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Lots of plants bring the outdoors into the workplace at the new Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. on Tuesday Jan.4, 2011. Some of the highlights of the new headquarters are a solar roof, recycled and sustainable woods throughout, a gourmet kitchen, gym facilities, on-site daycare facility, and a large theater.(Laura A. Oda/Staff)

EMERYVILLE

Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "energy bar," Clif Bar has gone all out with the largest smart rooftop solar array on a communal building in North America, generating almost all of the electricity for its new headquarters and aiming for the highest possible energy efficiency rating for its office.

"It's unique and quirky," Gary Erickson, founder and co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company, said of the remodeled building that now houses the sports bar's headquarters, one entire wall of which is glass windows. "It's energizing."

Unintentional puns aside, the 115,000-square-foot former valve manufacturing plant is being groomed for LEED Platinum certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's top rating for environmentally friendly buildings. Its nearly 2,000 sleek solar panels are expected to generate 6 to 8 percent more power than a standard array thanks to advanced technology.

Priorities like these are one of the reasons Clif Bar is not only holding its own in the increasingly crowded $2 billion nutrition bar market but succeeding as competitors falter, an industry analyst said.

"They (Clif) have a set of values that appeals to the core customers in this market," said Carlotta Mast, editor of New Hope 360, an offshoot of Nutrition Business Journal, a long-standing publication aimed at nutrition and natural product industry executives.


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"The company looks for simple packaging and tries to reduce its environmental footprint," she said.

Clif Bar -- launched in Berkeley in 1992 when Erickson, an avid cyclist, grew disgusted with other nutrition bar offerings -- is crunching, gnawing and gulping its way to the pinnacle of the sports-bar pile.

From 2007 to 2009, the Bay Area-based company rolled over Balance Bar, formerly owned by the giant Kraft Foods, nabbing the No. 2 spot right behind Nestle-owned PowerBar. Clif had annual net revenues exceeding $200 million in 2009, Erickson said.

The co-CEO turned down a $120 million buyout offer from Quaker Oats in 2000, preferring to stay independent.

That independent spirit is evident in the company's headquarters on 66th Street, where 180 of its 250 employees work.

There's nothing corporate about it. Open all the way to the second-floor ceiling, with four roofless atriums open to the rain, the office has low cubicle partitions between workers, giving a transparent, communal feeling to the place.

Decorations include bikes and kayaks suspended on cables from the ceiling, echoing the sports theme. The facility also includes an extensive child care center and an exercise room.

From the wood panels made of packing material to the additional solar panels that heat 70 percent of the building's hot water, it's obvious that no effort has been spared to conserve energy.

"The construction company worked with reused materials; during construction, 75 percent of the materials were segregated and recycled," said Kit Crawford, the company's co-CEO and Erickson's wife.

Like her husband, Crawford is a committed athlete and consumer of Clif Bar's products. Her favorite: the chocolate almond fudge Clif Bar. Erickson has moved to Shot Bloks, small cubes that are easy to pop into one's mouth while ambulating rapidly.

Erickson's still loyal to the apricot Clif Bars, though. They're the first thing he made in his mom's kitchen in 1992.

"I grew up on an apricot orchard in Fremont. My dad was a farmer," he said, demonstrating the company's closeness to its roots.

Along those lines, "Clif Bar has a good reputation," Mast said. "It started as an authentic brand and has remained authentic."

Contact Janis Mara at 925-952-2671. Follow her at Twitter.com/jmara.

clif bar
  • Type of business: Sports bar company
  • Co-CEOs: Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford
  • Annual net revenue: More than $200 million in 2009
  • Address: 1451 66th Street, Emeryville
  • Phone: 510-558-7855
  • Website: www.clifbar.com
  • Founded: 1992, by Gary Erickson
  • Employees: 250