Clif Bar and KIND Bars Squabble Over Organic Ingredients

Posted April 9, 2019 by Keith Seiz

Finally, the food bar category has some excitement outside of the countless new entries that seem to appear daily.  Here’s the scoop. Clif Bar uses organic ingredients, KIND Snacks does not. In a clever marketing ploy designed to appear as a “let’s do better together” moment, Clif Bar took a full-page ad out in the New York Times “urging” KIND Snacks to use organic ingredients.

“We would like to issue a challenge: do a truly kind thing and make an investment in the future of the planet and our children’s children by going organic. To make it easier, we at Clif Bar & Company will help you. We know how strange this offer sounds coming from a competitor, but more than ever we believe that making the world better means making it organic.”

The letter goes on to urge KIND Snacks to “raise the bar together for people and the planet.” Don’t be fooled by the warm and fuzzy language in the letter, which was signed by Clif Bar’s founders. Very shallowly underneath the letter’s language was a cold and cutting calculation by Clif Bar that consumers want organic ingredients, and this was the best way for Clif Bar to disparage KIND Snacks directly and create an “us” versus “them” consumer choice.

As a marketer, I tip my hat to Clif Bar for the effort. However, I applaud even more KIND Snack’s response. The company didn’t fall for the bait, and instead, aggressively clapped back (that’s what I hear the kids call it) on its Twitter feed.

“It’s deceptive to try to pass off organic brown rice syrup as healthy. We’d be happy to meet with you and share why we focus on making snacks that always lead with nutrient-dense ingredients like whole nuts, whole grains & whole fruit – instead of sugar.”

Game. Set. Match. Clif Bar started a fight, KIND Snacks ended it.

Countless research studies support KIND’s position on what consumers are looking for. Sure, they want organic ingredients, but what they really want are all-natural ingredients that they understand and potentially have in their pantry. Surveys clearly say that consumers equate sugar to unhealthful products, regardless of how little or much is used. Clif Bar must have known it was opening a can of worms that previously was kept closed?

I think Clif Bar miscalculated what consumers truly are looking for when they purchase food bars. Of course flavor rises to the top, but beyond that, consumers are looking for some level of health benefits in a food bar. And, in 2019, whole, all-natural ingredients play much better than trying to pass off a processed sugar for something it’s not, even if it is organic.

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