Top critical review
(You) could do better! (3/5 green stars)
on 2 February 2016
These bars will probably look and taste very familiar to you –they have been around since the nineties. They taste OK – they are moist and soft and sweet, but they have a factory-engineered texture and acidic aftertaste that give away their highly-processed nature. They are not awful by any means – it’s just that there are bars out there now that are tastier, healthier, and more environmentally/socially responsible. Nutri Grain bars are too heavily processed, too artificial, and offer few nutritional benefits - you could argue that not a million miles from Kellogg’s Pop Tarts (but at least they don’t contain the high fructose corn syrup, palm oil, THBQ and gelatin that Pop Tarts do).
In terms of nutrition, each 37 gram bar provides 24 grams of carbs (12 g of which are sugars) and just 2 grams of protein. So it’s very carb-heavy, although this is compensated for a little bit by containing 3 g (10% of your daily value) of fiber. The filling is mainly sugar in various forms; they divided the ingredients into crust and filling, so you may not read as far as the filling part if you’re not vigilant. It does also contain some blueberry puree but also artificial flavors and colors. Although generally listed as safe, one of the dyes, Blue 1, may not be good for people with asthma. Like most Kellogg’s products it contains added vitamins, providing 10-25% of calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and B6. Overall, in terms of nutrition, it may a little be better than some candy bars but it lags behind most granola/energy bars.
Overall, I’m giving them 2/5 gold stars for quality/price and 3/5 “green” stars for social and environmental responsibility.
As far as social and environmental responsibility goes, I think Kellogg’s Nutri Grain are about average (hence the 3/5 green stars) – Kellogg’s are doing a little better than some of the other huge multinational food producers, but they are lagging behind some of the more responsible food bar companies, like Clif Bar (who also make Kit’s Organic and Luna). You can get their 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report on their website. They are doing quite well on responsible packaging, diverting waste from landfill, water use, and worker diversity. For example, their numbers on waste generation and water consumption were a little better than those from HAIN (known for their natural food lines). However, they are haven’t made much progress so far this decade on reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
They have a target of 2020 for responsible sourcing of ingredients from rice and corn to cacao and berries.
They also have a collaborative system (Sedex, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) for making sure suppliers are in compliance. They work with farmers to increase sustainability (e.g., reduced water and fertilizer inputs) and also have programs to empower smallholders and women farmers. On the other hand they did donate a couple of million dollars to campaigns to block labeling of GMO foods. You could also ding them on contributing to sugar-heavy diets over the years, although they are trying to fix this. Overall, I think 3/5 green stars is a fair score, but if they can make more headway on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing the use of socially and environmentally responsible ingredients they may deserve 4 green stars in future.