The food we eat probably has more impact on our health than anything else, and different people have different needs and sensitivities. So we think it’s only fair that you know exactly what goes into our bars, and why. And unlike a lot of other food businesses, we’ll tell you about all our ingredients, not just the really healthy or trendy ones! If you don’t think we’re being transparent enough, please let us know.
We go into a bit of detail here, so please scroll down to the bottom if you just want to see a clear summary!
When we set out to develop a veg-based snack bar several years ago we wanted to get as much veg as possible into it, using as few other ingredients as possible and with no added sugar or artificial ingredients. As time went by and our understanding of nutrition increased, we also wanted to use as many whole foods as possible (find out why here). And whilst we didn’t rule out adding some fruit, we clearly wanted veg to be the main player.
Some of that has been quite easy, but the rest of it has been quite tough!
The main problem we had is that veg are much lower in sugar than fruit, and sugar’s a great preservative. So the high sugar content of dried fruit-based bars enables them to naturally have both a good texture and a long shelf-life. Swapping dried veg for the dried fruit just doesn’t work though, so we need to add extra ingredients to make the veg-based bar concept work.
After lots of trial and error we found a whole food, plant-based ingredient that enabled us to achieve both a good texture (binding the veg together and providing a good mouthfeel) and a long shelf-life. Made from algae, it’s called whole algal flour and is really quite special. Just after our initial launch, however, the sole manufacturer of it hit difficulties, and the product hasn’t been available since. So it was back to the drawing board again…
After lots more trial and error we found that a combination of tapioca starch and rapeseed oil worked as a replacement for the whole algal flour, and that’s what we use today, along with some vegetable glycerine. You can read more about these ingredients below, but in short, whilst they’re not whole foods or completely natural, they are naturally-derived (so not artificial). They’re also used in lots of other healthier food products. We’d rather use whole foods instead, but we don’t think it’s possible at the moment. And we think that relaxing our ideals here is a small price to pay to create a bar that makes it much easier and more enjoyable for people to eat more whole veg!
All our bars contain dried vegetables, tapioca starch, rapeseed oil, vegetable glycerine and a range of flavourings, as detailed below.
Veg are the main ingredient in all our bars, and that will always be the case. The current range contain c50-70% dried veg. Please note that we only use small granules of whole veg, not purees or juices – find out why that’s important here.
They’re packed with good carbs, fibre, vitamins, minerals and a whole range of other beneficial things like antioxidants. In short, they’re nutritional powerhouses. So it’s no wonder that we’re advised to eat at least five portions a day (alongside fruit). You can find out a lot more about why veg are great here.
Over time we hope to use as wide a variety of veg as possible in our bars, although not all of them work well in this format. For now we’re using carrots, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli.
Carrots are probably most well-known as being a good source of vitamin A, which is known to help keep your eyes, immune system and skin healthy. They don’t actually contain the vitamin itself, but beta-carotene, a phtyochemical that the body turns into vitamin A.
They’re also a particularly good source of vitamins C, K, B6 and B9, and the mineral potassium.
And they (or the phytochemicals they contain) have been shown to have good anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, and to help reduce cholesterol. So they’re pretty well-rounded, and really quite impressive!
Tomatoes share a lot of the same vitamins, minerals and benefits as carrots, but are also particularly high in lycopene. This phytochemical gives them their red colour and has been linked with lower risk of heart attacks and stroke, potentially because it’s also been shown to reduce cholesterol.
They’ve also been linked with reducing depression.
Peppers are also similar to carrots with regards to their vitamins, minerals, and benefits. But they’re also a particularly good source of vitamin E, and have been linked with reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
You’ve guessed it – it shares a lot of the nutrients and benefits of the other veg!
But it’s also a particularly good source of the minerals manganese and iron, and is relatively high in protein for a vegetable.
And as a cruciferous veg, it’s particularly high in sulforaphane, which has shown particularly encouraging anti-cancer properties and is also linked with protecting the brain and eyesight and helping to treat autism.
Tapioca is the starch extracted from the roots of cassava plants, which are root vegetables native to South America. The wet pulp of the cassava root is squeezed to extract a starchy liquid, with the water then evaporated to leave the tapioca flour.
Unlike whole veg, it doesn’t contain many vitamins or minerals, but it’s still a good source of energy.
For us it’s the key binding ingredient that holds the veg together.
It’s widely used in Asian cuisine in particular, and as a gluten free thickener / flour alternative.
We’d rather not use refined fats at all, but fortunately we don’t need to use much (less than half what you’d find in kale crisps, for instance). And as far as they go, we think that rapeseed oil is a relatively good one. Most importantly it’s relatively low in saturated fat (just 7%, versus 14% for olive oil and 87% for coconut oil), and has a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Olive oil is better in other ways, but the neutral taste of rapeseed oil makes it the most suited to our bars.
