Episode 25: Clif Bar

Zachary Cartwright: I'm Zachary Cartwright. This is water and food. Earlier today, I had the chance to sit down with Shaunti Luce Clif Bar. We talked about their different products, as well as their new pet food line. Hear what she has to say on water in food. I hi, Shanti. Welcome to the water and food podcast. Thank you for being here today.

Zachary Cartwright: How are you? I'm well, thank

Shaunti Luce: you for having me. This is my first time, uh, doing a podcast, so,

Zachary Cartwright: oh, that's awesome. We're happy to have you, when we first started this podcast, a Clif Bar was one of the top companies that I wanted to reach out to and, and get on the show. I've had a lot of Clif Bars in my lifetime, and so I'm really excited to have you.

Zachary Cartwright: Nice Shante. What is, what is your role at Clif Bar? What do you do there? So

Shaunti Luce: I'm the senior innovation and technology manager on our food safety and quality assurance team, which is kind of a mouthful. I think a lot of times people see innovation in the title and they assume that I have more of a lean towards that, but it is very much food safety focused.

Zachary Cartwright: And how long have you been doing this

Shaunti Luce: role? I actually, this may will be.

Zachary Cartwright: Oh, wow. And what's that six years been like for you? Has it been a fun or exciting or has it been tough? What's it it's

Shaunti Luce: been, it's been good. It's been really good. Clif is a great company to work for. It is a little weird to think that like the last two years I've been working from home, so two of the six years I've been working from home, but it is it's, it's been great.

Zachary Cartwright: And how did you land into this role? What did you do before this, maybe in school or other jobs, how did you prepare for this specific

Shaunti Luce: So this role is, is kind of unique in my background. I think. Play it set me up well for this role. So basically I spent the first, I don't want to age myself, but like first let's call it the first chapter of my career working in food testing laboratories.

Shaunti Luce: And so one of the labs that I worked for the first lab that I worked for, even before I graduated from college, it was very much focused on The samples in samples out model, which was great because it exposed me to sample methods and different type of food commodities, and what type of issues those might have.

Shaunti Luce: And, but it was very much a. Just kind of on the testing side, but it also allowed me like anytime on the salespeople were going out to visit a customer, I would always raise my hand. Like, can I come along? And so I just got a lot of exposure to a lot of different parts of the food industry. And then the second lab that I worked for, it was a combination of a testing lab, a consulting lab, a research lab, and we did.

Shaunti Luce: Food microbiology testing. We did food, chemistry testing. We had a pilot plant, we had sensory. And so when I would work on projects, I, it, wasn't just a matter of you. Give me a sample. I give you a result. It's, let's talk about what your ultimate goal is. Let's make sure that we're getting there together.

Shaunti Luce: It's doing shelf life studies, with, in conjunction with our sensory folks in conjunction with our chemistry folks. And so it really was more of a consulting role. That wrote that lab. Also, I was allowed to do a lot of traveling internationally. And so seeing how different countries handle food, safety, issues and concerns and things like that.

Shaunti Luce: And even just testing methodologies was really, really helpful and set me up nicely for this role. And so this role at Clif, it wasn't the role I applied for, but it's the role that I, that I got. And it's it, it, I, I liked this role. It's, it's really nice. It's, it's very, it's very different. Every single day never gets.

Zachary Cartwright: And I think you brought up a couple of really good points and one of them is that you don't always get the job that you applied to, but you kind of land where your, your skillset takes you. So, and my position has been very similar. And the second thing is that I think it's really important for students or people thinking about being in the food industry to get as much exposure as possible.

Zachary Cartwright: And when you go into, uh, uh, seeing a product being made in production or even traveling internationally, I think that creates a lot of excitement. Learning what's out there and how other people are,

companies are trying to challenge, uh, different things that they're working on. So I'm wondering in your role, you mentioned it's more towards food safety and, and not so much innovation, but are there certain things that you've been able to, to push for in your role that maybe Clif Bar wasn't doing before or new safety practices and anything like.

Shaunti Luce: So our food safety team is, is, I mean, it was strong before I joined, and it continues to be strong. My role does, I do work on the innovation side, meaning I'm working with our cross-functional teams as we roll out new products onto the market. As a food safety team, we're always looking at what, obviously the, the potential risks that may exist with our current ingredients, manufacturing, partners, all of those things.

