I guess that having a signature protein bar makes about as much as having a signature sneaker, but somehow celebrity-endorsed nutrition products seem like even balder money grabs than shoe deals. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of Nogii bars, endorsed by Tim Hasselbeck (of NFL fame) and Elizabeth Hasselbeck (best known for her time on The View, although she was a college softball player). That good experience notwithstanding, I ordered a box of FortiFX Crunch Bars, endorsed by celebrity chef Robert Irvine, with some trepidation. Cookies and Cream is a flavor that is hard to get right. The memory of the creamy, crunchy, indulgent Hershey’s Cookies and Cream white chocolate bars I had every once in a blue moon as a kid keeps my expectations and standards high for this flavor combination.
These bars are basically Oreo’s answer to sports nutrition. Which is to say, they are awesome. Not remotely disappointing.
Look at that picture and check out the FortiFX website (if you’re me, you’re drooling over peanut butter flavored bars — I don’t care that they’ve been food styled, they look good). When the food in your hand looks that close to what’s pictured on the package, you know you’re in for a good experience. Let me break down for you what’s happening in this bar, from the bottom up:
- The bar itself is a massive 88 grams. This should be considered a meal replacement already because it’s a 380 calorie item with a burly 30 grams of protein, but like it or not, a FortiFX Crunch Cookies and Cream bar will replace a meal because it will fill you up. You’ve got to handle one of these to fully appreciate how substantial it is. I’ve found that the whey protein blend in these bars keeps me fuller longer as well.
- The whole bar is enrobed in a chocolatey coating. This isn’t the most flavorful chocolate I’ve had in a protein bar, but it melts normally and isn’t waxy or fake tasting. It’s a reasonable complement to the good stuff on the inside of the bar.
- Cookie cream layer – this has a texture similar to Oreo cream, though it’s not as sweet. The bars only contain 6 grams of sugar (the artificial sweetener sorbitol supplies the rest of the sweetness), so that’s to be expected.
- A thick chocolate cookie layer is the foundation for this bar, and it mimics some of the experience of eating an Oreo.
- The cookie cream flavored nougat is smooth for a protein bar; not too chewy, not gritty, not sticky. Between this and the frosting-like layer, you get a great ratio of cookie cream flavor to chocolate cookie flavor.
- Best part of the bar: the chocolate cookie crispies. I think that these are tiny cookies baked into chocolate chip shapes. They really capture the flavor of the cookie part of Oreos. But beware: these crisp pieces of chocolate cookie heaven are messy. Don’t break the bar into pieces with your hands or bite it halfway and they sort of break it off. Either make clean knife cuts through it or bite through it completely or else you can expect crisp cookie bits and nougat to fall all over you and/or the floor. Smaller bites help, too. Unlike Nature Valley crunchy granola bars that are a complete disaster to eat no matter what you do, you can mitigate the mess with these. Don’t eat this bar carelessly in your car! Or really anyplace that you care about. Unless you want rats and bugs. In which case, go for it.
-Delicious taste – you won’t mistake this for an Oreo, but you might think that Nabisco has created a protein bar twin for America’s favorite cookie.
-Huge portion will keep the hangries at bay. If you don’t know what the hangries are, consider yourself lucky.
-Mostly whey in the protein blend. I’m not familiar enough with the studies or prevailing opinions about whey and soy to speak authoritatively about that debate, but personally I’ve found that whey protein products keep me fuller longer than soy protein products.
-Low sugar is nice to see here. Bars that have almost as much sugar as they have protein aren’t all that nutritious.
-More expensive than other bars that contain a similar amount of protein. A lot of that is probably due to the fact that these use a whey-dominated blend, as opposed to strictly soy protein.
-Flavored with artificial sweetener. I’m used to seeing organic ingredients listed on the back of Clif packages, so seeing chemical names on the FortiFX Crunch Bar ingredient list is disappointing.
-And to that end, there are lots of ingredients, a few of which are unpronounceable.
-Messy to eat if you’re not careful. Seriously. I cannot impress upon you enough how messy these can be.
In a perfect world a bar at this price point ($26.58 for a box of 12, shipped free from Amazon for my most recent box) would be all whey protein and contain mostly natural and/or organic ingredients. I really like these bars, but I’d prefer that the protein bar industry (heck, maybe just the celebrity-endorsed protein bar industry, since it seems to be killing it in terms of quality and flavor) not rest on its laurels yet, so I’m going to rate the truly excellent FortiFX Crunch Cookies and Cream Bars 8 out of 10.