Gluten Free | Vegan | Plant Based
Net carbs: 16 g Added sugars: 9? g
Overall rating: 😕😴🍪
These are boring, underbaked oatmeal cookies.
Have you ever eaten an oatmeal cookie? Alright, now imagine an underbaked oatmeal cookie with almond butter instead of flour holding it together. That’s a protein puck.
Overall, it’s a pleasant and well-balanced flavor. The combination of oats and sugar brings me back to boy scout trips where we would pretend that those tiny Quaker oatmeal packs were an adequate breakfast.
Thankfully, in this oatmeal experience there are some nice chocolate chunks to break up the sugary monotony.
But the most important thing to consider here is the combination of protein pucks + coffee. These were originally made by Inland Coffee Retailers LLC, a Southern California espresso distributor. One can only assume they’re supposed to go with a cup of coffee then.
Today I’m drinking a run-of-the mill dark roast. It has a bold flavor with hints of blueberries and campfire smoke. It’s not ideal for this sort of pairing.
A lighter roast, similar to Starbucks’ Pike’s Place would probably make a better match. There’s a bit of conflict between the bar’s mealy sweetness and this particular coffee’s sultry bitterness.
It’s important to take note of your technique, too. We tested three methods for eating a protein puck with your coffee:
- Sip coffee then take a bite
- Take a bite then sip coffee
- Dip it in coffee then take a bite
Out of these three, technique number one gave you the best combination of the protein puck and the coffee. Number three, the dip method, was a total failure.
It turns out I bought the protein puck for this review RIGHT BEFORE they did a rebrand. Now they make food for elephants… wait… No, this is still human food, there’s just an inexplicable elephant on the wrapper now.
Apparently Protein Puck has reached that beautiful time in a snack company’s life when, in order to grow sales, they approach some random marketing firm for overpriced advice and design overhauls.
I would imagine they had a few meetings that went something like this:
Marketing Firm: So what does your brand represent to consumers?
Protein Puck: Uhhh, strength and health and not being hungry
Marketing Firm: Ok great! We can work with that! You know what people associate with strength? Elephants!
Protein Puck: But we’re from Washington and this company has nothing to do with elephants.
Marketing Firm: Customers need to build an emotional bond with your product so that they become emotionally dependent on your snacks and perpetuate these bizarre rituals of economic codependence! And everyone loves elephants!!!
Protein puck: Uhm, alright, how long will it take for you to make some label mockups?
At this point the marketing firm will commence a 3-12 month process of design meetings, market testing, focus groups, and other bizarre rituals practiced by modern entrepreneurial cultists. They not only redesign the labels, but overhaul the whole brand image, sculpt an easily digestible narrative and write Zoolander-esque web copy like this:
“Without proper nutrition, we are unhealthy…and without health, we have nothing”
I’ve sat through marketing meetings before. So I know that it probably took eight people six hours spread out over three meetings to write this one sentence.
Modern marketing is a formulaic, oppressive mind virus that reshapes otherwise unique companies in its own image. People are so afraid of risking authenticity that they stick with tried and true formulas that have nice excel charts crafted to justify their continued usage.
I don’t understand why people are so afraid of authenticity, even though that’s undeniably the most valuable resource these days. There are so many deepfake corporate clones out here that anyone who really acts human is a breath of fresh air.
Why act like everyone else unless you want to be everyone else?
The only ingredient in here that raises my eyebrows is Agave. Among natural foods consumers, agave has for a long time held a top spot among sweeteners.
According to popular perception, Agave nectar is a “healthy” and “natural” sweetener that “won’t kill you.” This is not as true as I once thought, though.
Agave’s main claim to fame is it’s low glycemic index. GI is the amount that a particular food spikes your blood sugar levels within two hours of eating. The main thing that spikes your blood sugar is glucose.
The main sugar in agave is fructose, which has less impact on blood sugar levels. Fructose-based sweeteners are still high-calorie, high-carb, and largely unhealthy. A lot of food manufacturers market to diabetics using the low glycemic angle, because in that context it’s extremely relevant.
But diabetics eating low-glycemic food is like celiac folks eating gluten free: It’s healthy for them due to specific dietary concerns that don’t apply to the average consumer. Diets like gluten-free and low GI have specific medical purposes. This does not make them universally healthy, despite popular conception.
As it turns out, agave nectar is sweeter than table sugar and it has more calories. It may even be worse than high-fructose corn syrup, the main villain in our global obesity epidemic.
Food marketers often throw around terms like low-glycemic because they know that the average consumer thinks they mean “healthy” and doesn’t care quite enough about their health to actually do any research. You’re not the average consumer, though. That’s why you’re here.
In my opinion, Agave nectar is a processed, high-sugar sweetener that everyone should avoid.
Processed??? But it comes from plants!
