Biking's Best-Tasting Energy Bar
K’ul is an endurance bar that happens to taste like candy
Peter Kelsey is good at solving puzzles.
Many years ago he was a long-time chef on the verge of burnout, and he ducked into the restroom at the restaurant he was running in order to catch his breath. Gazing long and hard at the roll of toilet paper, he thought: “That’s it. I have to make something that’s affordable and that people need every day.”
He settled on bread and founded the New French Bakery, renowned for its excellent breads of all kinds but especially take-and-bake baguettes. In 2013, he sold the company. About a week of retirement left him bored, so he thought he’d try his hand at chocolate. But this chocolate has a hidden story: It started out as a bar for bicyclists.
An avid cyclist who has battled with throat cancer and also happens to be a classic chef, Kelsey says he was unable to find an energy bar he liked on the market to boost him during long rides.
The first problem was taste. Existing bars were functional, but they didn’t taste good. As a chef, Kelsey just couldn’t have that. He likes food. Real food. The second is that most bars include brown rice syrup, which Kelsey quickly discovered is one-hundred percent glucose. While that glucose is absorbed quickly by the body, it’s also a no-go for people like himself who have to keep a close eye on their glucose levels for medical reasons. (And even if you’re young and healthy, he points out, the long-term effects of intense sugar spikes on the body are still unknown.)
He started researching dark chocolate as the natural food that it is, which includes a natural source of caffeine, and, obviously it tastes good, too. The K’ul (pronounced “cool”) Endurance Bar was eventually born, which contains cranberries, pumpkin seeds, protein, guarana, and algae protein. “But you have to find something to stick the nuts and seeds together,” he says. Most existing bars on the market hold things together with a cooked sugar base. “AKA a rice crispy bar.”
Dark chocolate ranks at a low 25 on the glycemic scale (how slowly or quickly foods cause increases in blood glucose levels). Brown rice sugar is a very high 98. For comparison, refined white table sugar is only 65.
Those high-glycemic products are absorbed by the body quickly, and then disappear, says Kelsey. But chocolate is a fat protein and is released more slowly in the body, making for a more sustained effect—meaning a longer, happier ride. And, remember, chocolate has proven mood-elevating qualities—any kid old enough to eat the stuff will tell you that.
That fat also makes the bar much easier to swallow, an imperative for Kelsey, but also for anyone who is battling to preserve water on a ride. Sugar, on the other hand, is—thousand dollar word time—“hygroscopic,” meaning it absorbs water.
But now that he had what he felt was the ideal energy bar, Kelsey needed the ideal package to put it in. And, what if it melted in a pocket or a jersey on a ride? No problem.
First, he found that unless the bars get extremely hot, they don’t melt completely. And the way they do melt? Also ideal for the on-the-move cyclist. The packaging can be opened with teeth, and then the whole deal can be squeezed into the mouth, similar to an energy gel pack.
Pretty much all the cyclists he’s tried the bars out on (and he’s tested them out on many) say that it really works, and hey—you don’t even need to ride a bike— campers and hikers like them, too. K’ul moves a lot of bars at Midwest Mountaineering, as well as outdoor stores all over the country.
Now that you know this best-kept energy bar secret, know that it’s a best-kept secret of the city, too. K’ul has a Seward neighborhood storefront and factory, and if you ask nice, they might even give you a tour of the facility (there is also a video tour on their website).
K’ul is the only bean-to-bar chocolate in the Twin Cities, with all of the product made on site from equipment that Kelsey retrofitted himself. His world travels to procure his own beans mean cutting out middlemen, resulting in better profits for the farmers, as well as lower costs for consumers—affordability is still a facet of Kelsey’s business model. K’ul bars retail for just over $3, a total steal for not just any quality chocolate, but one that happens to be this good for you, too.
Now that’s a super food.
Pro tip: Head over to the K’ul storefront during business hours, and get made-to-order bars before your very eyes.
2211 Franklin Ave., Minneapolis