Clif Bar Inc.
Clif Bar Inc.
Employees: 100 (2001)
Sales: $68 million (2001)
NAIC: 311999 All Other Miscellaneous Food Manufacturing; 311423 Dried and Dehydrated Food Manufacturing
Based in Berkeley, California, Clif Bar Inc. is a leading maker of natural energy and nutrition foods. The company’s products include the Clif Bar energy bar, the Clif Bar Ice Series, the Luna energy bar specifically for women, and Clif Shot energy-boosting gel for endurance activities. The story of Clif Bar Inc. is the story of Gary Erickson, founder and CEO, who turns his passion for the outdoors and his love of cooking into a multimillion-dollar business. An avid cyclist, skier, climber, baker, and visionary, Erickson conceives the idea of the Clif Bar while on a 175-mile bike ride in 1986.
An Entrepreneur in the Making
Gary Erickson, founder and CEO of Clif Bar Inc., graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a business degree, and set out on an around-the-world trip that would reveal to him his love of the outdoors and his entrepreneurial bug. He returned to California and began his professional career with Avocet, a Palo Alto company that made bicycle seats. As head of the company’s saddle research and development and manufacturing division, he invented the gel saddle, the world’s first truly comfortable bicycle seat, which was later displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1986, Erickson left Avocet to become a professional baker and proprietor of Kali’s Bakery, named for his grandmother, in Emeryville, California, specializing in all-natural calzones and gourmet cookies.
According to Erickson, his inspiration for the Clif Bar came during a 175-mile bike ride, the 12-hour ride he termed his “Epiphany Ride.” He had packed his usual energy bars, but during the trek found them to be unappetizing, sticky, and hard to digest, “After miles of riding and a number of those energy bars, I wanted a bar that actually tasted good.” So, using his skills as a baker, he created an energy bar that tasted great and used only all-natural ingredients. Originally named Kali’s Bar, Erickson’s tasty new bar debuted in 1992. In 1997, the year the company was incorporated, the name was changed to Clif Bar after Erickson’s father, Clifford. The Clif Bar was originally distributed by Avocet and was an immediate hit with athletes and active people for its great taste, wholesome ingredients, innovative flavors, and the sustained energy it delivered.
Erickson envisioned his product as more “down home,” and without the typical “power” or hard-core image of other energy bars. Its consumers obviously agreed. The Clif Bar quickly became one of the top-selling energy bars in the country. Distributed originally in bike and outdoor stores and natural foods markets, its popularity led to increased distribution in other markets, including grocery and convenience stores, health clubs and spas. Clif Bar came in the following flavors: Apricot, Chocolate Almond Fudge, Chocolate Chip, Cookies ‘N Cream, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, Cranberry Apple Cherry, and Crunchy Peanut Butter.
The company was recognized for its phenomenal growth, when in 1997 it was included in Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America. The following year it increased 101 spots to land at 152 on the Inc. 500 list. Company sales of $5 million in 1995, jumped to $22 million in 1997, as a result of wider distribution in convenience stores, supermarkets, and European markets.
Clif Bar Introduces Luna
In March 1999, Clif Bar Inc. introduced a new product especially for women. Recognizing the unique nutritional needs of women, the Luna bar was named after the moon and was created as a result of consumer input. Luna’s original four flavors—LemonZest, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Nutz Over Chocolate, and Toasted Nuts ‘N Cranberry—quickly joined ranks with the Clif Bar in popularity and sales. Within a year, Luna bars became the No. 1 energy bar with a 17 percent market share of the more than 700 types of energy bars sold in natural foods stores nationwide. Clif Bar became the No. 2 brand, with a 13 percent market share. In the first half of 2000, Clif Bar sales grew 17 percent and accounted for seven of the top 25 best-selling energy bar flavors. In January 2001, the first TV spots and print ads in Self, Shape and InSyle magazines appeared for Luna Bars.
Other Clif Bar products have enjoyed equal popularity. In March 2002, the MOJO Bar, the first snack bar to combine salty snack flavors and sound nutrition, was unveiled at the 22nd Annual Natural Products Expo West in California. As an alternative to sweet-tasting bars, MOJO Bars came in flavors like Honey Roasted Peanut, Mixed Nuts, Honey BBQ Almond, Spicy Salsa Peanut and Curry Cashew. Mojo Bars joined The Clif Bar Ice Series, the first energy bar with a shot of caffeine and chocolate drizzle icing; and the Clif Shot, an energy-boosting gel for endurance activities.
