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In cereal bars, Quaker knows its oats

Fruit cereal bars boast that they are good for breakfast, as snacks or for lunch boxes Our panelists thought they might be more nutritious than candy bars, but not by much.

"I think they are nothing more than cake with a little strawberry something or other," said one judge. "Overall, they just aren't really that good."

Most of the bars looked identical, and a couple of the major supermarket brands were individually packaged in identical wrappers.

We sampled seven brands of strawberry-filled cereal bars and scored them on a scale of zero to 80. The winner was Quaker Oats ($3.57), which received a total of 52 points from our panel of four tasters. It also was one of the most expensive.

Panelists thought the Quaker Oats bars looked the most homemade and also had "decent strawberry filling."

"The flavor hits you right up front," said one taster. Three panelists said they would buy Quaker Oats bars.

Kash n' Karry's store brand ($2.19) placed second with 40 total points. It got high marks for color and moisture. Three judges said they would buy the Kash n' Karry brand, but one said he needed milk to wash down the sample.

Albertsons' store brand ($2.84) received 32 points, placing third. Only one judge said she would buy Albertsons cereal bars, saying they had "reasonably good, jamlike filling."

Some of the cereal bars "had more dough than strawberry" and didn't stay together well. One judge mentioned that her children wouldn't eat a bar if it was broken. Other samples were too dry and left the judges with a "strange chemical aftertaste."

Also sampled were: Carborite ($3.99); Sunkist ($2.19); Entenmann's ($3.49) and Kellogg's ($3.39).

Panelists were Nan Jensen, home economist with Pinellas County Family and Consumer Sciences; personal chefs Julie Overton and Marc Easterman; and Times Taste Editor Janet Keeler. All products were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to krietasptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line.

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