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Survival Bar Taste Test

Sunday, 13 January 2013 12:53 Written by 

With people dumping hundreds of dollars into equipment for their bug-out bags, from expensive knives to water filters and lightweight tents, it doesn't make sense that survival food is usually no more than an afterthought. In many cases—especially in the pre-assembled survival kits people buy—"food" is a chunk of calorie-dense, foil-wrapped hardtack guaranteed to keep you alive for three days. People rarely open these bars to taste them; and many throw them out after the typical five year expiration date, only to replace them with other bars that they will most likely never try either.

We encourage you to sample the food you have in your kit, rather than relying solely on online reviews. What does it matter that the food bars were endorsed by the US Coast Guard, if you don't personally care for the taste, or there might be an equally effective better-tasting alternative? At the same time, we realize that you may not have extra bars laying around just to sample. So, feel free to use this informal survey as a starting point, inspiration to try other brands, or as a supplement to your findings.

How the Sampling Was Conducted

At a recent prepping event, we conducted an unscientific, blind taste-test of some of the most popular 1200 calorie survival bars. The following products were included in our taste test: Mainstay, SOS, Datrex, and Millennium (All 9 Flavors: Raspberry, Apricot, Lemon, Cherry, Coconut, Vanilla, Orange, Tropical & Blueberry).  

Mainstay, SOS & Datrex are available in 1200/2400/3600-calorie blocks, and Millennium bars are 400 calories apiece, but for the purpose of this sampling, each of the 13 participants were given a small 1/2" square (about the size of a bouillon cube) and water to drink between samples. They were allowed to sample each in any order they chose and had 30 minutes to do so.

We asked the participants to rate the flavor and texture of the 12 bars that were sampled, and encouraged them to leave comments. There was a 5-point rating system, explained as such: 1=Poor, 2=Below Average, 3=Average, 4=Good, 5=Exceptional. The same scale was given to rate texture. An additional question was posed: "Would you buy this product for your BOB/Emergency Pack?" A (mean) average was applied to all scores. Results were rounded-up to the nearest hundredth.


Flavor Ratings 

1.(4.08) Millennium Cherry

2.(3.58) Millennium Tropical

3.(3.36) Millennium Coconut

4.(3.30) SOS

5.(3.18) Millennium Raspberry

6.(3.09) Millennium Vanilla

7.(3.00-Tie) Mainstay & Millennium Blueberry

8.(2.85) Millennium Apricot 

9.(2.72) Millennium Orange

10.(2.58) Millenium Lemon

11.(2.25) Datrex


Texture Ratings

1.(3.82) Millennium Cherry

2.(3.64) Millennium Tropical

3.(3.58) SOS

4.(3.40-Tie) Millennium Raspberry & Millennium Vanilla

5.(3.30-Tie) Millennium Coconut & Millennium Orange

6.(3.25) Millennium Apricot

7.(3.20) Millennium Blueberry

8.(2.91-Tie) Mainstay & Millennium Lemon

9.(2.08) Datrex

The winner, by a large margin, was Millennium Cherry with Millennium Tropical and Coconut coming in second and third. A close fourth was SOS. There seems to be a correlation between flavor and texture, as the top flavors also scored among the top textures, and the Millennium bars all had similar—if not identical—textures. The lowest rated in both taste and texture was Datrex. But, that is not to say that it is poor, or unpalatable; at 2.25, within the context of this taste test, it is simply below average. Very few 1's were scored– as were 5's for that matter. Which, would seem to indicate that the participants had measured expectations (they knew it was survival food, and not aged filet mignon).

The survival bars that the participants most said they would not buy for their BOB's were: Datrex & Millennium Orange. The most popular flavors for the BOB were: Millennium Cherry, and tied for second were: Millennium Coconut, Vanilla, Tropical & SOS.

There were similarities between all the different survival bars sampled. The texture consistency, for the most part, was very similar for all the bars; hard and cookie-like, sometimes chalky. They are all high in fat, fiber, and are roughly of the same size, weight & calorie count. But, Mainstay is significantly more vitamin-fortified than the other brands we tested, which perhaps contributed to an adverse effect on its taste and/or texture ratings. 

Some Random Notes

Mainstay was noted twice as being bland. But also, "lemony", with a "nice flavor."

Datrex was noted as being "unflavorful", "blah."

Millennium Cherry was noted as being "top notch" "good" but it did have a strong flavor, and one participant was bothered by the aftertaste.

Millennium Tropical "Nice flavor", "good", "sweet."

Millennium Blueberry was not easily identified. Some comments: "Strange", "Piney Flavor."

Citrus (Orange, Lemon) were near the middle/bottom of both lists.  


The conclusion we came to is that even though all the survival bars would be palatable in an emergency situation, in a taste test scenario, people tend to favor stronger, more recognizable flavors. Manufacturers such as Mainstay and Datrex may purposely leave their bars under-flavored ("bland") to combat food fatigue, or to be easily masked with other flavors. An advantage to the Millennium bars is that three 400 calorie bars can be purchased for roughly the same price as a 1200 calorie Mainstay/SOS/Datrex bar, allowing for a little more variety, and they are easy to sample, at about $1 each.

Note: This is an unscientific survey, and I am not a statistician nor a pollster. We are not affiliated in any way, with the makers of these survival bars. The administrators of Prepper Link have several of these brands in their BOBs and will continue to use them, but will adjust our preferences to the bars we sampled. 

Last modified on Monday, 14 January 2013 21:13
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  • Comment Link Brian O Wednesday, 16 January 2013 07:12 posted by Brian O

    This is a very timely article. Thanks for posting it.

    I while back, I purchased the Datrex 2400 and 3600 calorie packs for my bug-out pack. Having sampled the product at time of purchase, I was satisfied - yet not overly impresed - with the taste and texture of the Datrex "cookie bars". They will certainly serve their purpose, but I have been looking for a tastier alternative. I'll definitely going to try out the Millennium bars.

    I recently stumbled upon another high-quality product - Pro Bar 'Meal' bars ( - to add to my EDC "go-pack". Pro Bar Meal bars are made from whole foods, are 70% organic and pack anywhere from 350 - 395 calories. Shorter shelf-life than Daytrex, but MUCH more enjoyable. For EDC go-pack purposes, the Pro Bars are definitely a viable option.

    Thanks again.

    Take good care - and prepare to prevail!

  • Comment Link Patti_SC Thursday, 24 January 2013 07:26 posted by Patti_SC

    Our family of 8 also likes the Millennium Bars. The kids thought they were cookies when we used them on our camping trip last summer. Not bad at all! We got ours from where we also get all our freeze dried foods. They scrambled egg mix is very good too.

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