A study conducted in 2001 by the Human Performance Laboratory at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, upheld Clif Bar’s nutritional claims. The study indicated that Clif Bar energy bars do “provide a sustained, moderate increase in blood sugar levels, crucial for enhancing athletic performance. The findings also suggested that nonathletes who eat Clif Bars can expect a sustained energy boost during hectic workdays and busy weekends.” The results of this study were presented at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
It’s about the Journey, Not the Destination
Erickson’s philosophy of “doing good things for life” was evident in all phases of his very successful business. He made it a priority to provide a healthy work environment for his employees, enabling them to maintain balance in all aspects of their lives and get paid for keeping in shape. He provided indoor climbing walls, a complete workout facility, personal trainers, camping and skiing trips, and volunteer opportunities on company time. In 2001, Clif Bar Inc. employees committed to work over 2,000 volunteer hours of community service, approximately the number of hours worked by one full-time employee.Erickson was quoted as saying, “I don’t have plans to sell this company or go public. I’d like to keep it privately held while really taking care of our employees and sharing in the profits.”
Erickson spread his humanitarian spirit to other causes outside the work arena. From trail maintenance and educational reading programs to Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels, the influences of Clif Bar have been felt. Clif Bar has sponsored hundreds of nonprofit organizations and charitable events annually. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Luna Bars has supported the Breast Cancer Fund and the American Dietetic Association. The Breast Cancer Fund logo has appeared on every Luna bar wrapper in an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer through each purchase. In November 2000, Erickson recreated his “Epiphany Ride” by leading a 175-mile, cancer fund-raising bike ride. A donation of $10,000 was made to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which helps people manage and survive cancer. Erickson was joined on the trip by employees and members of the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, Clif Bar Inc. shipped 26,000 Clif and Luna bars to rescue and relief workers in New York, donated $6,000 to the American Red Cross and committed a further $100,000 to victims and families of the tragedy. Also in 2001, ten bicycle groups were each awarded $500 grants under the auspices of Clif Bar’s and the International Mountain Biking Association’s IMBA/Clif Bar Trail Preservation Grants. The intent of the grants was to support projects that preserve and enhance trail access, promote environmental education, and inspire conservation in the mountain bicycling community. Since 1995, Clif Bar Inc. has been an 1MB A corporate member and donated more than 50,000 Clif Bars to fuel IMBA’s trail-building and maintenance projects. The 1MB A logo has appeared on the back of every Clif Bar wrapper.
Another nonprofit organization benefiting from Clif Bar Inc. has been Access Fund, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and to conserving the climbing environment. The Access Fund logo has also appeared on every Clif Bar wrapper. Also supported by Clif Bar Inc. were Leave No Trace, an organization founded in the 1970s in response to the increasing numbers of visitors to public lands, and the 2080 Program, which was developed to encourage and make easy volunteer opportunities for Clif Bar Inc. employees.
Committed to making the world “a better place to live, work, and eat,” Clif Bar Inc. sponsors hundreds of charities and charitable events annually. The founder, Gary Erickson also makes it a priority to help his employees maintain balance in all aspects of their lives, providing them with such perks as indoor climbing walls, a complete workout facility, personal trainers, camping and skiing trips, and volunteer opportunities on company time.
Clif Bar Inc. Sponsors Winners
Since its inception, Clif Bar Inc. has supported athletes and their events—from weekend warriors to professional athletes. Clif Bar and Clif Shot were official sponsors in 2000 of the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, one of the sport’s premier teams and Tours de France winner, with cyclist Lance Armstrong. The United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team also competed in the Tour of Spain, the Word Cup, and the Classics events, as well as major domestic races. In 2002, an agreement was signed extending sponsorship until 2004. In 2001, Clif Bar Inc. and Luna Bars announced the formation of Luna Chix, an all-women’s professional mountain bike team whose mission included fund-raising, awareness, and support for women’s issues, like breast cancer and The Breast Cancer Fund.
Participants in major events that Clif Bar Inc. supported have included the Sea Otter Classic, Lamisil AT Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, U.S. Open Snowboard Championships, U.S. Extreme Boardfest & U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships, the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, the city of Los Angeles Marathon, and the Marine Corps Marathon. Not only has Clif Bar Inc. provided Clif products and financial support to these events, the company has also offered training tips via the Web and race-day pace teams to help marathoners achieve their individual race goals.