Shaunti Luce: But especially, in my role, working with the cross-functional teams on the innovation side, it's about. Okay. We're starting to work with ingredients that we haven't worked with before. What are the potential risks and how do we mitigate those risks? And so it is food. Safety is always evolving and this isn't exclusive to Clif Bar by any means, all companies are having to try to figure out, how do we, how do we manage these potential risks?

Shaunti Luce: And so it is, it is, it is ever, ever changing ever about.

Zachary Cartwright: And how do these risks relate to the water in your product? So this is the water and food product podcast. And so why is water important to, to the products that you might.

Shaunti Luce: I mean, water is important to a lot of the products, and it's not just a Clif Bar thing, but understanding what, how much water we're putting into the food, whether it's part of the ingredients, because people don't always think about that.

Shaunti Luce: They think, oh, well, is there water in the recipe? Well, yeah. There may not be water in the recipe, but there's also water coming in with certain type of ingredients. And so you have to look at that as the full picture and depending on what that process is for making that product, if you aren't baking that off, then, having large amounts of water in your food could lead to issues.

Shaunti Luce: Quality issues, food saved food, safety issues down the line. And so it's, it's important for, for our products because we tend to have low moisture food, and so understanding what those, the, the water activity levels are. That's a very key attribute for the majority of the products that we have.

Zachary Cartwright: And when in your process, are you measuring what activities this just on final goods, do you monitor throughout production? What does that look like for your team?

Shaunti Luce: So it, it, it just kind of depends. I mean, as our developers, our research and development team, as they're developing product, that's something that they're looking at.

Shaunti Luce: They may look at it, Preprocess. And post-process usually once move into the commercial phase. We're usually just looking at it, post-process but it just kind of depends on what the product is. We have bars, we have, things for athletes. We have cereal products now, or, which we can talk about.

Shaunti Luce: We have pet food coming out, so we have a lot of different products. And so it isn't always the same for all the products, but in pretty much across the board, what our activity is kind of an, an important target that we're looking.
Zachary Cartwright: And as what our activity, something that Clif Bar has used since, since you've been there, have you seen more of these measurements being taken over time, or what has that process

Shaunti Luce: looked like?

Shaunti Luce: It's always been an important thing for, for Clif Barb based on the type of, of products that we, that we have. And so, we have, we have meters that our innovation center, we have meters in our research and development kitchens. We have meters that our own bakeries. And so, yeah, it's, it's, it's ongoing this isn't something new that we've been.

Zachary Cartwright: And I noticed that with a lot of companies, it's not just in one section and it surely depends on the product, but it's really all around from R and D to quality control and production. Being able to have those measurements so that you understand your products. What are some of the other challenges that you face when you try to come up with a new flavor or a new product and we'll get to the pet food?

Zachary Cartwright: What are some of the challenges that your team faces?

Shaunti Luce: I mean right now, the big challenge that I think everybody's going through is supply chain. How do, how do we get the ingredients that we, we want to work with to, especially on the innovation side, I mean, everybody's having issues with supply chain, with their existing lines, and now you talk about, well, we want to come out with new products, which means new ingredients a lot of times, and how do we get those things?

Shaunti Luce: But I think as we work outside of BARR, so when we were working with cereal, it's, there's a whole new process. It's a completely different process when you're making cereal or pet food or any of those things versus making bars. So there's a lot more things that we have to kind of educate ourself on, but that's, that's the exciting part is when you get to learn something new, we've got the, we've got the bar process down pretty, pretty well.

Zachary Cartwright: And you've mentioned the, the starting ingredients a few times. Do, do you do anything once those ingredients arrived, you measure the water in them, or how do you monitor those ingredients so that that you can get a consistent final.

Shaunti Luce: There's so we have, we do look at the, the ingredients. And so we're working with our suppliers and understanding what are the attributes that they basically are measuring on a regular basis.

Shaunti Luce: And we are, therefore requiring certificates of analysis that go in with each. Products so that we make sure, things like and what our activity, honestly, isn't a big one that is always looked at on the ingredient side. It still tends to be more on the, the moisture side. I think with some ingredients, I would like to see that trend of looking at maybe moisture and water activity in conjunction rather than just moisture.