As well as helping to bind the veg together, it also improves the mouthfeel of the bars, making them more enjoyable than otherwise.
Glycerine occurs naturally as a key component of fat molecules. To manufacture the version we use, rapeseed oil is heated under pressure with water, which splits the glycerine out. This effectively accelerates a process that happens naturally within our bodies, where fat is broken down into carbohydrates for energy (gluconeogenesis).
We use it because it “locks up” water (it’s a humectant) and gives the bars a moister texture than otherwise. We think it’s a much better option than adding lots of salt, sugar or unnatural ingredients to get the same effect.
It’s widely used in other snack bars, and also toothpaste and cough medicines, amongst other things.
By weight, most of the flavourings we use are truly natural ingredients like herbs, spices, fruit peels and powders.
The use of herbs and spices is particularly important to us because they have potent health benefits as well as providing lots of bold flavour. Gram for gram they typically have more antioxidants than any other foods. And they’ve been shown to be effective in helping to cure a wide variety of illnesses, from common colds to cancer.
To make our sweeter flavours work, however, the use of truly natural ingredients like fruit powders alone isn’t sufficient. So we’ve also had to use tiny amounts (max 1%) of “natural flavourings”. These are still natural in that they only use naturally occurring ingredients, so they’re not artificial, but they’re definitely not as pure as a fruit powder.
Some of the bars also contain buckwheat, chicory root fibre, chia and / or raisins.
Despite its name, buckwheat is actually a seed, and gluten free.
We mainly use it to add a bit of crunch to most of our bars, but it’s also a good source of minerals (eg manganese, copper and magnesium) and antioxidants. And it’s been linked with reducing blood sugar levels and promoting heart health.
Chicory root fibre
Chicory is a blue flowering herb whose root is particularly high in inulin, a prebiotic fibre that’s proven to be good for the gut (it’s a food source for our all-important good bacteria). Sliced chicory roots are soaked in hot water which is then evaporated, leaving a powder that in our case is 85% fibre.
It’s been linked to improved blood sugar control and weight loss, and the version we use has an approved EU health claim of “good for the gut”, because it aids bowel movements.
As well as its useful health benefits, it can also be used as a sugar substitute
On the downside, as a fructo-oligosaccharide it’s high FODMAP and can cause discomfort for some people when eaten in large amounts (particularly those with IBS).
Because of this, and the fact that we want to make our bars as accessible as possible, it’s currently only used in one flavour – Lemon & Vanilla.
Fibre’s great, and the only macronutrient we don’t eat enough of, so it’s good to add a concentrated form. But our bars are already very high in fibre because of the veg content, and we think that this whole food fibre is better than refined fibres like those from chicory root (see here for why). For various reasons its typically only refined products developed by large manufacturers that have approved health claims though. So we’ve added chicory root fibre so that we can say “good for the gut” on one of our wrappers (although it does make the Lemon &Vanilla flavour more appealing to some people too). In reality we think that all our bars are good for the gut – we’re just not allowed to say so on the wrappers!
Chia seeds are considered to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet, because they’re so nutrient dense. They’re a good balance of protein, fibre and healthy fats (especially omega-3) and are also packed with minerals like calcium and phosphorus, and antioxidants.
That’s obviously great, but like buckwheat we’ve mainly used them to add a different texture – we’re confident that the bars are more than healthy enough without them!
Part of our purpose is to provide an alternative to fruit-based bars, but there’s no escaping the fact that dried fruit provides a nice texture and, for some people, a welcome hit of extra sweetness.
There are more than enough date-based bars out there though, and the date paste they use doesn’t work that well in our bars, so we use raisins instead.
Like some of the other ingredients, we don’t think that they make the bars any healthier, although they are a good source of fibre, iron and antioxidants.
The table below shows the ingredients used in each of our bars, and full details are also provided on the individual product pages.
The individual product pages also have full nutritional information. A summary of it, and our thoughts on nutrition in general, can be found on our Nutrition page.
We want to make veg-based snacks as accessible as possible so don’t use any major allergens in any of our current recipes. We’re not making any free-from claims yet, however, because we haven’t fully audited our supply chain for potential cross-contamination.
Our ingredients are sourced principally from Europe, but also further afield. Whilst this isn’t ideal, it is necessary, and we’ll offset the carbon footprint. Theoretically it’s possible to get some of them from the UK (eg carrots), but the necessary supply chain isn’t well developed yet and it would therefore be much more expensive and potentially unreliable.
And although some of our ingredients are organic, most aren’t. We think that organic ingredients are best where possible, and we could potentially move to organic veg in the future, but it probably won’t be possible for all our ingredients.
We’ll be writing more about some of our ingredients in future blogs – sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page to make sure that you see them.