Kind Calls Out Clif Bar—Again—While Debuting New Energy Bar

The CPG brands' rivalry continues

two men sitting outdoors, one on the left eating a kind bar and the one on the right looking skeptically at a clif bar
In its latest campaign, Kind points to the sugar contained in Clif Bar's products. Kind

Snack brand Kind has a new line of energy bars. To help promote them, the company is offering to pay people to eat the competition. Well, sort of.

Beginning today, the company is offering $100 each to the first 1,000 individuals who take a pledge and submit photo evidence to eat any energy bar prior to physical activity. The brand hopes the money will go toward a fitness-related expense, such as exercise equipment or a gym membership.

Energy bars contain more calories than snacks designed for casual munching between meals and are best had before or after a workout. According to a consumer survey funded by Kind, however, nearly three in four energy bar users consume the product while working at their desk or sitting on the couch at home. In other words, when they’re not supposed to.

“The goal of our campaign is to educate people so they can make the best food choices for themselves,” said Mike Barkley, CEO of Kind. “The misuse is within the category as a whole, which is why we expanded the pledge to include all energy bars. Whether you’re a Clif user or a Kind user, the intended use remains the same.”

Kind is also running an ad that calls out rival Clif Bar and Company. A 30-second spot created by ad agency Peanut Butter and Imagination has appeared on national TV and online since mid-September. The ad shows unamused people pouring syrup out of a Clif Bar package while a narrator tells viewers that Kind’s version contains less sugar.

The two brands have a history of going after each other in a very public manner. In March 2019, Clif Bar ran a New York Times ad touting its organic ingredients and challenging Kind to do the same. Like its latest ad, Kind replied with a spot showing a man pouring syrup out of his Clif Bar package as the narrator states that the product’s first ingredient, brown rice syrup, is “just another name for sugar.”

When asked if the strategy of calling out Clif Bar has benefited Kind, Barkley replied by saying, “Since day one, we’ve felt the most important and kindest thing we can do is provide people with straightforward information as they choose their snacks.”

The strategy of calling out the competition, such as Bud Light accusing Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup during the 2019 Super Bowl, comes with potential pitfalls.

“In today’s world, especially in the U.S., consumers are fatigued by negative energy and, more importantly, senseless bickering,” said Coltrane Curtis, founder and managing partner of creative agency Team Epiphany. “If a brand is to employ this strategy, they need to ensure they are ‘reading’ the threshold for continued bickering in the eyes of their consumer.”

Curtis noted that the success of this sort of campaign depends on a company understanding its “core consumer and properly evaluating the type of ‘energy’ they want from the brand.”

In the U.S., the snack bar category has grown 17% since 2015, from $7 billion to $8.2 billion, according to figures from market research firm Euromonitor International. For the past few years, Clif Bar has led the category, followed by General Mills’ Nature Valley then Kind.

Kind has been developing its energy bar, the brand’s latest innovation, for the past year.

“We had always wanted to enter the fitness space,” said Barkley. “When we realized that the energy bar category is filled with offerings that promote performance, yet typically contain higher amounts of sugar, oil blends or powders, we knew there was an opportunity for Kind.”

@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.