The Energy Bar Wrapper Manifesto

04.28.2011 | 2:11 pm

I like energy bars. There, I said it: I like energy bars. I like the way they fit conveniently in my jersey pocket. I like the way they keep me from bonking. I even like — and I know some of you will scoff, but it’s true — the way they taste.

But energy bars have a huge problem. An obvious problem. A terrible problem. A huge, obvious, and terrible problem. And it must be fixed. Now.

The problem is this: their wrappers. The wrapping material is incredibly difficult to tear. And if it tears, it tears in the wrong direction and may as well not have torn at all.

It’s as if the energy bar manufacturers have forgotten that they’re making food that is intended to be unwrapped and eaten while gloved and riding a bike, and are instead focusing on creating contrivances designed to keep their precious food away from raccoons.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Here is a ProBar Fruition bar, a delicious (and Vegan!!!) energy bar.


Currently, it is my favorite on-bike food, because it’s about the right amount of food I like to eat while riding, it’s moist, and it tastes good. I like these so much that I even eat them sometimes when I’m not on the bike.

But they are murder to get open.

Using the “Hold with one hand while ripping the wrapper with your teeth” method, here’s what I got on the first attempt:


Yeah, that teeny little corner in the top right. Not going to be sufficient. So I try the same technique, but from the other corner:


How is it possible that the tear actually went perpendicular to the angle I’m pulling it? How?!

And it’s not like the tiny little pieces of wrapping I’ve just torn off with my teeth have vanished, either. They’re flapping in the wind, hanging from my clenched teeth. Which means I have to somehow discard the tiny little piece of paper. Sure, I could spit it out, but that’s littering. Or I could swallow it, but then I’d probably get excruciating cuts all down my throat as the foil made its way down my gullet (and really, that would just be the beginning of my problems).

So I have to get the tiny piece of paper into my jersey pocket, which means performing the following steps:

  1. Put the energy bar back in my jersey pocket so I have a free hand (or ride no-handed, but that option is usually not a good one if I’m in a paceline or am mountain biking)
  2. Grab the little piece of paper and stuff it in a jersey pocket.
  3. Re-fetch the energy bar.

At this point — and I reach this point pretty much every time I try to open one of these — I’m confronted with several options:

  • Try the whole “ripping with teeth” process again.
  • Try using my tongue to enlarge the little hole I created.
  • Weep pathetically, due to overwhelming hunger pangs.
  • Try to squeeze the food through the small hole I’ve created.
  • Ride no-handed and see if I have any better luck opening the package with two gloved hands than I did with a gloved hand and my teeth.

I usually go with the first option — hey, maybe third time will be the charm — at which point I wind up with something like this:


Um. Success? Maybe.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve completely dropped away from the group I’m riding with, and have probably also veered toward oncoming traffic.

The Ideal

So, how would I like my energy wrappers to behave? Well, at the risk of sounding crazy, here is my list of desirable energy food wrapper attributes:

  • Wrapper has a tensile strength less than Tyvek or steel belted radial tires.
  • Wrapper does not require scissors, boxcutters, or high-powered industrial lasers to begin a tear.
  • Once the wrapper begins to tear, it continues to tear in the direction at least roughly similar to the direction of force from which the tear came. In other words, the tear should not capriciously turn and run in some direction cunningly calculated to prevent food from escaping from the package.
  • 201104281344.jpg If the package has a “Tear here” indicator, it shall be printed sufficiently large that one does not need a jeweler’s loop to find it, seeing as how I often forget to bring my jeweler’s loop on rides.
  • If the package has a “Tear here” indicator, one should be able to reasonably be able to assume that tearing there will produce a desirable effect (Note: Having a teeny-tiny corner of packaging coming off in your teeth does NOT count as a desirable effect).
  • Honestly, I just want to get to my food. Without falling down. And without having to try over and over and over. And over. Is that so much to ask? I’m begging here.

Standardized Rating System

I propose that, in order to halt the travesty of nearly-impossible-to-open energy food wrappers, the following rating system be implemented, with the wrapper rating being clearly printed on the wrapper of the food item, and the rating being set based on real-world, on-bike tests by hungry, (full-fingered, medium-weight) gloved cyclists after riding a distance of no less than 40 miles (or 15 miles when being tested on MTBs):

  • P1: This package can be opened easily and on the first try by pretty much anyone on a bike. Just bite the wrapper on any corner and give a simple tug. Mountain bikers can open this package even when riding semi-technical uphill trail. (As far as I know, no existing energy bar or chew would receive this rating, though most gel packages would.)
  • P2: This package requires sustained effort and multiple attempts to open, but if you practice and are hungry enough, you’ll eventually get this open. Safe for experienced riders to open while riding in a group. Mountain bikers should only attempt opening this if they are on a two-mile stretch of non-technical trail.
  • P3: This package will resist your efforts to open it as if it were guarding the contents of the package with its life. Do nor attempt to open when riding with other people, because you will almost certainly cause an accident.
  • P4: Attempts to open will likely result in severe paper cuts. Attempting to open while riding a bike — regardless of bike type or terrain — is severely dangerous and is not recommended under any circumstances. This package is, in short, just trying to be mean.

