Energy bars have never really been my thing – too chalky, and what’s in them, anyway? – until now.
My conversion experience began at Bank Square Coffeehouse in Beacon. I was on my way to New York City via train for the grad school commute, running late, missing lunch. On a whim I grabbed a Beyond Bar, a four-ounce peanut butter-flavored brick. That brick was arrestingly delicious, like a peanut butter cookie with a little crunch (that’s organic sprouted grains), and I made it to the City and through my four-hour class sated and happy.
Amazing! Stupendous! I wanted to buy a box, but I couldn’t find a website – not even a Facebook page for producer Whey Beyond Bars. No phone number on the label, just a Wappingers Falls address. “What year is this?” I wondered. It took some serious reportorial jiu-jitsu to find Kim Knauf, the brains behind the bars.
This is no fly-by-night operation. Knauf, a personal trainer and nutrition coach at AllSport in Fishkill, has a Master’s degree in clinical nutrition. Originally from Ohio, she taught high school Biology and Chemistry for ten years. “Nutrition and fitness have been my lifelong passions,” said Knauf. “When I finished college, people did not make careers out of fitness and nutrition – not in the Midwest, anyway.” She worked at a gym as a certified personal trainer and managed a health food store part-time.
Tired of storebought energy bars, Knauf started experimenting with recipes in her kitchen. She analyzed the content of some of the best bars on the market, ran the nutritional numbers, picked out topnotch ingredients, tweaked the flavors and formulated her first Beyond Bars. She fed them to her active family, including a husband and three kids, and gave them as presents to friends. Word spread quickly and, before long, Knauf was looking into a home processing license.
The funny thing about a home processing license in New York State, where the Knaufs relocated seven years ago, is that certified home food processors are legally prohibited from advertising online. Unless they have a certified kitchen as well, home processors can only advertise by brochure or word of mouth. Hence no website. (Come on, Ag & Markets! This is silly.)
I was lucky to stumble upon Beyond Bars in my hour of need – and Knauf hopes that you will, too. “I want people to feel like they’ve discovered a great, healthy meal replacement, or a really nourishing snack that’s going to help them feel satisfied, energized and ready to go,” she said.
Each Beyond Bar packs about 400 calories, 25 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber and six grams of fat into a four-inch loaf. They’re packed with organic and natural ingredients including natural vanilla beans, cashews, organic cherries, organic agave nectar, organic flaxseed, sprouted whole soybeans, sprouted whole-grain spelt, sea salt, sprouted whole-grain wheat and whey protein concentrate. Knauf currently sweetens the bars with agave nectar, but plans to switch to local clover honey in March. She’ll also add luo han guo extract, from the Chinese “longevity fruit,” which is 300 times sweeter than sugar. The changes will knock off about 100 calories per bar without compromising flavor or texture, she promises.
There are 17 flavors and counting, many inspired by Knauf’s favorite indulgences. “I have to have my pumpkin pie fix, so I made a pumpkin pie bar,” she said. “I love French toast with maple syrup: Maple Nut. I could eat ginger/molasses cookies all day, and I can’t have those very often, so Spiced Ginger Pear is my healthy version.”
Several flavors evolved from the input of family and friends. Inspiration for Vanutterbutter, my favorite flavor, came from a fitness client whose wife loved peanut butter cookies, and became a best-selling bar. Emerald Chai, featuring organic chai spice and probiotic powder, was inspired by Emma, a friend who always brought Knauf green tea from China. Also highly recommended are Vanilla Cherry-Cashew, Fitness Trail and the excellent Spiced Ginger Pear, with big hunks of dried fruit.
The large portions are packaged in small plastic ziplock bags. Break a Beyond Bar in half or in small pieces for a snack on the go. Though they are shelf-stable, I like to keep mine in the fridge for a firmer chew.
“What we fuel our bodies with can really make a difference,” said Knauf. “I look at the body as a gift, and what you put into it is what you get out of it. Even though everybody is born with a certain set of predispositions, with healthy nutrition, you can really delay the onset of or reduce the severity of any of those conditions. And if you’re called up to go on a hike or a bike ride or scuba diving, you’re ready.”
Whether skiing, sculling or just plain commuting, I couldn’t recommend better on-the-go fuel. Whey Beyond Bars are sold at Bank Square Coffeehouse in Beacon, Nature’s Pantry in Fishkill, Frozenberry in Cold Spring, the Boscobel Concession Stand and directly from Beyond Bars via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Knauf offers next-day shipping.