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May. 26, 2009
How CLIF BAR Got Its Name—The Whole Story
Most CLIF® BAR fans know that I named CLIF BAR after my dad, Clifford Erickson, but few know the whole story. In remembrance of my father, who passed away on May 5, I thought I’d share the story of how I finally arrived on the name CLIF BAR (with one F).

In the summer of 1991, my friend, Doug Gilmour and I were working frantically to finish the first CLIF BAR package in preparation for the bar’s debut at the annual Interbike trade show. With the show less than a month away, we were up against a tough deadline and we still had a lot of work to do on the package’s artwork including the final details on the climber and mountain imagery. However, more than anything we needed a name to replace “Gary Bar” which we were forced to abandon for trademark reasons. For weeks we had discussed possible replacement names, but nothing seemed to stick.

One night, just a few days before the show, I was heading across the Bay Bridge to meet Doug for a late night design session. As I drove I once again ran through all the names we had discussed and suddenly my Dad’s name, Cliff, popped into my head. Not only did the name fit with the climbing imagery, but my dad had been the one who introduced me to the mountains and my passion for the outdoors. When I met up with Doug, he loved the idea and whipped up the final version of the package.

The next day my family was getting together to celebrate my dad’s 66th birthday at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland. My mom and dad knew all about the launch of the bar and both had played an integral role in helping me come up with the bar—my mom and I had taken over their kitchen trying to come up with the perfect recipe and my dad was taste-tester and kitchen cleaner-upper. After my dad blew out the candles, I handed him a large envelope and said “happy birthday!” He opened it, pulled out a picture of the new package and just stared at it. Worried that he didn’t understand, I announced “dad, I named it after you!” When his eyes had welled up with tears, I knew he got it.

The wrapper that I took to that first Interbike show was slightly different than the one we have today.

Thinking that the name should be more about Clifford and less about the cliff and the climber, we had initially decided on CLIFF’S BAR. It was sound logic but a few minutes into the trade show we realized we had a problem. Buyers would ask, “When are the CLIFF’S BARS available?” or “How many flavors will the CLIFF’S BARS be available in?” It looked great on the package, but on a practical level CLIFF’S BAR was really hard to say! When we got back to the Bay Area, we decided to simplify the name—we lost the extra F and the S and the rest, as they say, is history.

—Gary, Founder and Co-Owner of Clif Bar & Company
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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