Clif Bar Inc. Products Receive Honors and Awards
The 1999 Inc. magazine honored Clif Bar Inc. by selecting the company’s Web site as one of the 20 best small-business Web sites in the country. In 2000, Inc. magazine named Clif Bar Inc. one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies (#387) for the fourth straight year. In June 2001, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan presented Clif Bar Inc. with its Market Engineering Entrepreneurial Award for superior entrepreneurial ability. Also in 2001, the San Francisco Business Times selected Clif Bar Inc. as one of the fastest-growing private companies within the San Francisco Bay area.
Awards honoring the Clif Bar have included the Editor’s Choice award by Mountain Bike and Better Nutrition’s favorite brand. In 2001, Outside magazine honored Cookies ‘N Cream as one of the “Best Things for the Good Life.” In July 2001, the Clif Bar Ice Series was selected as a “Hot New Product” by Distribution Channels; its Chocolate Java Avalanche was presented with Bicycling’s “Best Overall Energy Bar” designation. Luna captured first place in the “Healthy Snacks Category” of Taste Test 2000, a competition sponsored by the American Wholesale Marketers Association. Prepared Foods magazine described the Luna Bar as “conceived with a purpose” and “finding almost immediate success” and selected it as one of the Top 10 New Food Products in 2001. The Better Nutrition reader advisory panel chose Luna and Clif Bar as a favorite health-food brand.
Gary Erickson Remains Committed to Product Quality
Gary Erickson has been committed to growing a private, independent, value-driven organization. Inc. magazine’s recognition of Clif Bar Inc. as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies for four straight years, reflects the success of this commitment. Many benefits have been derived from the production of these nutritional products—from everyday consumers to world-class athletes, from employees to nationally competing racing teams, from reading tutors to breast cancer researchers. The success of Clif Bar Inc. is a true reflection of Erickson’s commitment to making the world “a better place to live, work, and eat.”
PowerBar, Inc.; Balance Bar Company.
- Gary Erickson experiences his “Epiphany Ride,” a 175-mile bike ride; and opens Kali’s Bakery.
- Debut of the Kali’s Bar, an all-natural energy bar.
- Inc. magazine names Clif Bar Inc. one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies.
- The name of Kali’s Bar is changed to Clif Bar and the company incorporates as Clif Bar Inc.
- Clif Bar Inc. introduces the Luna bar, an energy bar for women.
- Clif Bar Inc. sponsors the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.
- Clif Bar Inc. receives Market Engineering Entrepreneurial Award from Frost & Sullivan; and the company ships products and donations to rescue and relief workers in New York following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
- Clif Bar Inc. introduces the Mojo bar, a snack bar that combines salty flavors and sound nutrition.
“Clif Bar Climbs to Top of Energy Bar Sales in Stores,” Health Products Business, October 2000, p. 10.
“Clif Bar Inc.,” Inc., November 15, 1999, p. 99.
“Clif Bar Inc. Announces Luna Chix Mountain Bike Team Roster and Sponsors,” Business Wire, December 18, 2001, p. 357.
“Clif Bar Inc. Brings on Mojo: The First Snack Bar of Its Kind,” Business Wire, March 8, 2002, p. 104.
“Clif Bar Inc. Donates $5000 to 1MB A Clubs for Mountain Bike Trail Preservation,” Business Wire, November 16, 2001, p. 168.
“Clif Bar Inc. Extends Sponsorship Agreement with U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team through 2004,” Business Wire, November 5, 2001, p. 556.
“Clif Bar Inc. Honored for Entrepreneurial Excellence,” Business Wire, April 10, 2001, p. 737.
“Clif Bar Inc. Named to Inc. 500 List 4th Year in a Row,” Business Wire, October 13, 2000, p. 266.
“Famous Cyclists Join Clif Bar Inc. CEO and Employees on Commemorative Cancer Fundraising Ride,” Business Wire, November 8, 2000, p. 389.
Frankel, Mark, “Letting Go,” Working Woman, June 2001, pp. 50–53. “.
An Historic First for the Category,” Business Wire, November 29, 2001, p. 218.
“Maker of the Clif Bar Introduces Luna,” Business Wire, March 12, 1999, p. 96.
“Muscling In: Clif Bar Pumps First TV,” Brandweek, December 4, 2000, p. 7.
Reyes, Sony a, “Marketers of the Next Generation,” Brandweek, March 26, 2001, p. 33.
“University Study Indicates Clif Bar Energy Bars Deliver on Promise of Providing Sustained Energy,” Business Wire, May 31, 2001, p. 2,075.
—Carol D. Beavers