.

And it's got no aftertaste to speak of.

1. Barebells (salty peanut)

Gold protein bar wrapper with unwrapped bar next to it
The Barebells bar I tried has 200 calories. Ted Berg

Although it only has 200 calories and no added sugar, the Barebells bar was the tastiest of the bunch.

It's chocolaty and chewy, with a soft, caramel-like center, and since it has actual, visible peanuts, it has the flavor of actual peanuts. It tasted more like peanut butter than any of the peanut-butter-flavored bars I tried.

But mostly it tastes like a candy bar. In fact, in a blind taste test, with no concern for protein content, I could imagine picking this over a candy bar, since it's not quite sweet enough to give me a headache like a full-size Snickers might.

It's so much better than the others that it's almost hard to believe its nutrition facts. It's also hard to imagine I'd ever choose any other protein bar if a Barebells bar was available.

Read the original article on Business Insider