Clif Bar names CPG veteran Sally Grimes as its new CEO

Dive Brief:

  • Clif Bar said Sally Grimes will become its CEO on June 1, according to a press release. Grimes comes from Tyson Foods where she was president of the meat giant’s prepared foods business. Prior to that, she held leadership positions at Kraft Foods, Newell Rubbermaid and The Hillshire Brands Company.
  • Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, the current co-CEOs of Clif Bar, will remain on the company’s board of directors. Erickson founded Clif Bar nearly 30 years ago with a goal of making a better energy bar with nutritious, high quality ingredients. 
  • Erickson said in a statement Grimes will focus on growth and innovation at the company. “Growth has a broader meaning at Clif Bar,” said Erickson. “Sally’s passion for what makes Clif unique will benefit our company culture and her track record for innovative thinking will help take us to the next level.”

Dive Insight:

Replacing a company founder with a new CEO hired from the outside is a big step for any business. It also indicates Clif Bar is looking for guidance to more effectively compete and expand its reach in the crowded bar market.

With her experience as president of prepared foods at Tyson and her time at Kraft, she will bring industry insight into different iconic food products and how they operate on a global scale. It also will give the company a fresh set of eyes to more quickly respond to changing consumer demands and increasingly cutthroat competition in the bar and snacking space.

Snacking has ballooned in popularity in recent years as many consumers now look to the category as a popular meal replacement. Datassential estimates people eat about four to five snack foods a day. Snacking has evolved into one of the fastest-growing segments in the food space, with sales of more than $89 billion annually. 

While bars have long been eaten by consumers as a small meal, there may be other opportunities for Clif Bar to reach customers looking for a nutritious, convenient solution to curb their hunger. Already, Clif Bar in 2018 debuted a cereal product, energy granola and fruit smoothie filled energy bars. While these innovations aren’t groundbreaking, Clif’s major competitor Kind has shown that bar manufacturers can think outside of the box to come up with new products such as frozen bars or fruit bites.

Nutritional and granola bars are a popular choice for consumers looking for a convenient source of better-for-you snacks. The segment’s popularity has attracted the interest of several large CPG companies.

In October 2017, Kellogg acquired Chicago Bar Company, the maker of the popular clean-label RXBAR, for $600 million. Later that year, Mars took a minority stake in Kind. And last year, Hershey purchased One Brands, the maker of protein bars, for $397 million, while the company’s venture capital arm took a minority stake in Fulfil, a producer of high-protein, vitamin-fortified nutrition bars in the UK and Ireland.

Clif Bar continues to remain a heavyweight in the bar space, but the competition has become fierce with the company battling publicly with one of its big competitors. Kind Healthy Snacks took aim at its rival with a campaign that questioned the brand’s claims about using healthy ingredients in response to a jab by Clif that chastised Kind for not using organic ingredients in its products. 

Shortly following that encounter, Kind hired CPG veteran Mike Barkley as CEO. Founder Daniel Lubetzky became the company’s executive chairman where he is focusing on “a variety of strategic initiatives.” Similar to Kind, Clif Bar’s founder will remain involved with the company.

By keeping Erickson on the board, the company is combining the leadership insight that has made Clif Bar successful for 30 years with the vision of new leadership. Clif Bar has grown into a prominent player in bars, but it will need to do more to grow beyond this area. With Grimes running the company, it will now have someone with more experience in the CPG space and industry connections that could pay big dividends at Clif Bar.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Mike Barkley’s name.

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