Clif bars. You have surely seen them, and chances are, if you keep energy bars as part of your food supplies for emergencies, you have bought more than a few of these ubiquitous oh-so-tasty bricks yourself.
Clif bars are one of the most common, if not the most popular, energy bars on the market and are greatly beloved for their excellent combination of great taste, reasonable calorie profile and clean ingredients.
They are also increasingly known for having a long shelf life; seemingly well in excess of competing bars and certainly old standbys like granola and trail mix.
That being said, being made from so many clean ingredients these bars must be vulnerable to spoilage, right? Have you ever wondered what the real shelf life of a Clif bar is?
Clif bars are typically good for about a year from the date of purchase. Field testing has shown that Clif bars with wrappers intact (that have not been stored in extremely hot conditions) are edible for 2+ years.
What’s interesting is that Clif bars have this real-world shelf life is in spite of the lack of preservatives, and the presence of numerous simple, organic ingredients. Also note that the expiration date is more of a best-by date.
You can learn a little bit more about why this is throughout the remainder of this article. But no matter what you can rest assured that your Clif bars will hold up for at least a year while waiting patiently inside your BOB.
What is in a Clif Bar?
Clif bars are available in a dizzying array of flavors and that means the ingredients list will vary from flavor to flavor.
Despite this abundance of flavor profiles, the core ingredients for each bar are quite similar, typically containing oats, nuts, a variety of syrups, soy-derived protein and other ingredients that will lend each bar it’s a distinct character.
For our purposes, what is most important is it the oils and sugars in these simple, usually organic ingredients can go rancid over time or if not stored properly.
You will have to be even more concerned about this if your Clif Bar is exposed to high temperatures, and especially repeated exposure to high temperature.
But what might surprise you is how robust and long-lasting these ingredients actually are thanks to the way the bars are made and packaged.
Assuming the wrapper surrounding the bar does not have a hole in it or is otherwise broken, a Clif bar will remain fresh for quite a long time, and certainly edible for a long time after that.
Testing Your Clif Bar for Edibility
Caution: You must always use your own good sense when contemplating the consumption of any food which is potentially spoiled by time or improper storage. This guide cannot guarantee certainty about the freshness and edibility of your food.
You do have one thing working in your favor when it comes to the spoilage of your Clif bar: the oils and sugars contained in the ingredients will go rancid when they go bad, and that means it will impart radical and typically highly noticeable changes in appearance, smell, and certainly the taste of the bar.
If you don’t want to throw out an old bar, or you are just really in a jam and left with nothing else to eat, you can follow the tips below in order to be reasonably sure that you aren’t eating bad food.
Begin by assessing the packaging before you ever open the bar. If your bar has spoiled, bacteria have likely gotten to it and it’s been hungrily devouring the sugars in the bar, producing excess gas in the bargain.
This will often lead to the packaging feeling slightly springy, like an inflated balloon, as the gas accumulates inside. If you notice this bouncy packaging, or notice any tears or holes in the packaging itself, discard your bar; it has certainly gone bad.
Assuming the packaging is A-okay, peel open the wrapper, and sniff the bar assuming you are not greeted with a wretched stink cloud.
Any food that has gone rancid will typically have a nasty odor, and if it doesn’t it might just smell off, somehow. Any bad odor is a bad sign, and you should discard your Clif bar.
Next it is time to look the bar over. The bar might look dry and even desiccated if it is very old, since it will be shedding moisture slowly over time even if the seal of the package is still intact.
Otherwise, a fresh Clif bar will have a slightly glossy shine due to the moisture content, but if it has a strange oily look or appears to have a jelly-like texture, it has gone rancid and you shouldn’t eat it.
Next it is time for the ultimate test: the taste test. Assuming your Clif bar has passed inspection in all the previous categories, it’s time to break off a tiny piece, and give it a thorough chew.
It will be normal for an old bar to have lost a little bit of flavor and “mouthfeel” but it should not have a strange or bad taste. A stale taste is one thing, but a nasty taste is another. If it does taste nasty, spit it out. If it tastes okay, congratulations; you can eat your “vintage” Clif bar!
Despite the date on the packaging, a Clif Bar that has an intact wrapper has a shelf life of around two years, perhaps a little bit more, where it will still be safe to eat.
The author has eaten many out-of-date Clif bars over the years that passed the smell and taste test, and was completely fine in the end, causing no discomfort or illness.