Gary Erickson (pictured, above) was six PowerBars deep into a 175-mile bike ride through Northern California in 1990 when he realized the energy bars he was gulping down with fervor to finish his workout tasted more like a bitter pill than food. "I have a bakery," he thought, "why can't I make something better?" So he did. In 1992, he founded Clif Bar & Company, which makes the eponymous energy bar that tastes more like cookies than cardboard. Two decades later, Clif is now the best-selling brand in the energy food category and is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new, limited-run flavor of the Clif Bar: Panforte, after the energy-food bread that Italians eat during hikes and bikes.
"Panforte is a really unique flavor for any energy bar – or anything even coming out of a package," says Tara DelloIacono Thies, a registered dietitian and nutrition strategist at Clif who helped develop the product. The bar is made of 23 different ingredients, including oats, orange peel, almonds, currants, hazelnuts, and pistachios, in addition to unique spices like coriander, ginger, and white pepper. The end result is a crunchy, slightly citrusy Clif Bar, richly flavored, spicily sweet, and entirely true to its origins to deliver a cookie-like taste.
Yet this is no cookie from a nutritional standpoint. The bar delivers 5 grams each of protein and fiber, with only 1 gram of saturated fat. And true to all Clif products, it's made from at least 70 percent organic ingredients. But because the original Clif Bar is high in calories and carbs (the Panforte flavor has 260 calories and 44 grams of carbs), DelloIacono Thies recommends using it to power through a long endurance workout like an epic bike ride or whenever a big day in the office or out in the woods keeps you from missing breakfast or lunch.
You can find Panforte on store shelves from June to approximately October, depending on bar availability. Since Clif only makes one batch, we recommend trying it now before everyone else does and stores run out. [$15, probikeoutlet.com]