Clif Bar Q&A

In our recent comparison between Larabar and Clif bars, Lara won the upper hand. In response, the Clif team sent us some information and clarifications:

  1. Clif Bar & Company doesn’t source genetically-modified ingredients for any of its foods.
  2. The natural flavors found in CLIF BARs are sourced from all-natural spices or fruit juices and are used to add nuances of complementary flavors – a very common practice in baking.
  3. The percentage of calories from fat is relatively low – in fact much lower than LARA Bar (21% vs 43%)

That led to an additional round of questions and answers which we bring before you. Some of the answers were spot on, while others seemed vague and diplomatic without truly addressing the issues. You be the judge:

[Fooducate] What percent of the protein in CLIF BARs come from the isolates vs. contribution of the “real” ingredients? We ask because soy protein isolates is the second ingredient in your Banana Nut Bread Bar.
[Clif] We don’t share our ingredient formulas, but we can tell you that the protein in a CLIF® BAR comes from a variety of sources, depending on the flavor, including nuts, soy flour, soy bits, oats and brown rice syrup as well as soy protein isolates.

[Fooducate] But still most comes from isolates. Why did you guys stop selling Clif Nectar which was the closest LARABAR comparable?
[Clif] CLIF Nectar® was our first entry into the fruit and nut category, and through consumer feedback we learned a great deal about creating delicious flavors using just a few ingredients. We hope to bring new consumers to the fruit and nut category now with CLIF® C, which combines the double-layered goodness of a home-baked snack with nutritious, all-natural ingredients.

[Fooducate] Sounds like Nectar was reformulated relaunched as C, but it still has more than twice the ingredients of Lara’s Bar. Next question: Why not be bold and explicitly state what the “Natural Flavors” in your bars are? Unfortunately in the modern food industry, Natural Flavoring could mean a “lab in NJ” created some mix for a food processor to overcome the bland flavor of a product made with inferior ingredients. (I know it’s not the case with Clif). So why not tell us EVERYTHING?
[Clif] The Natural Flavors are one of the ingredients of our special recipe.  Our recipe is what makes us, and what contributes to CLIF BAR’s uniquely good taste and sound nutritional profile.  While we don’t share everything that makes up our special recipe, we can assure you that, from our oats to our flavors, we only use quality, organic, and all-natural ingredients.

[Fooducate] While the fat comparison you make between Lara and Clif  is interesting, you also boast a high protein content. But most people are not athletes nor do they need all that protein. That’s just a marketing gimmick….
[Clif] If you’re referring to 9g of protein in CLIF® BAR vs. 6g in LARABARs, the 3g difference certainly wouldn’t overload a consumer’s daily intake. In fact, for more active people who are working out or training often during the week, a little extra protein is a good thing for muscle recovery.

In terms of protein levels per total grams in these bars, both have a similar ratio – approximately 12%-13% of total grams from protein.  But with CLIF it comes with less fat – significantly less fat, which is a real health concern, not a gimmick.

[Fooducate] OK. For athletes maybe they need protein, but most of us are not even close to being athletes. Next Q: What % of your sales are the Clif C bar? Why aren’t they more prominent?

[Clif] CLIF® C just launched and is only now landing on grocery shelves.  The fruit and nut category is much smaller than other parts of the energy/nutrition bar business, so we wouldn’t expect CLIF C to eclipse our other products.

[Fooducate] Thats too bad – it’s the healthiest. Business question: Any plans to get acquired by a big industry player or is the Clif team adamant about staying independent?

[Clif] We’ve come as close as there is to being sold.  Clif Bar & Company founder Gary Erickson had the pen in his hand, ready to sign away the company.  But he didn’t.  He chose to head on the path less traveled and remain independent.  It was a defining moment for the company, and something of which we’re very proud.  We have no plans to change course.

[Fooducate] Kudos. That’s a tough decision to make. Last question: I don’t remember ever seeing CLIF BAR coupons. Why is that?
[Clif] We actually do participate in coupon programs, but they’re pretty targeted. We have coupons in coupon booklets and store “shoppers” (newspapers) specific to a particular retailer. We also participate in discount purchase programs, like one coming up in Health magazine this summer that will offer a discount on our new CLIF CRUNCH® bars.

However, we tend to rely more on direct, face-to-face interactions with consumers where they can get free samples of our products.  We sponsor or contribute to goody bags at more than 1,500 events a year – from marathons to mountain-bike races to music festivals – and nourish folks with free bars right when they need them. And we love every minute of it.

[Fooducate] Thank you.

  • Mike

    I had never heard of the Nectar bars but my friend loved them. When they were taken off the shelf he wrote to Clif and they gave him coupons for free C bars. He told me they aren’t nearly as good, for what it’s worth. Though I haven’t tried any. I personally like the Clif Mojo bars. Clif’s wide range of flavors is great but some of them are just terrible. I wonder about how the different flavors sell, and if I’m the only person who thinks some are just inedible.

