Millennial before millennial was cool
Conceived of on a 175-mile bike ride in 1990 – when the earliest millennials weren’t much more than toddlers – Clif Bar is thriving on a decades-old purpose and culture that is coveted by the emergent generation and, even today, remains aspirational for most businesses.
The company’s Emeryville, Calif., headquarters, with its platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and biophilic design, offers employees (Clifsters) remarkable accommodations: dogs roam the premises, employees’ children are cared for in an on-site facility, and it even has its own in-house band. What’s more, employees are owners in the business, a 20% stake provided in 2010 after company founders rejected a $120 million bid from Quaker Oats earlier that decade.
Clif Bar’s appeal, however, extends well beyond these trappings and is rooted in intentionality and making a difference. To say that it is a purveyor of energy food would understate the business’ offerings. While its more than a dozen product lines are part of the $2.75 billion health and lifestyle bar category, the company’s impact is much further reaching.
The Clif Bar Family Foundation supports innovative small and midsized nonprofits that give back to the community. In addition, the company is spearheading $10 million in endowments for five chairs in organic research by 2020. It has helped its suppliers become more environmentally sustainable and contributes financially to its employees’ eco-friendly home improvements.
Purpose has led to profit
Clif Bar knows itself and is zealous in its adherence to five core values (or aspirations): sustaining its business, brands, people, communities and planet. It evaluates its performance and makes decisions in accordance with each of these values collectively and on equal merit; it has done so for years.
This disciplined approach and the consistency of its application has created an inimitable brand, one which Forbes ranked as the No. 1 Breakaway Brand from 2006-2009 and one which has enjoyed 10 consecutive years of 18% compounded annual growth.
Buoyed by its purpose, Clif Bar is a business that continues to invest, expand and address challenges — whether developing new organic products for its consumers, constructing environmentally sustainable facilities and employing workers in small-town America, or taking on issues facing the communities in which it operates.
Providing Clif Bar with some sustenance
Clif Bar is a remarkable business with a remarkable story. Grant Thornton LLP is honored to serve as its audit and tax provider, and is proud to have been at its side for so much of its journey. And while Grant Thornton has yet to name a “chief dog officer,” the firm – like Clif Bar – sees culture as its primary competitive advantage, a shared tenet that provides a foundation for a strong relationship.