Sheryl O'Loughlin, 37, has been named CEO of Clif Bar Inc., the first time the privately-held energy and nutrition foods company has had a CEO outside of the original founder. Founder Gary Erickson, who had held variously the co-CEO and CEO post since 1992, will continue his involvement in the company, becoming more active in new product development, package design and disseminating the company's unique story.
As owners, Erickson and his wife Kathleen (“Kit”) Crawford will continue shaping the long term vision of Clif Bar Inc. as well as direct involvement in corporate philanthropy and community service. “Succeeding yourself as CEO is one of the most important events for an entrepreneur,” Erickson said. “So many founders/owners hang on too tight for too long, and many times that drains the company of its energy. Fortunately I recognized the time was now.”
O'Loughlin joined Clif Bar Inc. in 1998 and most recently served as executive vice president of brand, where she led marketing, sales and research and development for the $100 million maker of energy and nutrition bars and gels Erickson founded in 1992. Prior to joining Clif Bar, O'Loughlin held management positions in brand, sales and promotions with the Quaker Oats Company and Kraft Foods.
“I'm proud that we've been able to develop and promote a skilled leader from within the ranks of Clif Bar. Outsiders often are spit out by the 'immune system' of a company,” said Erickson. “Moreover, Sheryl's talent and passion for our business have played a central role in our success since she joined us. As CEO, she will certainly put her personal stamp on Clif Bar yet continue to nurture our vision of creating great-tasting, nutritious food while sustaining our people, communities and the planet.”
Erickson, 46, added that he is particularly pleased to promote a woman to the CEO position. “Less than 10 of the Fortune 500 companies had women CEOs in 2003,” he noted. “Sheryl's skills make her the best choice for the job, but it's an added bonus to make a sorely needed contribution to the female side of the chief executive ledger.”
O'Loughlin spearheaded Clif Bar Inc.'s 1999 launch of LUNA(R), the first whole nutrition bar for women and one of the first foods of any kind to incorporate the specific nutritional needs of women. She also led the company's recent new product launches, including CLiF(R) ZBaR(TM), the organic-certified snack bar for kids; and CLIF(R) Builder's(TM), the Entirely Natural Protein Bar(TM).
“Becoming CEO of Clif Bar really is my dream job,” O'Loughlin said. “It's an amazing company that truly believes business can do well by doing good. To have the opportunity to lead an exceptional group of employees on that journey is an enormous honor. I'm also very pleased that I can free up Gary to continue his 'founder magic' that's brought Clif Bar to where it is today.”
An Oakland, Calif., resident, O'Loughlin holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern University and a B.S. in business from the University of Michigan. When not busy with their two young children, Sheryl and her husband enjoy mountain biking, and the outdoors.