by Kenton Berg
In a very crowded market like energy bars, it’s hard for the little guy to stand up and get noticed sometimes, but this is exactly what the folks at Dr. Will Bar have done. They’ve strayed from the mold, literally, and have figured out how to make a great-tasting, calorie-packed, small square-shaped energy bar with wholesome ingredients. On top of all that, Dr. Will figured out how to keep it moist, keep it small, and keep it in the ballpark dollar-wise.
An energy bar is nothing if it doesn’t taste good and I don’t like to eat it. So before researching the ingredients and history of this bar, I got to work and ate a few, as a snack and during exercise. As I began mowing through my sample box, three things began to stand out for me with this bar:
- the taste and texture
- the ingredients list (no unnatural ingredients)
- how easy it was to eat it while pedaling (no water required)
One thing the discerning cyclist will notice is that this bar does not take half of a water bottle to get down. It’s moist, goes down easy and tastes good. The bar is a smorgasbord of fruit and nuts in a small package that is easy to fit in a jersey pocket or stuff into a pant leg. The nuts certainly make this bar richer than your average energy bar, and the oil from the nuts makes it taste like and have a consistency more similar to fudge than a cookie or dry energy bar. Thus it doesn’t freeze up in cold conditions, making it an ideal slower-burning choice for cyclocross when the temperatures drop. No breaking your teeth on a frozen piece of wood. When the temperatures rise, it certainly gets softer and the oils become more evident, but it’s not goopy.
Here’s what makes up a Dr. Will Bar:
Ingredients: Peanut Butter, Flax Seed, Oats, Corn Syrup, Pumpkin Seed, Brown Sugar, Cranberries, Cherries, Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Puffed Rice, Whey Protein, Coconut.
Calories from fat: 110
Taking a look at that, I initially had three observations: It’s nice to see a lot of whole food ingredients, there’s quite a lot of fat, and why corn syrup?
Regarding the fat and whole food ingredients, the bar is designed to be a nutritious ideal meal replacement, not necessarily a quick sugar fix. While it has about the same number of calories as a Clif Bar, it has three to four times the fat calories. In fact, the company tout’s the bar’s lower glycemic index and its healthy fats and higher level of protein. Thus, it might not be my top choice for a bar I’d choose to eat when I’m completely bonked and out of gel, but it’s a great choice a bit before a ride without the worry of a big sugar high and crash. And it’s ideal during long rides, for post-ride recovery and when hunger strikes at work.
We asked Dr. Will about the curious choice of corn syrup, which has gotten a lot of bad press of late. Based on the list of ingredients, it seems like something like honey might be a better match. The company explained that the important distinction is that their corn syrup is not of the high fructose variety, and was the best option in providing good texture and taste in their tests as well as a glycemic value on par with regular sugar.
So who is Dr. Will Bar and where did he come from? Like one of the most famous bars on the market today, the Dr. Will Bar was created by someone who didn’t like what the market had to offer. Dr. Will Harden, an actual person and athlete, set out to find the right mix of healthy ingredients to provide energy, taste and a change of pace from the everyday bar he was using. After countless efforts at finding the right combo, today’s recipe is one that was tested and approved by friends, family and Portland-area athletes/taste testers.
The bars are made in Portland, OR, by local bakers, and the company is all about community. The company works with Portland-based companies for printing wrappers and boxes, as well as for boxing and packaging the bars. Dr. Will Bar works with local cycling teams and sponsors runners, skiers and everyday athletes. The hiring of local talent comes at a price, but also benefits the customer in higher quality control and tighter oversight on ingredients and business practices.
Now that I’ve pumped the bar up and offered the praise, here’s the potential downside. If you are not a fan of peanut butter, this bar may not be for you. As I offered it up to my friends and family, I received differing opinions on how the peanut butter taste came out – in other words, how strong the peanut butter taste was and how that would impact the eater. For me, it was an “eating” point as I love peanut butter, but for others it was either a complete turn off or something they thought could be improved upon. And for those of us used to eating hundreds of energy bars, the softer, creamy texture is a surprise. I loved it, but others weren’t expecting it.
Choice is always good, as other energy bar manufacturers have discovered, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dr. Will Bar come out with other options. I could imagine future flavors involving chocolate or chocolate chips, and would love to see a chocolate and peanut butter option, but I’ll leave that to the doctor to figure out.
All-in-all, I give a hearty “chapeau” to Dr Will for delivering an all-natural bar that tastes good, goes down easy and provides sustained energy.
Dr. Will Bars retail for $36.00 for a box of 24, which ends up being $1.50 a bar, within range of other options. You can order online, or find them at a number of retail outlets, especially in the Northwest. And if the doctor has his way, they’ll soon be in more stores near you.
(Not to be confused by a completely different “Will Bar”)