The Clif Bar company’s motto is Make It Good. A past one was Feed Your Adventure. These taglines don’t accord with my lived experience of scarfing Clif Bars on public transit, so I’d like to suggest: Here Are Some Rectangular and Portable Calories, It’s Fine.
Because ultimately, to choose a Clif Bar is to stare down the barrel of overwhelming choice, shrug, and say: Yeah, okay. Clif Bars are ubiquitous and unremarkable; that makes them steadfast and simple companions, the easiest option in a world beset by complexity, and an existential balm. I eat an average of five Clif Bars per week, I have never enjoyed even one of them, and I will defend them with my life.
I have some notes on a new product, the Clif Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor Minis. They are provided in the sincere hope that they are useful to the company. The Clif Bar Family of Products knows (and I know they know this) that the very best of their bars maxes out at 3 out of 5 stars. That is okay, Clif Bar Family of Products! Take the W!
However (and here’s where things get tough), the very worst Clif Bar makes its consumers wish they had never been born.
Before reviewing a new offering to the Family, I want to give a broader context. At the family’s apex is the Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch bar, a classic of the genre and its true apotheosis (3 out of 5 stars). The worst of its products are as follows. The Coffee Collection: Caramel Macchiato Flavor Clif Bar was never a good idea; its execution is worse than you can imagine, saccharine to the point of absurdity and truly vile (0.25 out of 5 stars). And the least of these offerings is the Seasonal Iced Gingerbread Clif Bar. It tastes fine, better than many, but the simple prospect of attempting to bolster consumers’ holiday cheer with a Clif Bar is unspeakable (0 out of 5 stars).
The Clif Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor Minis are like the Clif Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor Bars, but small.
The predominant flavor of this bar is nothing. The main thing you get out of this bar (other than a diffuse sense that your life is passing you by) is texture. The base of the bar is structured similarly to a joyless rice crispy treat, which is fine. As for its purported flavor: in a blind taste test, I would have no idea what I was eating. If pressed, I would say it tastes like the ghost of a peanut and, faintly, metal. The taste of metal intensifies over time, as does your soul-sapping thirst.
To that end: the most salient experience of eating this bar was when I choked on it. Wandering water-bottle-less through the city of Philadelphia, I made a crucial error, the mistake of a novice to the Clif Bar Family of Products: to neglect to consider the absolute desiccation they wreak on your tongue. This error belies my status as one of the products’ most expert consumers, and in doing so, it reduces me to something baser, something less. Clif Bar Family of Products, whatever your faults, this is not one of them.
In sum, my review of the Clif Builders Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor Minis is: I dunno. If you hate tasting things and want to get yoked with a Clif Bar, this is a perfect fit; if you’re anyone else, I don’t know why you would ever buy it. (That said, the chance of me one day choosing it while dissociating in a Target aisle is 100 percent.) This bar is the height of inoffensiveness, and for that reason, I grant it 2 out of 5 stars.
The tremendous versatility of Clif Bars and the many lives they help sustain (e.g., hikers, sad women hunched over desks) is its greatest boon and its deepest deficit. The Clif Bar is a jack of all trades and a master of none, and as a result, we leave every encounter mollified but never truly sated. Here’s the thing, though: mollification is not nothing. It is also not everything, not even close—but the Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch Bar is 3 out of 5 stars, and 60 percent is a passing grade (sometimes). That counts.
I cannot stress how often I eat Clif Bars, and how sad that is. I hope my review provides the Clif Bar Family of Products helpful feedback and, in doing so, erects signposts that point them to a more palatable future. I acknowledge and celebrate the Clif Bar Family of Products’s attempts to transcend their middlingest middles and their lowest lows, to churn out new products that may, one day, reach the vaunted status of 3.5 out 5 stars.