Photography by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay). Artwork by Amy Chen.
These days, KIND Bars seem to be everywhere you look—you can find sweet flavors like dark chocolate nuts & sea salt in Duane Reade, Starbucks, and Whole Foods.
Last month, KIND decided to up the ante by releasing its new STRONG & KIND line of savory snack bars.
When the new bars first hit our desk, we initially thought: WTF are super-savory flavors like Hickory Smoke and Honey Mustard doing in an energy bar? And more importantly why is this line “tailored specifically for men”?
Although, we were glad to find out that the STRONG & KIND bars are endorsed by NBA player Kevin Durant.
To see if the STRONG & KIND bars were up to snuff, we enlisted Complex employee and outdoor sports enthusiast Evan Carlson to test them out. Because if anyone is going to eat KIND bars, it’s probably a dude who spends most of his weekends in the mountains shredding.
The results of the STRONG & KIND taste test—featured below—were entirely unexpected. Read on to see what Evan thought of each of the five savory bars.
Product description: “A spicy union of jalapeño chilies, onions and garlic.”
Spice meter: 4.5/6
Evan’s reaction: “This is really not that intense. Right off the bat I was expecting some kind of pepper impact, but it didn’t come out—I’m still waiting for it. There’s a little tinge of spice, but it’s also super-salty and really delicious. I could actually eat a bunch of these. Now, I’m starting to get more of the pepper impact. My hands are sweating now from all the jalapeños, I might need some assistance opening the next one.”
Product description: “A blend of mustard seed, chipotle chili, and turmeric finished with honey.”
Spice meter: 4.5/6
Evan’s reaction: “When you open it, you immediately smell the honey mustard. I’m biased on this one to begin with, because I feel like I’m not a huge mustard fan. But I feel like you should keep the honey mustard on your pretzels. There’s a good, strong, pungent mustard flavor in there, which I did not expect, and I thought it was going to be sweeter. There’s too much mustard—I’m not going to finish this one.”
Thai Sweet Chili
Product description: “An exotic fusion of ginger, coriander, cinnamon, jalapeño, and basil.”
Spice meter: 3/6
Evan’s reaction: “This flavor reminds me a lot of this really wonderful spiced chai, Bhakti chai. If you’re going to put Bhakti chai in a snack bar, this is what it would taste like. But it’s not super spicy in any way; it just sort of has that nice, very subtle spice. It’s digestible. It’s really good. I’m going to save this for later.”
Product description: “A robust mixture of onions, garlic and sea salt smoked over hickory wood.”
Spice meter: 1/6
Evan’s reaction: “This smells intensely like liquid smoke, but it tastes like beer nuts. Beer nuts in a bar. Like I said, I was really expecting the smoke flavor, but it doesn’t come through in the taste. They might have actually spent time roasting each almond.”
Honey Smoked BBQ
Product description: “A smoky-sweet mix of cayenne chili and clove with a hint of cinnamon.”
Spice meter: 1.5/6
Evan’s reaction: “This smells and tastes like McDonald’s BBQ sauce. Not a huge fan of this bar.”
Evan says: “If I was going on a multiple-day hiking trip and needed something I’d want to eat over multiple days, I’d take a Hickory Smoked and a Thai Sweet Chili, and leave the Honey Mustard and Roasted Jalapeño for some other time. The Hickory feels like you’re actually eating a meal and the Thai chili feels more dessert-like, because it’s a lot sweeter. I also have to mention that every single bar looks exactly the same.”
Would Evan choose savory KIND bars over sweet KIND bars?
Evan says: “Yeah, I would. One of the first things I thought of when I thought of KIND was the chocolate layer underneath, and to me that makes it more of a candy bar than an actual energy bar that I would want to take out and feel like I’m getting some nutritional value out of. So, I feel like I’d take one of these alongside a standard KIND bar—that way I’d have dinner and dessert.”