Friday, January 29, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 15

The Successful Innovative Company of the Week is: Clif Bar!
What they do right: They make stuff you can digest. On my first backpacking trip in 2001 I was 15 and we ate all sorts of unpalatable stuff. Energy bars that tasted like beef jerky meets fudge. The point is that from that experience I have learned that nutrition is an important part of multi-hour and multi-day activity. Clif Bar has shown that they know how important taste and nutrition are.

For the uninitiated, Clif Bars have a story on the back. I have learned through experience that a story while you eat is better than no story. This is especially true when entertaining teenagers. Anyway the story, and corresponding book, tell the tale of how Clif Bar came about. Basically this endurance nut was out on a 175 mile bike ride with a friend and bonked and could not force himself to eat anything because of the terrible taste of energy food back then. So he worked on
making his own tasty food in his mom's kitchen and eventually named it after his dad. At some point he founded a company and expanded the product line.

Now they have a fantastic line of products. In fact when I went to Pakistan I took five of their products with me: Clif Bars, Builder Bars, Mojo Bars, Shot Bloks (these are amazing!), and a few gel Shots. The thing about their products is that they all taste good. The Builder Bars are protein bars that are really big and filling. The Mojo Bars are like pressed trail mix and provide a different taste and texture than traditional energy bars. Their energy gel, Shots, are nice because they have this thing called a Litter Leash. It allows you to tear the top off and the little piece of plastic stays attached to the rest of the package. I like this energy gel package design best of all although the tastes of their gels are not my favorite. You can see the Litter Leash on the right side below.
Shot Bloks get their own paragraphs because they are so awesome! They are like very firm pudding. Six come in a package with 200 calories. They are convenient because you can open the package and eat one or a few with your gloves on and put the package half open back in your pocket. With energy gel you have to commit to eating the whole thing or get this sticky mess all over everything. With energy bars you have to chew, when it's cold you have to chew a lot, and it sometimes feels like you am wasting as much energy trying to eat it as you are getting. So like 33 calorie Shot Bloks are a fantastic alternative to eating on the go. They require very little chewing, aren't messy, and come in small doses. Additionally the extra salt flavors are very nice when you are sweating a lot.

Clif Bar is committed to using as much natural and organic food in their products as possible. I do not know if this has anything to do with why their food tastes good but it might. Personally I think that some of the world's farming practices are unsustainable or in fact unhealthy and using organic food is a good alternative to those practices.

What they could improve: the taste of their energy gels. To be honest I have a hard time eating all the flavors I have tried because they are rather bitter. Perhaps that is the caffeine talking because all of the flavors of theirs I have tried contain caffeine. So my argument is somewhat premature I admit but I have had a hard time downing their gels.

Another desire I have is that these companies would make it easier for people like me to get discounted products. I spent over $150 on energy food before I went to Pakistan. Half of it I brought back but still that was a major expense for me. I also go through lots of energy food with running and climbing. I know I am not one of the top 20 athletes in this country in my sport much less the world but it would really nice to at least get like a 25% discount on orders of $50 or more. Some kind of discount would be nice. I usually buy my energy food in bulk like 6, 12 or 24 packs and at about a dollar per bar/gel and two dollars for Shot Bloks the costs add up. I do not mean to whine and I know that when I net some engineering jobs $20 will seem like nothing but at the moment and for the last year it has kind of been an issue.

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