September 06, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Now you can get to the hot new bar in town without facing a velvet rope. Long Island, N.Y.-based Nutritious Creations, Ltd., has entered the energy-bar fray with Nutri Snacks — fiber-filled, fat-free, eggless, wheat-free, nondairy treats that co-owner Stephen Brown insists don’t ”taste like cardboard.” While Nutri Snacks (available at health-food stores and at bakedgoods. tv) are flying off the shelves — the company boasts a 200 percent sales increase within the last few months — we wondered: Are they good enough to tip fans off their Balance? An unofficial EW panel judged for itself.

BALANCE GOLD CARAMEL NUT BLAST

210 calories, Price: $1.10

NUTRI SNACK FAT FREE BLUEBERRY OAT BAR

164 calories, Price: $1.89

THE TASTE TEST

[BALANCE GOLD CARAMEL NUT BLAST] High marks for appearance: ”It looks like real candy,” said one admirer. Detractors, though, said it tasted like ”a chalky Snickers” and had ”a funky aftertaste.”

[NUTRI SNACK FAT FREE BLUEBERRY OAT BAR] Despite claims of ”Delicious!” and ”#1 in Taste” on its wrapper, reviewers likened the bar to ”a thick little muffin,” and said the ”musky” aftertaste ”lingers.”

HEALTHY FACTORS

[BALANCE GOLD CARAMEL NUT BLAST] 15 grams protein; 4 grams saturated fat; less than 1 gram fiber

[NUTRI SNACK FAT FREE BLUEBERRY OAT BAR] 5 — count ’em, 5 — grams fiber; 9 grams protein; fat-free!

THE VERDICT

We like Nutri Snack’s nutritious punch and its wider variety (not just energy bars, but brownies and cookies, too, which Brown says are their most popular items), but Balance aces the flavor fight, bar none.

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