The Goods


Clif and Kind bars are in a nasty brawl. There is a clear winner.

a Kind bar and a Clif bar
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus, Kind, Clif.

Clif and Kind are at war for your lunch money. In March, Clif issued an open letter to Kind urging it go organic, as Clif has, for the sake of the planet. (The letter ran as a full-page ad in the New York Times.) This week, Kind released an ad asserting that Clif is mostly made of an unappetizing-looking syrup. The brands’ social media managers have, of course, been fighting on Twitter. There will surely be more publicity-generating smears dealt in the coming weeks. Maybe the whole thing will end with them holding hands and declaring that they’ve found common ground in their shared (and scientifically irrational) stance against using GMOs and love of corporate virtue-signaling.

But here is the one fact you need to know amid the skirmish: Kind bars are far superior to Clif bars. Which are trash.

The basic formula for Kind bars is a cluster of dried fruit and nuts, fused together with sticky-sweet stuff. There are many flavor variations, like “cranberry almond,” which is a little more tart, and “almond and coconut,” which is a little chewier and … more coconut-y. They’re all a portable, if kind of pricey, version of trail mix out of a bulk food bin, except less likely to attract ants. Though they got in a kerfuffle with the Food and Drug Administration a few years ago for using the word “healthy” on their packaging (the company is allowed to, now), my favorite flavor, a concoction involving chocolate and salt, has less than one-quarter the sugar of a typical candy bar. The fat in Kind bars comes from nuts, which means filling calories. The most important thing about Kind bars, though, is that they taste fine.

Clif bars, in contrast, have the appeal of food that has been partially digested and then coughed back up, the way that birds feed their young. This might be OK if Clif bars were honest about it—sometimes one is hangry enough to just need calories—but the company was literally founded on the premise that energy bars should taste good. Instead, every description of a Clif bar is a woeful overpromise. There are options like blueberry crisp, carrot cake, and chocolate almond fudge, which only really taste like those things if you have never had an actual dessert. Clif, in a bid to point out that it does understand that different kinds of foods are supposed to have specific textures, recently released “fruit smoothie filled” bars. I haven’t tried them because they sound deeply unappetizing. To boot, the Clif take on chocolate and salt has as much sugar as a Kit Kat.

Clif bars are good for some scenarios, like as an emergency store of calories that you can stash at the bottom of a backpack for months. A Kind bar gets smushed? It stands to reason that it might be a little crumbly (I am not certain, because when I have Kind bars in my possession, I want to eat them). A Clif bar gets neglected and smushed? It is only loosely distinguishable from its former self.

Kind bars are ideal for restoring yourself to human being status when you’re in the middle of a meeting-packed day at work, finished with a tough workout class, or on hour seven of a road trip. Clif bars are perfect for getting as much fuel as possible for fleeing stray animals in a post-apocalyptic scenario, where even a faint reminder of a world that contained things like “carrot cake” would be sort of nice. They will be a disappointment to most other people. If anything, Clif earns points for the sheer bravery of picking a fight with a clearly superior product.