If you ask me, this is what the UCI should be focusing on right now.


  1. Comment by SDM | 04.28.2011 | 2:29 pm

    You’re saying we should re-invent bananas? Trump can make that happen too…

  2. Comment by skippy | 04.28.2011 | 2:53 pm

    “Pro bar” simply real ! Never heard of it but 48g will not replace the energy used opening it up !
    Will stick to glad wrapped Vegemite Sangas !

  3. Comment by daness40 | 04.28.2011 | 3:09 pm

    I feel like I have mastered the art of opening stuff while riding. It all depends on the speed and force that you approach your tear with. You need to tear it like you would a piece of steel. And do so from the center of the wrapping. You’ll nail it every time!

  4. Comment by why? | 04.28.2011 | 3:14 pm

    Great post. Totally agree.

  5. Comment by Doug Porter | 04.28.2011 | 3:16 pm

    one word (or is it two?)…pre-open

  6. Comment by bikemike | 04.28.2011 | 3:21 pm

    judging from the pictures, i’d say you have mice.

  7. Comment by jilrubia | 04.28.2011 | 3:27 pm

    Just do what I do for the young ‘uns around here to the yogurt tubes in their lunches, pre-cut them a little bit. Could you mount a little cutting thing-a-ma-jig to the bike somewhere? Wait, I’m calling my patent attorney!!!!

  8. Comment by The Los | 04.28.2011 | 3:48 pm

    Obviously, the Honey Stinger Waffles are P4, and I want the UCI AND Congress to look into this immediately.
    But since that ain’t gonna happen, I just do as others have said, and precut packaging before a ride.
    BTW, did you get the email from someone about this? Just wanted to make sure you’re aware of it.


  9. Comment by Sara | 04.28.2011 | 4:14 pm

    I pre-open a corner of my nutrition before I head out. Not perfect but I hate getting frustrated when I can’t get my food when I need it.

  10. Comment by hannah | 04.28.2011 | 4:16 pm

    I like the idea of a UCI investigation. Of course, then we’re going to run into trouble because the ASO will come up with a different rating system, and then certain bars won’t be allowed to be eaten in France and others won’t be allowed in the US, and then where will we be?

  11. Comment by Brandon | 04.28.2011 | 4:23 pm


  12. Comment by Jim B | 04.28.2011 | 4:38 pm

    Be a man and just eat it in the wrapper. Besides, the wrapper is where all the vitamins are. Even so, it is impossible to be a Real Man ™ while eating a fruity cherry funsnack. One must eat the Tar & Gravel flavored Powerbar to get real respect.

  13. Comment by Trailer Park Cyclist | 04.28.2011 | 4:45 pm

    I just reach down and snatch up some road kill.

  14. Comment by Lisa C. | 04.28.2011 | 5:00 pm

    I actually emailed Clif about this very issue last summer, after wrestling open a bar with both hands AND my teeth, only to have it jump out and land on a convenient pile of pine needles and asphalt grit (I was hungry, so I called whatever I couldn’t brush off “added value” and ate it anyway).

    Thank the stars I was stopped, or there would have been arterial blood on the trail…

    They replied to the effect of “Yeah, we know, we do that on purpose, sorry about the pine needles, but at least the raccoons in your bike bag won’t get to it.”

  15. Comment by CF | 04.28.2011 | 5:18 pm

    Never had this problem, but that’s probably because I stop to open my Clif Bars. (not balanced enough to open->eat->ride)

  16. Comment by L'Hippo | 04.28.2011 | 6:16 pm

    Yeah, I have the same problem opening a bag of Ruffles, I believe they use some polymer invented by NASA. Of course, the family size is hard to stuff in a jersey pocket but then by the time I get it open it is then the consistency of grape nuts.

    Just kidding…great post and agree 103.5%

  17. Comment by Brian | 04.28.2011 | 6:50 pm

    The trick with ProBars, and likely the fruitions, is to focus on the center. Grab an entire side of the top with your teeth, and then tear the center seam open with your hand. It takes a little practice, but once you master it, it just adds a reason why ProBars are vastly superior to all other bars. (although I think this method works pretty well with ClifBars, too.)