As the Weston A Price foundation uncovered in 2009, though, agave nectar is simply an industrially produced sweetener that’s been effectively marketed as natural and healthy. (click this link to learn an incredible amount about corn syrup and other sweeteners)
Indeed, we can read the description of Agave nectar production in the official patent filing #5,846,333, cleverly titled “A method of producing fructose syrup from agave plants:”
“A pulp of milled agave plant heads are liquified during centrifugation and a polyfructose solution is removed and then concentrated to produce a polyfructose concentrate. Small particulates are removed by centrifugation and/or filtration and colloids are removed using termic coagulation techniques to produce a partially purified polyfructose extract substantially free of suspended solids. The polyfructose extract is treated with activated charcoal and cationic and anionic resins to produce a demineralized, partially hydrolyzed polyfructose extract. This partially hydrolyzed polyfructose extract is then hydrolyzed with inulin enzymes to produce a hydrolyzed fructose extract. Concentration of the fructose extract yields a fructose syrup.”
I’m assuming you didn’t read all that so here’s a translation: Do a bunch of unnatural shit to agave plants to make sugar goop.
Can we just stop the lies?
We need a simple definition of what’s a processed ingredient and what’s not. My new definition is this: If you can’t make it in your kitchen at home, then it is a processed ingredient.
It’s safe to assume that most people don’t have centrifuges or anionic resins at home. Agave nectar is a highly processed, high-calorie added sweetener that we should all avoid like the plague.
Hmmm, we seem to have reviewed this company at a strange time in its life. On the wrapper that I have, it says that Protein Puck belongs to Inland Coffee Retailers, LLC.
They either rebranded or changed hands, though, because now Continuum Brands, LLC runs PP. There’s not much info on this company, though. Their website doesn’t even work (on March 30,2020, when this review was written.)
Corporate entities are a crazy level of the business world that a lot of folks don’t experience. Every business is a spiritual construct built from the combined energies of its owners and employees.
The purpose of filing a corporate entity is to avoid personal financial liability. If you go broke or take on too much debt, the company is responsible and you can walk away with less damage than if you were personally liable.
A corporate entity’s name is largely inconsequential. You could be called Absolute Loser Nobodies LLC and sell financial products online. You usually want your company name to reflect some sort of value or qualities of your company, though.
If your company has no clear values or defining features, you choose a name like Continuum Brands LLC to make it sound like you do.
As far as I can tell, Inland Coffee still operates as an Espresso supplier of some sort. Continuum must be another business that they either spun off from their main operation or sold the Protein Puck brand to.
I’ve thought for a long time that the best way to take over the Protein bar market, or any market, really, is to acquire or create multiple brands that serve different market segments. My intuition tells me that these people are planning a similar takeover.
There’s not much info out here on Continuum, but I did find this mission statement:
“We identify hyper-focused product companies with high relevance in emerging or trending categories (and have non-discretionary characteristics) who are poised to scale their companies.”
Translation: they buy other people’s brands and apply their normie corporate marketing expertise. The whole elephant rebrand thing makes more sense in light of this discovery.
After a bit more research, I found the Continuum Brands LLC Facebook page. Now we have a more complete idea of what this company is.
In addition to Protein Puck, Continuum oversees an olive oil, a line of matcha products, and a CBD brand for veterans, police, and other public servants. (The Matcha Brand’s website is also broken, so Continuum is failing in that regard.)
There’s also this extremely telling image:
First of all, there is nothing disruptive about new consumer packaged goods. All of their products have countless exact analogues differentiated only by their uninspired marketing.
Second of all, this is all marketing-speak for “we sell products to consumers.” People put a lot of fluff into statements like this to make them seem more information-dense than they actually are.
Furthermore, ‘foundry’ is the perfect way to describe this company. A foundry is a metal casting factory where you create objects out of different metals by “…melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal into a mold…”
Likewise, Continuum takes consumer brands, melts them down and pours them into a mold. These products are all branded to strike that perfect balance of visually interesting yet completely the same as every other product.
My biggest problem in marketing is how many people stick to the mold of what works rather than trying anything new. Even using “disruptive” in this way is completely formulaic brand messaging.
Mostly you see this sort of lackluster marketing from entrepreneurs who got into an industry or product category because they saw an opportunity for profit there but have no personal passion for the products they sell. But it’s also possible that Continuum is just boring people. They are from Idaho 🤷♂️
These are a bit hefty for the average snacker. But they’re not targeting the average snacker. According to their website, “Pucks defy all other bars, because they are designed to “fill you up” with whole food ingredients while never compromising on taste.”
No empty stomachs allowed here. The marketing copy on this website is so bizarre. I’m very sensitive to marketers’ attempts to appear edgy. A protein puck “defying” oppressive rule by other protein bars is a funny image, though.
Let’s remake 1984 with Protein Pucks as Winston and Clif Bars as The Party. But which protein bar is the seductive young revolutionary who leads the Protein Pucks to their enlightenment and eventual ruin? Could it be Dirtballs?
Aw geez, I probably can’t think straight after eating so many net carbs… This is too much food, in too big of a lump, for it to be optimally snackable.
Overall, Protein Pucks get a rating of 😕😴🍪
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