Monday, May 07, 2007

GlutenFree Jigsaw Health Bars Review


I have been really busy the past week since our gluten-free recipes book sales in Long Island, as various tasks backed up in the queue. Reviewing one of my new favorite products was near the top of the to-do list, and I am just now getting to it. I always wonder, where does all my time go?

That trip to Long Island did afford me the opportunity to really give these Jigsaw Bars the detailed evaluation they deserved. I had a few each of the Chocolate variety and the Coconut-Almond variety along for the 18+ hour round-trip, and they came in quite handy as I was able to improve my average driving pace by not stopping for food along the way.

I also took along a couple other snack bars to compare to: the Enjoy Life "cocoa loco" bar, and a couple varieties of the "Larabar" products. Each of these products is gluten-free, casein-free, and soy-free (and a few other "frees" too) in hopes of satisfying the requirements of the allergen-avoiding consumers they are sold to. So, I'd say the comparison group is pretty well suited for a head-to-head evaluation. And, not only did I (the gluten-free guy) try them, but my wife (not gluten-free or celiac) also tried each of them and provided feedback.

Test Results
I'm going to start with the results, and then talk in more detail about the comparison. Bottom line: these Jigsaw Bars are really good! My wife and I both came to the same conclusion that the Jigsaw Bars are definitely a cut above the other products, for various reasons.

First and foremost - the Jigsaw bars' taste and consistency is quite nice and pleasing, and had I not known they were gluten-free, I would never have had a reason to suspect so. By comparison, although I don't mind the Enjoy-Life cocoa loco bars on occasion, they have a strange consistency, especially given the fact that the rice-flakes in them tend to remain in your mouth after the remainder of the bar has dissolved already (and, I'll be chewing just rice flakes for some time) -- those bars definitely make me think "gluten free" every time I eat them. The Larabars are a really nice product, but the one thing that causes my wife and I to get a bit burnt-out on them is the fact they are all date-based, and those Dates certainly contribute a dominant taste and texture, regardless of which Larabar variety is consumed - thus, if you don't like dates, you won't like Larabars.

As for which variety of Jigsaw Bar I prefer - you guessed it! - Chocolate! :)
Both are really good, but the coconut-almond variety I found more to my liking when I "enhanced" it. On the road, I simply popped a small piece of chocolate into my mouth along with a bit of the bar. At home, I melted some 70% dark-chocolate in the microwave and thinly coated the bar - the result was perfect :) I am not saying that Jigsaw Health needs to chocolate coat the coconut-almond version, but rather that they may want to consider making a third type of bar, which is a chocolate-coated coconut-almond bar... I think that could be a nice addition to the group, and I'm sure that some people who don't care as much for chocolate will appreciate having the option to get coconut-almond without chocolate still.

Now, another neat thing about the Jigsaw Bars is their health/nutrient composition. These things have Omega 3's, quite a bit of protein, a decent amount of dietary fiber, and some other added nutrients - making them a nice "health bar" as claimed.

I provided a detailed comparison below (using the nutritional values printed on each product's label) to give a side-by-side view from a more scientific approach. A couple things worth nothing when comparing between bars:
  • Enjoy Life bar is MUCH smaller (just over half the weight), so its calories and carbs look favorable (until you multiply it up to the same serving-size as the other two bars).
  • The Enjoy Life and Jigsaw Health bars both fortify their products, which explains why their B-Vitamin counts are so high compared to a Larabar e.g. (Larabar does not add any supplements at all, and are very simple ingredient formulas).
  • Jigsaw achieves a super-low Sugar rating (and glycemic index) by using "sugar alcohols" like Maltitol (it is GF) and Xylitol. This is certainly something of interest to diabetics.
Here's the side-by-side breakdown comparison between the three bars.



Jigsaw(Chocolate)LaraBar(Cherry)

Enjoy Life (Cocoa Loco)

Bar Size
1.76oz (50g)
1.7oz (48g)
1oz (28g)
Calories
180
190
120
Fat g (total)
7g
9g
3.5g
Fat g (trans)
0g
0g
0g
Cholesterol
5mg
0mg
0mg
Sodium
75mg
0mg
90mg
Total Carbs
24g
24g
22g
Sugars
0g
17g
9g
Sugar Alcohol
14g
n/a
n/a
Fiber
2g
4g
2g
Protein g
12g
5g
2g
Vitamin A
20% DV
8% DV
2% DV
Vitamin C
20%
0%
0%
Calcium
8%
8%
15%
Iron
6%
10%
4%
Vitamin E
25%
15%
n/a
Thiamin (B1)
20%
4%
30%
Riboflavin (B2)
20%
8%
35%
Niacin (B3)
20%
4%
40%
B6
20%
2%
30%
Folate
20%
n/a
35%
B12
20%
n/a
n/a
Magnesium
n/a
15%
15%
Potassium
n/a
240mg
n/a
Copper
n/a
10%
n/a
Manganese
n/a
20%
n/a
Hope you find this detailed review and comparison useful! I am definitely going to be a repeat customer for Jigsaw Health bars. I will be sure to always have a few on hand for when I plan to take trips or be away from my house where I know I can safely cook up some gluten-free baked goods of my own.

The bars are a bit on the pricier side, but I'm willing to pay a bit extra for a superior product. I see they are offering free shipping on orders over $69.00 right now (which means you'd have to order 2 cases of 12 bars that come out to roughly $70.00). The price would keep me from eating these every single day, but the taste and texture are good enough I'm rather certain I could eat them every day and not tire of them. :)

5 comments:

Slacker Mom (aka Mrs. GF) said...

I love Larabars, but it is always nice to have good options..I get tired of them when I eat them too much.

I may have to take them up on their offer to sample them. :)

Patrick Sullivan Jr. said...

Mike,
I'm the president & co-founder of Jigsaw Health. And I'm *delighted* to read that you and your wife enjoyed our Jigsaw Bars! :)

Truth be told, we worked *really* hard to find a balance between taste and nutrition; somewhere in between a Snickers (yummy, but bad for you) and a Biogenesis bar (yucky, but good for you). It wasn't easy.

And it's funny that you should mention coating the Coconut-Almond bar. In some earlier versions of the formula, both bars had a chocolate coating -- it was out of this world yummy!! Better than a Snickers IMHO! And while it would have been easier for us taste-wise to keep them coated, we pushed ourselves to go for something uncoated. Think about how disappointed you feel when you open up the wrapper and the chocolate is all melted inside. We didn't want anyone to have that experience. And considering we ship from our HQ in sunny Scottsdale Arizona where temps get well over 100 degrees...well, we knew it was uncoated or bust.

We are working on some new flavors though...leaning towards peanut butter at the moment. Any other ideas, please email me -- patrickATjigsawhealthDOTcom

Patrick Sullivan Jr.
Jigsaw Health

Lynn Barry said...

I am definitely going to try the jigsaw bars...thanks, Mike! HUGS

kbabe1968 said...

I love these too! Still making thru my sample box! :D

~M said...

Mike,

I know that these bars are being discontinued, but their current reduced price finally makes them affordable for me. But first, what is xylitol?

Also, does anyone have a recommendation for a gf peanut butter and chocolate bar? My fiance (not gf) likes his (gluten-containing) Kashi Go Lean pb & chocolate ones, but we'd like to find him a gf version (preferably one that's a meal substitute - high protein/fiber). Thanks!