Shaunti Luce: But unfortunately I think a lot of times people don't fully understand what water activity is. They think, well, we're doing moisture, so we we're, we're covered. Obviously, probably better than anybody, it's not the same thing. And so, yeah, we definitely, from the development work through the commercialization phase, we have very we have certificates of analysis that are coming in.

Shaunti Luce: We have Clif ingredients specs for all of our ingredients, so that we say, okay, here are the chemical attributes. Here are the physical attributes. Here are the microbiological. Yeah. Attributes. And then that way, when it gets to the manufacturing facility, they can say, okay, here are the requirements. And here's what this particular lot has.

Shaunti Luce: And yes, it's inspect. Therefore we can proceed with,

Zachary Cartwright: And I, I see that really often the moisture content and water activity, even though some industries or some companies may be really used to water or excuse me to moisture content, I just see more and more companies wanting both measurements and that's something that we can easily do now.

Zachary Cartwright: What is your favorite Clif Bar flavor? Do you have a favorite or are you sick of Clif Bars? Have you tried them all? Is there one that you always go back to.

Shaunti Luce: Yeah. So I'm a, I'm a sucker for anything lemon. So Luna, when assessed is, is there, we now have mash-ups, which is a lemon with the blueberry.

Shaunti Luce: Very very good. The Clif cereal, the blueberry flavor is, is my favorite. And so I like to buy that. I add some fresh blueberries in there as well. It's good without the fresh blueberries as well. And then Clif thins, those are, those are pretty good. And then actually Z bar protein, chocolate mint. I sometimes will eat those.

Shaunti Luce: I know they're supposed to be for kids, but you know, we're all kids. But those sometimes I'll eat for dessert. Cause it's just, it's like a, it's like an Oreo cookie, but without the sugar.

Zachary Cartwright: Sure. Well, I have a favorite. Yeah, I have a new favorite. I, I, uh, got some of the holiday flavors this year and I tried the peppermint bark.

Zachary Cartwright: And I would say that's probably my favorite right now. Not just because of the flavor, but I really liked the texture of that specific bar. So that, that one hits the spot, but I like a lot of them, any chocolate, peanut butter, kind of, it's kind of the basic ones, but they they're always really good. What are the differences between Clif Bar Luna bar and Clif kid bars?

Zachary Cartwright: From a. Perspective, but also what's going into these products to make them different.

Shaunti Luce: The, the, the process is different. We're developing bars for different eating occasions for, for different audiences, but it doesn't mean that, Z bars are tailored for kids. And so therefore only kids can eat them.

Shaunti Luce: And, I just owned up to the fact that I eat the C bar proteins. Those are good and Luna bars. Tailored for women, but we hear that men like them, just as much, in fact, at one point we had t-shirts that said something like, uh, real men eat Luna bars. So it really just kind of depends on what the occasion is.

Shaunti Luce: We have a whole athletic series. Blocks. And we have gels depending on what type of activity that you're participating in. And so, there are, there is information on our website that kind of gives a little bit of guidance as far as, okay, you're going out on a hike. Here's the product that you probably want to take.

Shaunti Luce: So it is, there's, there's crossover as far as the audience, but it's really about the eating occasion that we're, that we're going for.
Zachary Cartwright: And as one of those products in particular, harder to make or presents more challenges, or just depends.

Shaunti Luce: I think it just depends. I mean, like I said, with our, with our bars, we've, we've done them for so long that we've, we've got that dialed in it's it's as we were outside of the, the bar category that we have to, get more creative and, and educate ourselves on, on new processes and new equipment and things like that, which is again, the it's it's the fun thing to do.

Shaunti Luce: It's nice.

Zachary Cartwright: And, uh, and I know people who consume Clif Bars, they're probably familiar that you have your Clif athletes. I was wondering if you could talk about the process of getting Clif athletes and maybe if you have a favorite or maybe somebody that you guys are going after.

Shaunti Luce: Yeah, I can't speak to that process.

Shaunti Luce: I'm not involved in that process. I, I hear about the athletes are wrong along with the rest of the company. We have a whole team that does a fantastic job of developing those relationships with athletes, but it is interesting, I would say in the last, year or so, we've. I think broaden the, the type of athletes, the type of sports that we are, supporting, before it was obviously we have a biking background, so it was very much, biking and brought claiming, and things like that.

