Clif Bars: Which Flavors Are Actually Vegan?

Clif bars are a staple among athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

They’re not the healthiest bars, but depending on the type you choose, they can be the perfect pre-workout snack or post-workout snack.

According to the Clif Bar website, there are 5 types of Clif bars with different core ingredients and they all contain a decent amount of protein. Here’s a quick overview of the 5 different types:

  • Traditional Energy Bars
  • Fruit Smoothie Bars
  • Nut Filled Bars
  • Builders Bars
  • and Whey Protein Bars

Among each type, you can find a wide variety of vegan-friendly bars, which you can easily order through Amazon or other popular retailers.

However, keep in mind that some Clif bars are not vegan, so we’ll have to dissect each one to figure out which bars are vegan.

In addition, we’re also going over some of the “questionable” ingredients Clif bars may have because we feel like that is important for vegans that have stricter standards.

Clif Traditional Energy Bars

traditional clif bar

The original energy bars are the most easily accessible Clif bars.

You can find them literally everywhere, as they’re essentially the most popular variation of bars sold by the Clif Bar brand. They’re packing some sugar, so make sure you eat them in scenarios where you actually need to spend energy.

Out of all the 23 Clif energy bars, there is only one bar that is not suitable for vegans, which is the Peanut Butter & Honey bar. Obviously, that bar contains honey, a non-vegan ingredient.

Fortunately, thus far, that is the only non-vegan energy bar Clif is selling.

Clif Fruit Smoothie Bars

fruit smoothie clif bars

The fruit smoothie bars are also energy bars, but they use classic smoothie ingredients such as fruits, seeds, and nut butter.

There are three flavors available:

  • Strawberry Banana
  • Wild Blueberry Acai
  • Tart Cherry Berry

All of the flavors are suitable for vegans, as they do not contain animal ingredients.

Clif Builder’s Protein Bars

clif builders bar

According to the manufacturer, the Builder’s protein bar is designed to help your repair and build muscle by fueling you with 20g of protein and essential amino acids.

These type of protein bars are available in 7 different flavors:

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Vanilla Almond
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon Nut Swirl
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • Cookies N Cream

Since none of them contain animal ingredients, they’re all technically considered vegan.

Clif Nut Butter Bars

nut butter clif bars

The Nut Butter bars are also an energy bar variation, but instead of fruits and nuts, they focus on delivering a variety of different kinds of butter.

There are 7 different flavors available:

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Peanut Butter
  • Coconut Almond Butter
  • Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
  • Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Blueberry Almond Butter

Akin to the aforementioned Clif bars, these are also suitable for vegans.

 Clif Whey Protein Bars

cliff whey protein bars

Clif Whey Protein bars are available in 3 different flavors:

  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel Cashew
  • Coconut Almond Chocolate

As you can probably guess from the name of the product, Clif Whey Protein bars cannot be considered vegan because they contain whey protein, an ingredient derived from milk.

Questionable Ingredients In Vegan Clif Bars

If you’re a stricter vegan, then you’re probably wondering whether there are some vegan Clif bars you may not be able to eat due to any shady ingredients…

Well, in most cases, the shadiest ingredients in vegan products are:

  • Refined Sugar
  • Natural & Artificial Flavors
  • Palm Oil
  • and Artificial Colors

That’s because they may be connected to animal suffering.

Let’s take a quick glance at the ingredients in a regular chocolate chip energy bar:

Ingredients: Organic brown rice syrup, organic rolled oats, soy protein isolate, organic cane syrup, organic roasted soybeans, rice flour, cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, organic soy flour, organic oat fiber, organic high oleic sunflower oil, cocoa butter, barley malt extract, sea salt, natural flavors, soy lecithin, organic cinnamon.

This chocolate chip bar contains what seems to be (refined) cane sugar and natural flavors.

Though, I also have to mention that a lot of Clif bars contain organic (unrefined) cane sugar, which would dilute the odds of those products being considered non-vegan. 

Refined Sugar VS Organic Sugar

difference between refined sugar and organic sugar

Refined sugar typically comes from two sources: sugarcanes and beets.

While they’re both similar in taste and texture, they have different refining processes.

On one hand, you have beet sugar that is extracted using a diffuser and mixed with vegan-friendly additives in order to crystallize. And on the other, you have cane sugar that is processed, filtered and bleached with bone char.

What is Bone Char?

Bone char, also known as natural carbon, is used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which is what gives sugar its white, pristine color.

Unfortunately, bone char is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures. Once carbonized, the bones are reduced to a charcoal-like powder.

Not All Companies Rely On Bone Char

Fortunately, companies are now waking up to alternatives such as granular carbon or ion-exchange systems, but in the United States, the use of bone char is still ongoing.

Now, organic cane sugar is basically unrefined sugar minus the cancer-causing and environmentally damaging pesticides present in conventionally grown sugarcane.

Also, because it does not use bone char, organic sugar has a darker tone. 

From what I can tell, Clif Bars uses both, so even though the chances may be small, some of the refined sugar in their bars may be filtered with bone char.

Side note: Oreos are always praised for being vegan, but they actually admit to using different sugar suppliers, including ones that use bone char.

How Does One Know Which Sugar Is Being Used?

Unfortunately, this type of information is not disclosed on most product labels.

Thus, the only way of knowing which type of sugar is being used is by actually contacting the company. Fortunately, a lot of the Clif bars use Organic cane sugar, so you don’t really need to worry, as there are plenty of bars to choose from.

Natural Flavors

natural flavors

Most Clif Bars contain natural flavors.

Just to shine some light on this issue, here’s the FDA’s definition of “natural flavors”:

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

While there’s no reason to believe the natural flavors in most Clif bars are derived from animal ingredients, there is an animal-based flavor often seen in foods of the same kind.

That flavor is called castoreum and is extracted from beavers.

Castoreum is often used to create vanilla flavorings and is sometimes used to enhance strawberry and raspberry flavors.

There are a few Clif bars that are vanilla-flavored, but I have yet to confirm the source of the flavor.

This being said, I do believe most Clif bars are vegan because most of the flavors can be obtained from plant-based sources.

Some Clif Bars Also Contain Palm Oil

palm oil

Some Clif bars do contain palm oil.

However, If you visit Clif Bars’ website, you can find a page that says the following:

“All palm oil purchased for Clif foods is either certified USDA Organic and/or Rainforest Alliance Certified™ from farms in South America. The adoption of Rainforest Alliance certification is a way to help address the environmental and social problems posed by the expansion of palm oil plantations – including deforestation, displacement of indigenous peoples and competition between large agribusinesses. By working to promote the sustainable production and manufacturing of palm oil and palm kernel oil, the Rainforest Alliance is helping to mitigate the social and environmental impacts of a growing industry.”

This does not prevent deforestation, because creating a palm oil plantation involves clearing the land of the natural vegetation, and of course animals as well.

However, certain requirements must be met. The selected land for the palm oil plantation must not be of high conservation value, and the land cannot be cleared with fire.

These requirements DO make a difference, but if you really do not wish to affect animals in any way, the only way of doing so is by avoiding palm oil.

But if it makes any difference, the palm oil in Clif Bars is sustainably sourced.

Summary: Most Clif Bars Are Vegan

Fortunately, most Clif bars are suitable for vegans.

However, keep in mind that Clif bars also contain palm oil, so if you’re not supportive of palm oil consumption, then the Clif bars are probably off-limits.

In addition, there are still some bars that are not vegan, which include:

  • Peanut Butter & Honey With Sea Salt (contains honey)
  • And the entire selection of Whey Protein Clif bars.

Other than those two examples, all the other variations should be suitable for most vegans.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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