Pet Food

Clif Bar & Company Makes A Bold Move From Consumers To Canines

Clif Bars have long enjoyed a reputation for accompanying outdoorsy people on hikes, camping trips, and beach runs. Often, canine companions join as well. Both need sustenance for the journey. Now dogs can join their owners in plant-based energy snacking from Clif Bar. 

Clif Bar & Co. has announced the 2022 launch of Clif Pet™️, their first line of food for four-legged creatures.

Most brands in the human food space wouldn’t consider moving their brand equity into pet food, but Clif isn’t like most brands. The progressive employee-owned San Francisco Bay Area company has long allowed employee owners to bring their dogs to work. They also champion employee sabbaticals, flexible hours and days (long before the global pandemic made this widespread), and allow employees to bring their kids to work by providing on-site childcare.

They’ve also been outspoken advocates for organic agriculture, voting with their wallet, as 82% of the ingredients they buy are organic and/or certified sustainable. They boldly and very publicly poked their competitor, Kind, in the New York Times

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, with an advertisement prodding them to buy more organic ingredients.

Clif Bar & Company innovates continually in company culture and benefits, as well as their role in stewardship of the planet, most recently marketing their holiday energy bar varieties with front-of-package labeling touting “We’re planting 1 Million Trees.”

The Clif Bar brand is the leader in the energy bar category. With this kind of high—and bold—profile, it would make sense that they’d leverage it to proliferate their brand across the grocery store into other categories. Yet for many years Clif has played it safe, expanding distribution and gaining more mainstream acceptance to drive growth, but staying close-in to the category in which they are #1: energy bars. Even recent forays into cereal and sweet snacking aren’t very far off-leash for the brand.

With a goal of doubling the size of the company, this will need to change. And the launch of their new Trailblazers Incubator is one way to push harder and faster on growth through innovation, says Chief Innovation Officer Rizal Hamdallah. “We have a lot of interest in entering new spaces, new categories that are farther out, but make sense for Clif. We are really focused on disrupting categories.”

Clif Pet will certainly be a disruption. It’s one of (if not the) first human brands to launch a pet food range. It’s hard to imagine Kellogg’s

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Nutrigrain Bar or Kind Bar brands doing the same. In fact, it required the Clif team to teach themselves about the wants and needs of a completely different species.

“We did so much market research, from product proposition to naming. The product development team tested the product with dogs. We had some amazing internal employees’ pets (who come to work with their parents) that joined our test panel. This is what the incubator is so good for,” said Hamdallah. They also worked closely with a pet food contract manufacturing partner, who helped speed learning.

Timing is Spot-on, as the pandemic has buoyed pet adoptions, with more than 11 million U.S. households adding a new furry family member in the past 18 months, according to Today’s Veterinary Business.

If this new category disruption takes off for Clif—like a French Bulldog after a Frisbee—all the new Trailblazers Incubator will need is a few more new product line successes to make it the tail that wags the dog.

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Clif Pet will launch in early 2022 and will be available at traditional retail as well as direct-to-consumer at www.clifbar.com.