Shaunti Luce: One of the athletes that we started sponsoring and he was on one of our, the packaging was Daniel Rowan check, and he's a para athlete and he. Participated

in the last Olympic games. And I'll be honest. I had never heard of him before we started sponsoring him. And so that's what I love about the Clif sponsoring these athletes is it brings the visibility's to these athletes that probably wouldn't always get that much visibility.

Shaunti Luce: This guy is awesome. I mean, he competes in the Boston marathon and the New York marathon and he just, he, he won a gold and a bronze at the Tokyo games, and he's just, I appreciate the fact that now I have him on my radar. I follow him on Instagram and he's just, he's, he's incredible to watch. So yeah, it's just, it's.

Zachary Cartwright: Well, when I, when I went online and looked at Clif Bar and, look at all your athletes, I was really impressed by just the wide range of types of athletes now. And, uh, the people that you have. So anybody listening to this, I really encourage them getting on and just seeing the athletes that you have and learning about their stories.

Zachary Cartwright: And like you said, I think it helps give them some visibility. So that's awesome. I'm glad that we could talk about that. But besides energy bars, what other products are you working on? I know we kind of briefly mentioned it before. Pet food. I'd like to spend some time on pet food and understand what what's happened.

Zachary Cartwright: W why you've decided to go from the human market to the pet. Yeah.

Shaunti Luce: So before I talk about the pet fit, so we have the cereal, which I've mentioned that I'm a, I'm a big fan of that. We have Clif thins, which is, it's still kind of a, a bar, but I like them that sometimes in the morning I'll have a cup of tea and they just, we've got a chocolate chip and a white chocolate Mac and a chocolate brownie.

Shaunti Luce: So those are, are really good. But Clif has a history of being very pet friendly. We're a dog friendly office when we. Working in the office. But it is something where, you know, it w when we were working in the office, people would come in and guests would come in and you would see dogs everywhere.

Shaunti Luce: And, we're open concept office with it. It was nice because you could walk around the office and you wouldn't have known it, but then. Probably we're anywhere from 20 to 30 dogs in the office at any given time, and sometimes one dog barks and it sets off the rest of them, but it's, I just love, I would bring in our dog at, when I would come in on Fridays.

Shaunti Luce: And so it was, it just kind of, I don't know how quickly the incubator team came to that conclusion, but it just makes sense, it's, it's in our DNA. And so, Through the pandemic, the number of families that added some type of pet to their, to their family. And, and, and, and I think that's a big part of it is.

Shaunti Luce: Pets are part of the family, that's just, that's who they are. They, they end up on our Christmas cards, we, they ended up on our Instagram. And so it was just, I think, a really natural transition to go from, human food and then into now into

Zachary Cartwright: pet food. Well, on Clif's website, one of the things that stands out to me is, is, uh, there's a quote on there that just basically says that, you serve or Clif Bar, sir.

Zachary Cartwright: Everybody in your family now, including your pet. And I really liked that. And I think you're right. Uh, the, the pet is part of the family. I I'm one of those people who got a dog during the pandemic, I was trying to bring her in, but, uh, they wouldn't wouldn't let me, so, but I I'd be interested to, to get the.

Zachary Cartwright: Uh, pet food and see how she likes it and learn more about it. So this is a really interesting pivot, but one of the things that stands out to me is that I got to visit a Clif Bar in California. I guess it's been a few years now, but I remember seeing all the pets there and, uh, it was awesome. I like how inclusive.

Zachary Cartwright: Clif is, and being able to bring your pet in, I think is a great idea. So I'm sure that helped push you guys in that direction. Did you have, uh, like tasting panels with the dogs that were in the office or what did that process.

Shaunti Luce: So yeah, I think they did some professional work. Believe it or not those kind of professional tasters, but yeah, I definitely had, some consumer feedback.

Shaunti Luce: In fact, I just, I was actually in the office yesterday and had a chance to bring some home and did some, uh, consumer work with, with our dog and he, he loves. He, he was, he was at the P the packet before I even opened up the pouch. He sniffed it out and was just basically like, can I have some please?

Shaunti Luce: So he, he really enjoyed it. So I'm glad that now that we have that to offer him.

