In February, Clif Bar & Company will unleash Clif Pet dog treats—the first launch from its internal Trailblazers Incubator initiative.
It will coincide with the privately held company’s 30th anniversary—having launched Clif energy bars in 1992 and subsequently adding the Clif Kid and Luna extensions to its portfolio.
In keeping with Clif’s dedication to organic farming and ingredients, Clif Pet jerky will be plant-based and debut in three varieties: Sweet Potato & Blueberry, Pumpkin & Apple and Butternut Squash & Cranberry.
Clif bars first gained distribution at bike shops, outdoor stores and natural food retailers before expanding to grocery, convenience and other retail channels. Right now, the company is being very circumspect about where its pet snacks will first be sold.
Overseeing Trailblazers is chief innovation officer Rizal Hamdallah, who joined Clif just over a year ago from Ocean Spray Cranberries, where he was chief global growth officer.
In this interview, edited for brevity and clarity, Hamdallah talks about the deliberately cautious approach Clif is taking on the path from humans to animals.
CPG FYI: How long ago did Clif begin to consider the pet business?
Hamdallah: We had been talking and thinking about it since early this year. We tasked the Trailblazer team and they took it and brought it into reality.
CPG FYI: Given the ongoing surge in cat and dog ownership, would Clif had considered pet products if the pandemic hadn’t happened?
Hamdallah: I think so. With the pandemic, it just makes the case even stronger. Before the pandemic the pet space had been growing—the same as snacking. From the DNA of Clif bar, dogs are especially very close to heart. When you come to our office, you will see a photo of our founder with his dad and a dog.
CPG FYI: Will Clif Pet be a premium product like Blue Buffalo?
Hamdallah: We are exploring this market very carefully. The pricing probably won’t be mainstream, but closer to premium. That’s probably where we would like to be.
CPG FYI: You’re not disclosing where retail distribution will begin, but is it safe to assume it will be in channels where Clif already has distribution?
Hamdallah: The way we’re approaching a new business is, while we want to have synergies with our categories, we have to ask the question: What is the "right to win" for us? When we talk about the right to win, it’s not only just having distribution, but also how we can support it the right way. We don’t want to be the type of innovation that once you hit the market you want to do so many things you cannot support.
CPG FYI: What about other potential pet offerings?
Hamdallah: We want to start with snacks and do well there. I think that will be our short-term focus. If we’re successful, maybe we would explore [other products]. But if we’re not successful or we need to work more on snacks, I don’t want to go after other things until we nail this part.
CPG FYI: How do you expect the Clif brand to resonate with pet owners who are not Clif customers?
Hamdallah: For Clif brand lovers, they will see this as an extension. But for non-Clif consumers, this could be a way for us to engage them and take them to our brand community through pets. If they choose to also enjoy our bars while hiking with their dogs, that’s great. That’s our hope. But if not, at least we have the Clif brand within a part of their family. So we’re looking at this from two angles.