Choosing the Healthiest Organic Snack Bar Brands

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Linley Dixon, PhD, Senior Scientist
at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

Snack bars are a highly profitable $8 billion industry, posting double-digit annual growth rates. A small, but growing, percentage of the bars market is now USDA certified organic, but Cornucopia’s new snack bars report highlights stark differences among “organic” brands, their product lines, and ingredient choices.

One concern highlighted in the report is the conventional sourcing of soy protein isolate. This ingredient is often the first or second ingredient listed and is extracted from GMO soybeans with hexane, a petroleum-based volatile solvent. Due to health and environmental concerns, the process of hexane extraction is excluded from all organic ingredients.

For example, Clif Bar makes only four product lines that are certified organic, while the vast majority of their products are “made with organic” ingredients and include additives that are illegal in organic products, such as hexane-extracted, conventional soy protein and soy lecithin.

Many companies labeling “made with organic” are also substituting cheaper conventional ingredients, like almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, natural flavors, and tocopherols, while using relatively inexpensive organic ingredients, like oats or brown rice syrup, to qualify for the “made with” label.

Luckily, there are a few stand-out companies with all of their product lines certified organic, such as Nature’s Path, Simple Squares, and Bearded Brothers. These companies also choose to add whole foods with natural protein and other nutrients, such as nuts, fruit, and seeds, rather than gimmicky protein isolates.

Keep an eye out for Cornucopia’s upcoming report and scorecard on the snack bar industry—knowledge is power.

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