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Insider Intel: Clif Bar’s Petco Exclusive

The brand enters a new category after its incubator develops plant-based jerky treats for dogs.

Clif Bar & Co. partnered with Petco to bring treats for both pets and humans to stores this past summer. The manufacturer launched Clif Pet plant-based jerky treats for dogs exclusively at the retailer — and also secured merchandising for its flagship brand bars for people.

It is the very first venture of Clif’s Trailblazers Incubator, which works on developing disruptive innovation and sustainable business ventures. Clif — which allows employees to bring their dogs to work — has been considering entering the pet category for a long time, jumping in now to take advantage of the 11 million new households that added pets during the last 18 months, according to the American Pet Products Association’s “COVID-19 Pulse Study.”

“The Incubator identified the pet category as an area of growth due to the dramatic increase in pet ownership coupled with the emerging demand for human-grade pet food,” says Greg Lok, head of Clif Bar’s Incubator. “Our employees are passionate about dogs, making this effort a real win-win.”

The Clif Pet line comprises three recipes — sweet potato and blueberry, pumpkin and apple, and butternut squash and cranberry — sold in 5- or 12-ounce bags for $8.99 or $16.99, respectively.

In stores, the pet and human products were stocked on an account-specific floorstand that positioned the bars as “for you” and the jerky as “for your dog.” The Clif Bar products for people were only sold in Petco stores as part of the displays while supplies lasted.

“A couple relevant trends and insights helped inform this launch,” says Shari White, senior vice president of merchandising, food and treats at Petco. “The first trend, pet humanization, involves the growing interest in giving pets the same level of care, including high-quality nutrition, that pet parents seek for themselves. The second is that pet parents are increasingly looking for products that deliver on their values around sustainability. Sustainable, plant-based offerings continue to be important to our guests, and Clif Pet fits squarely in this space.”

The rollout received support from a brand showcase within, experiential marketing, promotions and work with social media influencers. Petco hosted internal events and samplings to engage Petco employees. The retailer also activated its sponsorship of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres by giving away Clif Pet products on Aug. 1 during “Bark in the Park,” a dog-friendly game at Petco Park stadium.

“This partnership is a great fit, because Petco shares a similar mission of improving the health and overall lives of both people and pets,” Lok says. “Committed to leading the category in pet nutrition standards, Petco is the first and only national retailer to no longer sell food and treats containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives for dogs and cats, making them an ideal partner from a values perspective.”

White says Petco is measuring the launch’s success by tracking sales, household growth and retention along with PR and social media placements, impressions and engagements.

“The consumer response to the differentiated Clif Pet collection has been highly positive, and we’re excited to continue to collaborate with Clif in the future,” she says.

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