Where to buy: Amazon
Everyone knows Clif bars, especially since many types of Clif Bars are vegan.
The “Builder’s” bars are Clif’s highest protein bars, so they’re the ones I chose to test in my quest to find the best vegan protein bars.
Each bar that I rate is tested based on 3 things: protein content, taste, and cost.
Table of Contents
Protein Content and Ingredients of Builder’s Bars
Here are the basic nutritional factors for Clif Builder’s bars:
While there’s quite a bit of protein in a bar, there’s also a lot of calories.
In particular, a lot of those come from sugar. There’s more sugar than protein in a bar, which I’m not a huge fan of. Still, if you’re eating them post-workout, I suppose that’s not a huge issue.
Anyways, to fairly compare bars against each other, I created a simple formula that compares the protein content (percent of calories that come from protein) of each bar, and then shifts it to a score out of 10.
In this case, 29.7% of calories come from protein.
That’s right about average for a vegan protein bar, and gets a 7/10.
Builder’s protein bars have a fairly high level of protein per calorie, although not quite as much as some other vegan protein bars.
Ingredients (Note the Palm Oil)
The reason I personally would not buy this bar, even though it’s technically vegan, is because it contains palm kernel oil.
Not all vegans agree with the ethics behind palm oil (many are fine with it too), I’ll let you make up your own mind about that and move on here.
Palm is in many (but not all) Clif Bars besides this one, and in Luna bars as well (which the same company makes).
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Soy Protein Isolate, Beet Syrup, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Peanut Butter, Organic Peanuts, Organic Soy Protein Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Organic Oat Fiber, Vegetable Glycerin, Cocoa‡, Rice Starch, Sea Salt, Cocoa Butter‡, Soy Lecithin, Organic Sunflower Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant).
I don’t believe the bar is technically organic because of a few of the ingredients, but most of the ingredients are organic.
Note that Clif uses “sustainable palm oil.” The tricky thing with palm oil, is that a lot of the “sustainable” labels don’t really mean anything. From what I’ve researched on the topic, Rainforest Alliance is probably one of the better ones if you must consume palm oil.
Are Clif Builder’s Bars Good For You? (Healthy?)
These bars are great in terms of protein content, but that does not make them healthy.
There’s no sketchy ingredients, but there is a lot of syrup (aka sugar), which comprises 3 of the top 4 ingredients.
There’s 21 grams of sugar per bar, which is as much as many candy bars.
With that being said, if you’re eating these bars right after a workout, it’s not the biggest deal since you have some glycogen to replenish. That’s why many protein powders and post-workout shakes have some sugar in them.
Clif Buider’s protein bars are not healthy due to the high sugar content, but having one after a workout won’t have significant negative effects.
Taste of Clif Builder’s Protein Bars
Like many vegan protein bars, these bars look really good from the outside.
The chocolate varieties all have a nice chocolate coating:
I tested the chocolate peanut butter bar, and when you split it open, it looks like this:
There’s a smooth peanut butter layer on top, with a crispy layer on the bottom for some crunch.
This bar was very easy to rate, because it tastes pretty much like a candy bar, which is my criteria for giving a bar 10 out of 10 for taste.
There is the tiniest bit of aftertaste, but so small that I couldn’t reasonably deduct points.
Of all the 20+ vegan protein bars I’ve tried, Clif Builder’s bars are arguably the best tasting (like a candy bar).
Full Flavor List
I’m sure all the flavors are good, I just didn’t want to buy and test more than I had to due to my views on palm as stated before.
Here’s the full list of varieties you can find (that are all vegan):
- Chocolate Peanut Butter
- Chocolate Mint
- Vanilla Almond
- Cinnamon Nut Swirl
- Crunchy Peanut Butter
- Cookies N Cream
Cost: Clif Builder’s Bars vs Other Vegan Protein Bars
There’s not much to say here, Builder’s bars are cheap.
Even if you buy them individually, they’re not too bad.
If you buy a box, it will work out to about $1.9 per bar, which is the cheapest of any of the 20 or so bars I’ve reviewed so far.
My scoring formula for cost looks at the price per 10 grams of protein. Since these have a lot of protein as well as being cheap, it only makes sense that these bars get a perfect 10/10 for cost.
Is the CLIF Builder’s Protein Bar the Best Overall Vegan Protein Bar?
Adding up all those scores and we get a 27/30 overall, which was tied for the best of any vegan protein bar that I’ve tried.
That’s like an “A+” in school, which is pretty darn good.
If you’re looking for a vegan protein bar that is cheap or tastes great, the Builder’s bar should be at or near the top of your list.
Valid reasons to find an alternative are to find one with less sugar and a higher protein content, or because you want to avoid palm oil.
Alternatives to Clif Protein Bars
There aren’t many bars that are flat out better than Clif bars, but there are some that excel in other areas that you may want to consider:
- Simply Protein Bar – This was another 27 out of 30 bar that was tied for first. It’s also palm-oil free and has a significantly higher protein content. The taste is comparable, but they’re much healthier, and my personal favorites. Here’s my Simply vegan protein bar review if you’d like to read more.
- No Cow Bars – These bars still have palm oil, but barely any sugar and a ton of fiber. They’re much healthier overall than Clif’s Builders bars. Here’s my No Cow protein bar review if you’d like to see my full thoughts.
Is Clif A Good Company?
In terms of corporate culture, Clif is about as good of a company as you can find. Sustainability and fairness are important values to the company. For example, employees are part owners, and the company uses 100% renewable energy at its facilities.