Zachary Cartwright: And are these products plant-based I know a lot of your other products are w w what are the ingredients going into these pet food

Shaunti Luce: brands? These are, these are plant-based. And, and I think the reason that we went plant-based is, because I think a lot of times people think that dogs are our natural carnivores.

Shaunti Luce: And it's not to say that dogs won't eat meat if you feed it to them. But you know, it is good to have that variety in there, so having fruits and vegetables and. It's just, it provides, things like antioxidants and fibers and, things that that dogs need. And, I know that growing up when I had a dog, and our family had a dog, it wasn't about the nutrition side of it.

Shaunti Luce: It was about, which is kind of the cheapest food. Where now it's about, I mean, our dog. Organic food, and so again, because they're part of our family, well, if we're eating organic or we're eating, plant-based why shouldn't our pet eat plant-based as well.

Zachary Cartwright: And what is next for you and your team?

Zachary Cartwright: What's the future, maybe this year, five years, 10 years down the road. What's it look like for Clif? What are some of the new things that you're working on?

Shaunti Luce: Well, I mean, from a, from a food safety standpoint, our team is working through the challenges. I mean, the, the food. World food ingredients, it's a global market and understanding those, those challenges and those potential risks and understanding how we mitigate those, it's, it's something that again is, is ever evolving.

Shaunti Luce: And so it is something that we're always educating ourselves on. What the up and coming trend is, mycotoxins, for example, is something that, I think certain ingredients and certain industries probably paid a little bit more attention to than others where I think it is one of those up and coming things that people are taking a look at.

Shaunti Luce: And as a company, we're just, we're going to continue to innovate and bring foods to people that, that they, they would like, and that they need in their, in their lives.

Zachary Cartwright: And kinda my, my final question for you is, your owner kit, Crawford talks a lot about your company being different from other companies.

Zachary Cartwright: And what makes Clif different? You, you touched on this a little bit at the start, but why should, uh, uh, maybe a, a young food scientist or somebody looking for a new job or position? Why should they consider.

Shaunti Luce: It is a very different company. And I think a lot of times people talk in the work-life balance terms.

Shaunti Luce: And I, I mean, I think for Clif it's, it goes beyond that. It's about being authentic, being authentic as a company and being authentic as individuals. I think a lot of people, they, they go to work and they have their kind of their work persona and then they go home and they have their home persona.

Shaunti Luce: You have one personality, you have one persona, and, and that was one of the things that I noticed immediately, but we are, we're a five aspirations company, so it's not just about what is the bottom line. So we have five aspirations. We are sustaining our people, sustaining our communities, our planet, our brands, and our business.

Shaunti Luce: In that order. And there's just, there's a lot of unique things that the company does. It's not just about being a dog-friendly office. It's about, we have a speaker series called Luna voices where we have very unique and inspiring speakers that come in. People like Gloria Steinem, people like Betty Reed, Sorkin, who became a.

Shaunti Luce: Park ranger at the age of 80 is still a park ranger in her hundreds. Uh, we have an inspiring speaker series, where we have different speakers come in. Like Steve Kerr, if your awareness fan Bernay brown, I'm one of the ones that. Resonated with me. And probably one of the first ones that I saw was a gentleman by the name of Mick Ebeling works for a company called not impossible labs.

Shaunti Luce: And basically they were doing this project where they were printing 3d arms for children in the Sudan. And it was just so inspiring, and so there's other programs like our ability to volunteer on company time. You know, I've been able to work with a local agency, Scientific Adventures for Girls where we are

introducing girls is, and, as young as third grade to different science concepts, whether it's chemistry or engineering or biology.

Shaunti Luce: So it's just, it's the culmination of everything. But I do think that the bottom line is that we are an authentic company. We, we, we walk the walk, we talk the talk and we just, we get to be ourselves, which is just a great thing.

Zachary Cartwright: Well Shaunti, thank you so much. I really appreciate your insights today.

Zachary Cartwright: I'm glad we were able to cover all those different products. And like I said, at the start, I've been wanting to get you guys on for, for some time. So really appreciate your time today and looking forward to see seeing what you guys do in the future.

Shaunti Luce: Yeah, no, thanks again for inviting me. I've used your equipment for the bulk of my career.

Shaunti Luce: So yeah, this has been good.

Zachary Cartwright: I'm Zachary Cartwright. This is water. Find this podcast on apple, iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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