It was 20 years ago this fall -- November 17, 1990, to be precise -- when Gary Erickson (pictured at left) started to bonk on the long bike ride up Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County, Calif. He had six energy bars with him for the day, a stash of calories and fuel he'd hoped would be enough for a 175-mile endurance fest concocted by a friend and fellow bike racer to be completed in a single day. But nearing the top on Mount Hamilton -- legs spinning, body beginning to crash -- Erickson could not stomach another bite of the bar he had in his jersey pocket. "That was the 'epiphany moment,' as I've come to call it," Erickson said.
He didn't know it at the time, but that single bar's bad taste in 1990 would spark a realization with Erickson -- "I can create a better-tasting energy bar!" -- that was so strong it led to the formation of a company.
Clif Bar Inc. was born in 1992, an upstart based out of a bakery Erickson ran and co-owned in Berkeley, Calif. The company blended his skills as a baker with knowledge of what's needed on the nutritional level to succeed in an endurance event.
Today, Clif Bar & Company employs more than 200 people and produces a line of energy bars, gels, drink mixes, and kids' snacks. I caught up with Erickson last week for an interview to talk nutrition and the future of the energy-food world.