Consumer-centric Clif Bar now banks on canine snacks to drive growth

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Clif Bar & Co. is leaping into the canine category with premium plant-based snacks. Pic: Clif Bar
Clif Bar & Co. is leaping into the canine category with premium plant-based snacks. Pic: Clif Bar

Related tags Clif bar energy snacks pet food plant-based Sustainable agriculture Organic

Clif Bar & Company has followed the appointment of Rizal Hamdallah as the company’s first-ever chief innovation officer last month with the launch of its Trailblazers Incubator to challenge the status quo when it comes to innovation.

And rock the boat it certainly is doing – shifting its focus from consumers to canines.

The California snack producer is striving to double in size and has tasked ‘the Trailblazers’ to explore new growth strategies that are both disruptive and sustainable to meet that bold goal.

The team of ‘intrapreneurs’ – overseen by Hamdallah and Incubator senior director Greg Lok – has been asked to keep an agile startup mindset and apply the principals of the company’s Five Aspirations business model.

Earlier this year, Clif Bar & Co. announced five new product lines and six product line extensions, including Clif Cereal, Clif Pop’n Crunch snack clusters and Luna Keto Brownie Bites, along two new Clif Kid ZBar varieties and smaller versions of two Clif Builders bars.

Blazing new trails

Now, the Trailblazer’s first venture is an even more daring gamble – expanding its portfolio of energy-boosting consumer treats with an equally punchy plant-based canine treat.

The decision to dip a toe into the new category is underscored by the dramatic increase in pet ownership – a legacy of COVID, said Clif Bar.

According to data from the American Pet Products Association (APPA), ownership has remained resilient throughout the pandemic, a continued testament of the emotional benefits of pets, such as helping to mitigate stress and providing joy, during challenging times.

However, today’s treasure pooches are now considered a member of the family rather than just an extension of one, and owners are just as discerning when it comes to what they consume.

This is driving an emerging demand for human-grade pet food – and a whole big white space for Clif Bar to explore.

“Joining Clif Bar is a unique opportunity to create meaningful change in the world through food,”​ said Hamdallah.

“I want to grow the company’s legacy of category-defining innovation by developing food that reaches more people, grows the company and increases our positive impact on humanity.

“Just as Clif Bar was founded on disrupting the energy bar category nearly 30 years ago, the Trailblazers Incubator is built to consistently deliver our bold innovation agenda and accelerate our growth plan.

“In addition to a rapid, data-driven product development and go-to-market strategy, what makes our approach different is extending the loyalty of the CLIF brand. By introducing CLIF Pet, we will bring energy to the whole family.”

CLIF Pet is a plant-based pet snack, slated for national launch in early 2022. The range will start with three flavours of treats for four-legged creatures, but Clif Bar has plans to build on the Pet portfolio in coming months.

CLIF Pet Jerky Products

“With more than 11 million US households bringing a pet home during the past 18 months of COVID, the category is exploding and ripe for new offerings,”​ added Lok.

“What makes this launch unique is the combination of speed and discipline to bring an innovative, relevant product to market during a global pandemic.

“We are truly blazing new trails by applying best practices from tech start-ups to our expertise in consumer insights and packaged goods – it’s a winning combination.”

Bold thinking, big ideas

The progressive employee-owned San Francisco Bay Area company places as much importance on its impact as it does on creating its snacks and is an outspoken advocate for organic agriculture. In his new role, industry veteran Hamdallah will lead the development of products and business models that are purpose-built to create positive change, such as upping the use of organic and/or certified sustainable ingredients, aspiring others to follow its ‘We’re planting 1 million trees’ initiative, and championing employee sabbaticals, onsite childcare in the office, and flexible hours.

“Rizal’s track record of bold thinking, big ideas and positive impact through food have made him a force in the industry and a perfect fit for our company’s unique Five Aspirations business model,”​ said Clif Bar CEO Sally Grimes, when announcing the appointment.

“Under Rizal’s leadership, innovation at Clif Bar will accelerate how we redesign the business of food for health, equity and Earth.”

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