  18. Comment by Norman | 04.28.2011 | 7:08 pm

    Forget the papercuts, most of my teeth are aftermarket, purchased with both pain and painfully earned dollars. Ripping open one of these endangers a couple of thousand dollars of investment. Yes, design edible wrappers or user friendly tech.

  19. Comment by Danny | 04.28.2011 | 7:14 pm

    Hey Fatty,

    Just snip the top off the wrapper before you ride!!!

  20. Comment by HeidiR | 04.28.2011 | 7:25 pm

    Awesome in the extreme, and so true! I LOVE that you took photos of all of the steps in frustration :)

    @Jim B 4:38 excellent! Good thing I’m not a man, because I try to limit my intake of the Tar & Gravel Powerbar…

    @ Trailer Park Cyclist: Best. Comment. Ever.

  21. Comment by Allison | 04.28.2011 | 7:29 pm

    Shot Blocks are the WORST! I have chipped teeth trying to get those things open.

  22. Comment by roan | 04.28.2011 | 8:17 pm

    I usually stop to eat & drink especially if the place has a brew & burger. Now as to ‘your’ problem, 2 solutions: First, tape one of those letter openers with a blade tucked safely inside the plastic to your bike stem. A simple alignment of the treasure and in one slide…it’s open.
    Second, a plastic device that you could place a row of desired energy food packages. Snap down on the ends of the packages with the top piece of plastic that has teeth like a tape dispenser. The filled device is then snapped on to your top tube or handlebar.
    The entire smorgasbord is within easy reach just dangling in the breeze. This leaves your jersey pockets free for the empty wrappers.

  23. Comment by dude | 04.29.2011 | 3:40 am

    even worse is that they’re all coated in chocolate
    and in summer chocolate melts turning the bar into
    a bloody mess

  24. Comment by Kayla | 04.29.2011 | 7:51 am

    The reference to the jeweler’s loop cracked me up!!!

    Great post!

  25. Comment by Ira | 04.29.2011 | 8:18 am

    I think you’ve nailed a legitimate complaint. Is anybody from the energy bar industry paying attention? Love to hear a comment.

  26. Comment by Angie | 04.29.2011 | 8:32 am

    How to eat Honey stinger wafers while racing:

    Honey stingers are so awesome! Just imagine a sweet carmelly, honey-flavored wafer cookie that just melts in your mouth. It’s more like eating an gourmet treat than a sports snack. The problem with Honey Stingers is that they are very difficult to eat while riding. As Fatty’s article describes, the wrapper a problem to open. On top of that, those fragile, thin wafers just crumble apart if you handle them with anything other than a surgeon’s precision. While riding a mt bike on trails, eating a Honey Stinger is darn near impossible.

    Here’s what I’ve started doing: While standing motionless on two feet, I open one with two hands (and no teeth) before the race. I break the Honey Stinger into quarters. I put the quarters together in a pile and lay the mass back in the fully opened wrapper. I put the whole thing (open side up) into my jersey pocket. It’s easy enough to pull out while racing, while leaving the wrapper in the pocket. (No littering necessary!)

    Note: To avoid pests in your laundry hamper, be sure to wash the jersey as soon as possible. Those crumbs are like crack to ants…. I hear…..

  27. Comment by Franky | 04.29.2011 | 8:38 am

    GU Chomps have a thinner corner that can easily be ripped off during the ride. But the easiest way, as Danny said, is to cut off the tops before leaving.

    As for the shot blocks, it would be nice to have some kind of device available to push them up, like a PEZ dispenser…

  28. Comment by Jenni | 04.29.2011 | 9:03 am


  29. Comment by Elizabeth | 04.29.2011 | 9:11 am

    Believe it or not, it’s just as hard to open them at your desk while typing financial reports with NO gloves on. Also lots of crumbs in the keyboard . . .

  30. Comment by Brandon | 04.29.2011 | 9:19 am

    I love the Honey Stinger Waffles, but their first batches of packaging required an army to get open. I understand they have fixed the packaging now.

  31. Comment by Clancy | 04.29.2011 | 11:29 am

    Hence my love for Hammer gel in the 5 serving container..

  32. Comment by Liz | 04.29.2011 | 1:09 pm

    See, here’s where being a slacker comes in handy. I just stop my bike to eat.

  33. Comment by rich | 04.29.2011 | 2:30 pm

    Awesome post and spot on!
    Since we’re complaining about energy foods, what about the GU and E-gels where the entire top piece tears off and you have to try to shove it back in your pocket without it sticking to your glove, falling on the trail, whatever….
    Why not have it perforated half way across so it stays attached and you don’t have to worry about disposing (or dropping) a little tiny piece of foil packaging?

  34. Comment by Mark | 04.29.2011 | 5:19 pm

    Silly you! These things are not packaged for the consumer, but for the convenience of the packager. Go to Costco if you want to see packaging gone crazy! I’m with Clancy – I even empty my Clif Shots into a Hammer Gel squeeze bottle.