  • Michelle

    I LOVED the Clif Nectar bars–even more than Larabars! They were so good–not too sweet, just the right size, and a great ingredient list. I was so disappointed to see them go. I was even more disappointed when I tried their replacement: Clif C. Ick. I really didn’t enjoy them (I tried two different varieties). I hope Clif is reading this–bring back the Nectar bars! They were a much better choice for a healthy snack. Until then, I’m buying Larabars.

  • Jason

    I really don’t have these bars very often, mainly because of the inclusion of soy. Manufacturer’s love using it because it’s a cheap way to add protein. In most cases (not for Clif), you have no clue as to whether it is GMO or not. I have to assume it is, unless specifically stated that it isn’t. I have questions too about the healthfulness of soy as well.

    I don’t understand why you are hung about protein and having to be a athlete to need a few extra grams of it. I think most normal people don’t get enough of it. It’s great for boosting metabolism (by slowing the rate of digestion and extra calories needed to metabolize) and helping to control blood sugar levels.

    My gripe is that there aren’t enough high-quality sources of it in these bars. It seems that every stinking bar has some CHEAP soy isolate (or other incomplete plant-sourced protein in it). Ugh. If someone would only make a bar that would use an organic whey or casein concentrate protein. How about organic egg white? I know it CAN be done. I just don’t understand why no one will. I guess those ingredients would just be too cost ineffective or would not be shelf-stable enough (without having to add some unwanted preservatives).

    BTW, I think the RDI’s 65-70 gms of protein a day is a joke. That’s only 10% of calories. Increasing it to 20% and dropping carbs from 60% to 50% for even non-athlete makes more sense to me from a balanced standpoint.

    …and I do like the Larabars, especially the Jocalat (organic line). The simplicity is refreshing. If they would only make the Larabar line organic. The apple pie and cherry pie are awesome. I would not be opposed to the addition of a high-quality protein either. The bars are not balanced as I would like. Guess it will remain pie in the sky for now.

  • Jo

    The Larabar only has 3 ingredients so the vast majority of the fat is going to be coming from the almonds. This is unsaturated fat. Since when is this “a health concern”? Yes you don’t want to live on purely unsaturated fat or even loads of it every day, but I think boasting in the difference in fat content between this two bars is a non-point. We are not comparing ice cream here….

  • Dave Schy

    If you feel like making your own, here is a nice recipe.
    With less than a teaspon of oil and a teaspoon of sweetener per portion they make a great snack for kids. Bake a big batch and keep them in the freezer.

  • Carol

    Who did you interview? Rice syrup doesn’t contain protein.

  • M Harvey

    I think the Clif Bar Company’s first statement is a lie. Quote: # Clif Bar & Company doesn’t source genetically-modified ingredients for any of its foods.

    If you look at the packaging for a Clif Bar, it says “made with organic oats and soy”. Sounds great, right? When you read the ingredients, the only ingredient that is NOT organic is SOY. As far as I am concerned, there is NO SUCH THING as “organic soy” (here in America, at least).

    Virtually ALL soy in our food come from the Mosanto Company. Monsanto has taken over the soy production and they use a genetically modified seed for it.

    Soy in this form messes with our hormones; it causes estrogen to be produced in our bodies. Which is why they market it to women. But soy is in virtually everything! Men and children and babies eat products that have soy! Why are we feeding soy to men and babies? More and more we see major health issues related to hormonal imbalances and I think it’s partly due to the vast quantities of soy in our food products.

    Even as a woman, I choose not to eat soy. I have enough hormonal imbalances without food messing with it!

    Soy is NOT as good for you as marketing is telling us. Watch Food Inc., do your research, and do NOT feed soy to your children or men.

  • Mason

    M Harvey :
    As far as I am concerned, there is NO SUCH THING as “organic soy” (here in America, at least).
    Virtually ALL soy in our food come from the Mosanto Company. Monsanto has taken over the soy production and they use a genetically modified seed for it.

    Well. That’s just not true. Lots of organic American farmers DO NOT use GMO soy.

    In response to your nonsense about the estrogen? *Sigh* I suppose if yahooanswers is your primary source of medical information, that might hold up. Soy has “phyto” estrogren. That’s PLANT estrogen, not human. In the same way a CD won’t play in a tape deck, people aren’t effected by plant hormones.

  • twinspeedr

    Larabars may be better for you overall, but I find that they are just too small (only 3-4 bites!) and they don’t stick with me like a Cliff bar will. I’m always feeling hungry 1-2 hours after a Lara bar. I understand that they make them smaller because of costlier ingredients. However, the other reason is the fat content that would be even more out of balance if they made them the same size as a Cliff Bar. Too bad for Larabar, I will be sticking with Cliff.

  • RJCR

    I was extremely confused by this article until I saw that it was from 2010. Hopefully in 2013 the clear winner is Clif Bar, who is not owned by a company that spends millions to stop GMO labeling.

  • CS74

    Clif bar uses GMO ingredients. Read their labels and website carefully. Nowhere do they state that they are Non-GMO. They just make vague references to their “GMO requirements”.