Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Justin’s Peanut and Almond Candy Bars

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut BarLately as the artisanal, slow and local food movement has taken hold I’ve been seeing more wholesome candy bars coming to the market. It’s an interesting idea, to take the fantastic flavor and texture combinations made famous and delicious by the mass-manufacture candy companies and tweak them with better ingredients.

But what actually makes a candy bar great. After you get past the concept and the basics of the ratios, what sets a good candy bar apart from a great candy bar? Is it the quality of the ingredients? The freshness? Can the ethical repercussions of your purchase effect your enjoyment?

When I found out that Justin Gold of Justin’s Nut Butter was releasing a version of the classic Snickers bar, I figured if anyone was going to top Mars, it might be a guy who knew and loved peanuts. The new line of bars are called, simply, Milk Chocolate Peanut, Dark Chocolate Peanut and Milk Chocolate Almond.

Justin's All Natural Peanut Bars

The press release said “Justin’s All-Natural Candy Bars contain 25% less sugar, 50% more protein and 100% more fiber than the leading conventional candy bar, Snickers.” So I was prompted to take a look at what a Snickers actually had in it and what I’d get out of it nutritionally.

Snickers Ingredients (2012): milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor.

Snickers Stats: 2.07 ounces - 57 grams - 280 calories 130 calories from fat

Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Ingredients: organic milk chocolate (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic milk power, organic chocolate liquor, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla), caramel (brown rice syrup, cane sugar, sweetened condensed milk (whole milk & sugar), whey powder, palm oil, salt, sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla flavor), marshmallow creme (brow rice syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, arabic gum, vanilla), dry roasted peanuts, Justin’s classic peanut butter (dry roasted peanuts, organic palm fruit oil), peanut flour, organic palm fruit oil, sea salt.

Justin’s All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Stats: 2 ounces - 57 grams - 270 calories - 130 calories from fat

So the ingredient list may look longer on Justin’s, but that’s just because they have to qualify so many of those items with organic. A Snickers bar isn’t really made with horrible things (no high fructose corn sweetener, no palm oil, real milk products and real milk chocolate). But a big selling point is that Justin’s attempts to use sustainable ingredients. But don’t go in thinking that there are fewer calories in Justin’s, just because there’s more protein and fiber, the calories are pretty darn close and the fat is identical.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar

The bars look great. The wrapper’s not bad either; it doesn’t look like some sort of dog-eared hippie candy bar. So no compromises there. The milk chocolate is quite sweet but the whole bar is about the peanuts and peanut butter. The caramel is chewy and has a nice pull to it, the nougat tastes like roasted peanut butter with a little note of salt. I was missing the crunch of big peanuts though. There were some, but not quite the same thing as a Snickers, which seems to have more distinction between the layers.

Still, a very satisfying experience. Sweet, crunchy, salty and toasty with a light creamy chocolate finish. Is it better than a Snickers? It’s hard to say, I’ve been raised on the ratios of the Snickers (just like I had the same problem with Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups not quite arriving at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup experience).

Justin's All Natural Dark Chocolate Peanut BarDark Chocolate Peanut Bar has a lot to offer. It’s not an innovative bar, after all, there’s been a Snickers Dark on and off for many years.

The package looks remarkably like the Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar, except the small print that says Dark Chocolate and the coloring of the illustration of the bar is a little darker. If I had one piece of advice about this bar it would be to make it easier to tell them apart.

Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar

The dark chocolate that Justin’s uses is quite dark, though has a smooth buttery melt and bitter, slightly astringent finish. Part of the time I actually got a green olive note from it. The peanut and caramel and nougat ratios are otherwise the same but seem a bit brighter by the bitter chocolate counterpoint. Of the two bars, I actually preferred the Milk Chocolate, which is a bit unusual for me. The dark chocolate is just too pronounced.

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Almond BarMilk Chocolate Almond Bar is the analogue to the classic American Mars Bar, now known as Snickers Almond.

It features an almond butter nougat, caramel with almonds all covered in milk chocolate. The bar, like the others, is two ounces.

All of the bars are gluten free but contain eggs, soy, dairy and either peanuts or almonds plus may have traces of other nuts.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Almond Bar

My experience with the Snickers Almond didn’t prepare me for this bar, but it’s quite different. It tastes like almonds. The roasted flavors of almonds, not amaretto, are throughout the bar. The nougat is lightly salted and chewy as is the caramel. The nougat has fantastic toasted flavors of almonds and the caramel holds the whole almonds and almond pieces. So there’s a great deal of crunch here along with the smoother chewy textures. The milk chocolate is silky smooth, sweet and has a strong powdered dairy note to it that ties the whole thing in a bow. Of the three, this one tastes like it beats the original in texture and flavor.

Justin's Peanut & Almond Bars

The only production note I had for all of the bars was that they had voids in them. Not huge, but enough in each one that I had to wonder about what might cause them during production and how they could avoid it. The other small issue I saw was that the bottom chocolate coating was thin. On the almond bar it was thin enough that I could see the nougat through it. This can let the nougat dry out and of course messes with the flavor ratios.

On the whole, these are great bars. They don’t taste like there’s a single compromise in there. Though the press release boasted about the improved nutrition, I’d say an extra gram of protein is not why you’d choose these bars. The bars are priced at about twice what you’d pay for Snickers. But for that you get ethically sourced, organic chocolate and other organic ingredients. Some of the other hand made bars are five times the price, so when compared to that, I was pleased. The preference between them without that would come down to personal taste. I think the Snickers are more consistent, but the Justin’s bars are new and I’ve only eaten four (two of the Milk Chocolate Peanut) plus the samples I had at the ExpoWest trade show so all were extremely fresh.

Update 9/17/2012: Either I misread something earlier this year or something change, but the Justin’s Candy Bars do not use fair-trade certified chocolate. The Peanut Butter Cups in both Dark and Milk do, but the Candy Bars do not at this time. I have edited the above review to reflect that information. I apologize if that was confusing to anyone in the interim (but please, always read the packages and/or websites of the candy companies, as they are more likely to have up-to-date information).

Related Candies

  1. Bees & Beans Honey Bar
  2. Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar
  3. Snickers Slice n’ Share (1 Pound)
  4. Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar
  5. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  6. Snickers Dark
  7. More Satisfying Snickers Almond?
  8. Snickers Xtreme


Name: Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 135
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 130
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Milk Chocolate Almond Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:54 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     All NaturalCandyReviewJustin's Nut ButterCaramelChocolateEthically SourcedNougatNutsOrganicPeanuts8-TastyUnited States

Comments
  1. What does the paren in “organic vanilla)” match with?

    Comment by bitguru on 3/20/12 at 9:04 pm #
  2. Justin’s does not use fair trade chocolate in any of its products.

    Comment by River on 9/17/12 at 11:35 am #
  3. Cybele's avatar

    River - that’s interesting, thank you for the note. I just checked on their website and they do say that they use fair-trade certified chocolate for their Peanut Butter Cups. They do not specify in the description which certification organization that it’s with, but my guess is Rainforest Alliance since the seal is on there, and they mean it’s for the cocoa (not the vanilla beans).

    The candy bars, I now see, do not have that noted. Either it’s changed since I posted this earlier this year or it was a careless mistake on my part. I will make that correction here shortly. (But the palm oil is from a certified sustainable source.)

    Comment by Cybele on 9/17/12 at 11:51 am #

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