  35. Comment by The Banter | 04.29.2011 | 5:55 pm

    Here’s what else you could do: Go to the dentist (or if you are too cheap, try it at home) and have them file your incisors into razor sharp edges. Slicing through any wrapper will be like cutting butter. Problem solved.

  36. Comment by Rumpled | 04.30.2011 | 12:52 am

    Once opened, a bar should not be attached to the rest of the wrapper with superglue. Early Powerbars were the worst at this. I think they tried to solve this problem by adding talcum powder between the two.
    This lowered the eatability quotient of those bars to well below zero.

  37. Comment by Jim B | 05.1.2011 | 12:13 am

    Franky said, “As for the shot blocks, it would be nice to have some kind of device available to push them up, like a PEZ dispenser…”

    Nah, it is easy. (1) tear open the top and slide it open side up into a jersey pocket before your ride. (2) when you want a shot block, take out the package and pinch the two top cubes; if as you get to lower cubes, you will have to pinch at the base of the top cube a few times to work it to the opening; when the cube is near the top, put it up to your mouth make one final pinch. (3) enjoy those 33 calories.

  38. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.1.2011 | 7:23 am

    Thus the beauty of the PB & Honey sandwich in an easy to open Gald zip top bag…..unless you drop said bag down the side of a hill, which I did in Hawaii a few years ago!

  39. Comment by Linda | 05.1.2011 | 5:19 pm

    I preopen all my snacks and strategically place them in the leg band of my shorts….lined up like little soldiers. This works especially well with hot tamales, swedish fish and everlasting gobstoppers.

  40. Comment by Steven | 05.2.2011 | 8:19 am

    Just got my June 2011 Bicycling and Fatty & The Runner are front and center in the photo of the start of the King Ridge Gran Fondo.!

  41. Comment by Ferde | 05.2.2011 | 9:58 am

    Might be time for a dentist appt

  42. Comment by MattC | 05.2.2011 | 10:03 am

    Another great post on a very real topic Fatty! And quite amazingly enough, just this very weekend I tried your friend Brad’s CR333 (CarboRocket Half-Evil) for my very first time. For those who don’t know what it is, well…it’s liquid food (or Rocket-fuel as I will be calling it from now on). I did a 44mi 5600′ 5+ hour mtb ride on Sat, and my entire food intake consisted of a banana @ mile 28 (only cuz my tiny brain kept yelling at me that I NEED to eat something, so I finally broke down just to shut it up). I admit I wasn’t keen on the taste at first (when I mixed it on my counter I mean) but out on the trail it had morphed into something I liked very much…maybe it needs to age some? In fact, I had to be careful NOT to slurp it down too quickly (I use a 3 liter camelback). I surely won’t use this for short rides (less than 3 hours or so)…but for long rides, this stuff rules! NO FOOD! NO WRAPPERS! No more sticky fingers, goop on my grips, or carrying 5lbs of food w/ me stuffed into every nook and cranny that I can! And I typically bonk (or nearly bonk) on all long events cuz I just can’t force myself to eat enough. This stuff is the solution! You simply drink your calories and just keep on going!

    And on a side note: Brad, if you see this, I think it’s totally wicked-cool that when I opened the 4lb can, SUPRISE! It’s jam-packed to the very top! UNBELIEVABLE!! Every other can of anything I’ve ever open (I’m especially talking to YOU Cytomax) is 1/3 or more down from the top. Not yours! I’ll be buying more, you can count on that!

    (As per Fatty’s usual disclaimer: I’m just some guy nobody’s ever heard of. Never met Brad nor anybody else in his ‘company’ (if there is such a thing) and most likely never will. I’m getting nothing for this…it’s just my 2 cents worth on a product that really works like it’s advertised (to me anyway), and wanted to share my find w/ other cycling folk. This got kind’a long..sorry Fatty!

  43. Comment by Josh Rubin | 05.2.2011 | 12:26 pm

    Repackage in zip-lock bags. With practice, you can open with either hand. I need to press against my chin or bars to do it.

    I mostly eat whatever is available at general stores: raw pop-tarts, raisin bread, jelly beans. When I showed up with a piece of coffee cake in my jersey pocket, they yelled at me for being unhealthy.

  44. Pingback by April Review | 05.3.2011 | 8:21 am

    [...] Fatty’s energy bar wrapper manifesto. [...]

  45. Comment by Living, Learning, Eating | 08.6.2011 | 1:59 pm

    If you like energy bars, you *have* to try YouBars (I posted a review here: ). They’re delicious, have really few (and healthy!) ingredients and are soooo filling. I’m *stuffed.*


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