Thursday, June 15, 2017

Emergency Rations Test #5: SOS Brand

The SOS brand comes in a few different forms and flavors, so I just decided to roll them all together into one review since they're all made by the same company in Doral, FL.

Like the previous brands, I used these to replace a meal or two a day for a couple of days during my hectic spring season at work. I'm either driving or sitting in a field for most of my weekdays during spring, and don't have access to food other than what I can throw in my lunchbox. Chips and sandwiches gets boring, and I don't have time to cook after a 14 hour day at work, so this was an easy test for me.

Also like the other tests, I bought these with my own money. The makers and sellers have not given me anything nor are they aware that I am doing this comparison. All photos are my own work.

I found two different forms of SOS bars, the individually wrapped “New Millennium” bars (on the top) and the more traditional 3600 Calorie packages (on the bottom).

  • All of the bars are the same size, which leads me to believe that they all come out of the same machines. Being about 5 inches long, 1.5 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick, they are easy to eat.
  • The bars are all made with the same base ingredients; sugar, flour, palm/soy/cottonseed oil shortenings, corn starch, coconut, flavoring and various preservatives and vitamins.
  • They contain wheat, coconut, and soy for those of us with food sensitivities.
  • Like most other brands, each bar is a "meal" and 3 bars will get you through a day.
  • The 3600 Calorie packs consist of 9 individually wrapped, 400 Calorie bars inside a heavy plastic/Mylar, vacuum-sealed pouch. There's no breaking off pieces to get a “meal” this way, and they're easy to dole out to others.
  • The 3600 Calorie packs are designed for a 72-hour kit and cost $8.44 on Amazon. That breaks down to $2.81 per day or $0.94 per “meal”.
    • Theses have a US Coast Guard number (either a contract number or an approval number), so they have the minimum 5 year shelf-life and temperature rating.
  • The “New Millennium” bars were a bit more expensive. I got a mixed flavors box of 18 individually wrapped bars (that's 6 days' worth) for $27.90. That makes $4.65 per day, or $1.55 per meal, which is slightly cheaper than a “Cliff Bar” commonly sold in outdoor shops ($1.58 apiece on Amazon).
    • The New Millennium bars come in Lemon, Coconut, Tropical Fruit, Cherry, Vanilla, and Blueberry flavors.

  • Not thirst-provoking. 
  • Has a slightly oily texture (likely from the palm oil).
  • Not as hard as most of the other bars I've tried. Very easy to bite into.
  • I'm not positive, but I suspect that the flavoring may be sprayed on the base bars after they come out of the oven. The flavors just seemed to be stronger on one side.
  • There was very little variation in the color of the different flavored bars, which tells me that they have a fairly tight QA system in place.
  • The flavors of the New Millennium bars are actually quite good. The cherry flavor was fairly strong and sweet, most of the others were lighter in flavor but still distinct.
  • Coconut is the “default” flavor of the 3600 Calorie packs, but they do have a cinnamon flavored version that I haven't opened yet. I may save that one for my truck bag.
  • The bars were filling enough that I didn't get hungry between my normal meal times.
  • All of the packages that I got had been manufactured within the last 4 months, so there is still plenty of shelf-life left.
  • Packaging was sturdy, and none of the vacuum-sealed packages had been breached in shipping. They have good vacuum pumps as well - it's very easy to see the edges of the bars through the plastic.

I like the shape and size of the bars. The fact that they use an inner wrapper to keep them separate inside the larger packs makes it easier to portion the bars out, which can be important if you have children or childish adults who like to complain about what someone else gets.

At less than a buck per bar in the larger packages, these would work as snacks on a normal day. They're more filling than a candy bar or doughnut, and cheaper than some of both. They're also probably better for you.

The variety of flavors and individual wrapping of the New Millennium bars makes them worth the extra price to me. Boredom is dangerous, so variety in your food is a good thing.

I would like to see them switch to a resealable pouch which would make storing an opened package a lot more convenient.

Of the five brands I tested in this batch, and adding the UST Emergency Food Ration bar that I reviewed a while back, this is the best brand so far. Not quite the cheapest, but the variety and quality make up for it.

I heartily recommend this brand for inclusion in 72-hour bags or vehicle bags.

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