Raising the Bar

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In 1990, Gary Erickson was operating a struggling bakery in Emeryville, California. He loved baking—a lot of his recipes got here from his mom—however had a tough time conserving his enterprise afloat. He needed to do proper by his clients and workers and make a constructive dent on the earth, however he did not know how one can create a strategic plan that will get him there—whereas permitting him to observe his twin passions: climbing and biking.

His philosophy on bike touring was equally amorphous. Instead of burdening himself with gear and a cautious plan, Erickson most well-liked to set out, typically along with his buddy Jay, with only a seat bag full of necessities and an open thoughts. The 2 traveled all around the European Alps this fashion, exploring distant sections of highway—pedaling and, in some case, even shouldering their bikes over Alpine passes. “We didn’t know where we were going to sleep at night or eat each day,” Erickson says. “But traveling light gave us freedom and exposed us to new people and experiences.”

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One morning, again in California, the duo launched into what they thought could be a 125-mile bike journey by the mountains east of San Francisco. The journey turned out to be 175 miles lengthy, and all Erickson had for gasoline was 6 vitality bars. He had eaten 5 of them, however could not abdomen the considered a 6th. “I was starving, and I knew I desperately needed to eat something,” remembers Erickson, “but I couldn’t bring myself to eat another bar,” he says. “It was a taste issue. I knew I could solve it, that I could make something that tasted—and worked—better.”

THE FOLLOWING YEAR, in 1991, Erickson moved right into a crummy $300-a-month storage and started working in his mother’s kitchen. “I got my mom involved because, first, she was the person who taught me how to bake and, second, I trusted her sense of taste to balance out my desire to make an all-natural energy bar with no butter, sugar, or oil,” Erickson says.

Painstakingly monitoring every recipe, he subjected his pals to new batches for the following six months. “For a while, the recipes kept getting further and further away from what you’d call food. Finally, after one failed batch, I decided to start over. I got out my mom’s classic oatmeal/chocolate-chip cookie recipe and used that as the foundation. My friends loved it.” That recipe would finally develop into the idea for the unique Clif Bar. A couple of months later, after a 12 months and a 1/2 of making an attempt to crack the all-natural, and still-tastes-good code, Erickson made his first sale to a motorbike store. More bike retailers signed on, and earlier than lengthy, his bakery had advanced into an vitality bar firm.

SO WHY DOES AN ENERGY BAR COMPANY impressed by an epic bike journey have climbing-themed branding? The reply: Erickson’s father, Clifford. “My dad turned me on to nature with trips to Yosemite, where we’d hike or ski,” Erickson says. “As a kid, we took these wonderful road trips with my uncle and cousins where we’d pack up the Pontiac and drive from national park to national park, camping for two days before moving on.”

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Those tenting journeys as a baby became climbing adventures as a younger man. In 1982, he and a buddy scaled the face of Half Dome, in Yosemite Valley—a climb that finally impressed the now iconic packaging. “My friend Doug Gilmour, who designed the packaging, always saw me as a self-reliant climber,” Erickson says. “Part of my personality comes from those early trips with my dad.” On his father’s 66th birthday, Erickson informed his dad that he was naming his new vitality bar after him.

ERICKSON NOW HAD AN ENERGY BAR individuals appreciated and an organization stuffed with potential, however he nonetheless wanted yet another ingredient to make it a hit: a business-savvy accomplice who shared his imaginative and prescient. He discovered that—and extra—in Kit Crawford, a jazz dancer and performing artist. Crawford’s dad and mom had raised her on homegrown, natural meals, which instilled in her a deep connection between the earth and what we eat. In an effort to get her consideration, Erickson took trendy dance classes. “We were friends, and I wanted to be more than that,” he admits. “Then she married someone else.”

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Gary and Kit, Climbing Wall

Fourteen years later, after Crawford’s first marriage ended, their romance lastly blossomed. Together—their desks at the moment are ten toes aside—they’ve slowly turned Clif into the corporate it’s at the moment. “When I developed Clif, I never thought of making a ton of money or an exit strategy,” he says. “I always took the long view.” As the corporate has grown, so has Crawford’s affect.

“From how we took care of our employees to the organic ingredients we use, all those decisions came from Kit,” he says. Erickson credit Crawford’s route for his or her resolution to make worker well being and happiness a precedence, and create a office with an worker cafeteria that serves sustainably sourced meals and an on-site gymnasium, yoga studio, and climbing wall. Ten years in the past, Erickson and Crawford went 1 step additional and created an worker inventory possession program. “Everyone thought Kit and I were nuts, but we quadrupled the size of Clif together,” says Erickson.

FAST-FORWARD TO TODAY and Clif has ridden the vitality bar growth to develop into one of many largest impartial gamers within the enterprise. As the vitality meals universe has expanded, so has Clif. Over the previous 20 years, they’ve launched the profitable LUNA bars for girls and a variety of different merchandise, together with nut-butter stuffed bars, whey protein bars, and Z bars, a line of natural vitality snacks for youths.

But till 2016, there was a lacking piece. “We had deep relationships with the people who grew our ingredients. We shared our values with the employees at our headquarters, in Emeryville, California, but the bars were baked by someone else,” Erickson says.

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That modified when Clif constructed its personal industrial bakery from scratch, in Twin Falls, Idaho, using practically 300 individuals. Like Clif’s LEED Platinum headquarters in Emeryville, the brand new $90 million Twin Falls facility is a particular constructing, designed round connecting individuals with nature by home windows, skylights, stone partitions, and indoor vegetation.

It’s all a part of Clif Bar’s values of advocating for natural agriculture and doing what it might probably to enhance our present meals system and the lives of its workers. “Over the last ten years, Kit and I have set out to build a company and a culture that holds itself responsible to five bottom lines: our business, brands, employees, communities, and planet.”


As an organization of and for individuals who love the outside, Clif Bar & Company places individuals and planet first. “We’re working to run a different kind of company,” says Kit Crawford, “…the kind of place we’d want to work that makes the kind of food we’d like to eat, and that strives for a healthier, more sustainable world–the kind of world we’d like to pass on to our children.” Find out extra about Clif Bar here.

(Editor references)

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