January 23, 2009

A twist on granola bars

Pretzels are good. Nuts are good. Chocolate is good. Granola bars are good. When you add them up, the result should be spectacular.

Hershey's must think it is. They've branded their pretzel-nut-chocolate-granola combination "Hershey's Sweet & Salty Granola Bar," and as you all no doubt know, the sweet and salty label is not something to be tossed around lightly. It raises the level of expectation for a product before you even bite into it. But Hershey's is not satisfied with the weighty implications of that label. No, Hershey's jacks up the bar even higher with a wrapper boasting "with pretzels." See it for yourself below on the picture from the grainy-but-mobile Rick's Food CritiqueCam.

Typically granola bars including pretzels wisely downplay them. Pretzels naturally soak up moisture and don't do particularly well after being pressed into a bar, shrink wrapped and stored for months on a shelf. They suck in liquids from their surrounding granola or chocolate, turning themselves into texturless masses. To keep them from ruining a product's overall composition, they are normally shattered into little crumbs.

Hershey's boisterous wrapper indicates this bar is different. It raises hopes that they figured something out to bolster their pretzels, letting them stick entire chunks in the bar.

It's wrong. Once again, you can't judge a granola bar by its cover. The Sweet & Salty Granola Bar is just your average mix of pretzel bits, nuts and granola compressed into a rectangular prism and coated with a layer of chocolate on the bottom. The pretzels are shredded into minuscule pieces that are too small to add any texture or flavor.

This bar normally might have qualified as a forgettable three-out-of-five-spork synonym for "average." With this pretzel fiasco thrown in, though, it drops down to two out of five sporks. It talks a big game about its pretzels then barely shows up to the gym with tiny pretzellette pieces.

Therefore I would like to issue a challenge to food scientists everywhere. Create a hard pretzel that will maintain its texture in granola bars and I will award you with your very own prestigious golden spork award. Such a pretzel would be infinitely more versatile than those currently in existence, improving our snack foods and our lives. Think of the satisfying crunch and salty flavor that could accompany Hershey's latest granola bar. The wrapper would no longer be telling a half truth by proclaiming "with pretzels."

This is one of the breakthroughs foodies have been waiting for -- right up there with cheap lobster tails on the McDonald's Dollar Menu. It is possible. All it needs is some dedication. Make something spectacular.

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