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Lisa Thomas Scales Clifs

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"Energy bars aren't just for athletes anymore," says Lisa Thomas. "Everybody needs energy." Thomas should know. Co-founder and CEO of Clif Bar, Thomas saw her share of 70-hour work weeks when Clif Bars hit the scene in 1991.

They started with calzones
Five years earlier, Thomas and business associate Gary Erickson had a wholesale bakery, supplying all-natural calzones in the San Francisco Bay area.

They exchanged calzones for Clif Bars after Erickson, an avid cyclist, got fed up with the energy bars he took on a 175-mile bike trip. "He said, 'I cannot eat another one of those things,' " says Thomas. He was sure they could do better.

Before long, they were. While Thomas ran the bakery business, Erickson was creating Clif Bars in his mother's kitchen. Once the recipe was perfected, they named the baked snack bar for his dad, Clifford.

Fueling cyclists...and more
But Clif Bars appealed to more than just cyclists. Basing operations in Berkeley, California, Thomas and Erickson posted $1 million in sales their first year. With the addition of new Clif Bar flavors and Luna, a women's nutrition bar, Thomas predicts sales may reach $88 million in 2000.

Since Clif Bar began, 44-year-old Thomas has seen a steady trend in eating habits. "Americans are constantly on the go," she points out. "Like it or not, we're looking for convenience food." Thomas herself lives the trend. Her favorite Clif Bar--Chocolate Brownie--often does duty as lunch.

Creating the Luna
Not long ago, Thomas and other women at the company came up with the idea of an energy bar just for women. It had to have less than 200 calories--and also contain healthy ingredients, including calcium, folic acid, and soy.

When Thomas passed the word to Erickson, he headed for the kitchen. In days, the Luna was created. It's already posting strong sales.

Early on, Clif Bar installed an exercise room and two climbing walls for its 67 employees. Trainers and exercise classes are available daily. Thomas bikes to work, but employees see her getting a workout three or four times a week, too.

Luna Nutrition Bar for Women, Lemon Zest- 15 ea
Nutrition Bar for Women, Lemon Zest

Clif Bar Energy Bars 12 pack, Crunchy Peanut Butter- 12 ea
Clif Bar
Energy Bars 12 pack, Crunchy Peanut Butter

Clif Bar Energy Bars 12 pack, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch- 12 ea
Clif Bar
Energy Bars 12 pack, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch

For society at large, Clif Bar encourages community involvement with hundreds of non-profit organizations. Last year the company paid travel expenses for employees who wanted to participate in large AIDS fundraising bicycle rides across the country. And part of the proceeds from Luna sales are earmarked for the Breast Cancer Fund.

"We're trying to create a company that has meaning," says Thomas. "It isn't just about selling products."

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   • sports nutrition