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December 15, 2009

CLIF Quench Drink Review; Roks and Bloks and Bars Giveaway

California probably has more endurance athletes and entrepreneurs per capita than anyplace else in America - and among both of these prolific groups, the story of CLIF Bar is legendary.

Most of the story is told right on every CLIF Bar package: founder Gary Erickson was an outdoor bum living in a garage, and decided during a 175-mile bike ride one day that all the energy bars he was using were disgusting. He spent two years experimenting in his mother’s kitchen before selling a finished product out of his Emeryville bakery in 1992. Shortly thereafter, he developed nationwide distribution of the bars he named after his father, who was his lifelong adventure companion.

The product line expanded (including the insanely popular Luna bars targeted at women) and diversified, and CLIF became one of America’s fastest-growing private companies in the late 1990s. In 2000, Erickson famously turned down a $120 million offer to buy the company, and he continues to run the business with his wife as his co-owner.

From the outset, CLIF – it’s another one of those companies who write their brand name (as well as products) in all caps, for reasons that remain mysterious to me - has had equivalent missions of not just providing sustenance for people, but also sustaining their community and the global environment along the way. They’re a forerunner in eco-friendly initiatives, and their employees volunteer major hours to various community improvement projects. Every CLIF product is made from organic and all-natural ingredients, which their website will tell you are better for the planet, the body, and the soul.

They’re also one of the most diversified energy food companies on the market, and that’s where today’s post really begins; it’s an overview of a few new products CLIF introduced this year, along with a giveaway for a couple of sampler boxes of your own.

First up is Clif Quench drink, whose very existence sort of confused me at first. I’m accustomed to drinking CLIF SHOT drink during ultras - it’s the product of choice for several popular races - and couldn’t understand why they’d tinker with a formula that I (as well as most other runners I know) really enjoy.

Fortunately, CLIF Quench doesn’t replace the SHOT drink, but features lower sodium and carbohydrate concentrations to provide another option for athletes to select based on their activity levels. I’ve already seen them in my local grocery store alongside drinks like Snapple and SoBe, so CLIF is clearly going for some of that market as well. Quench drink doesn’t contain any of the artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners (particularly high-fructose corn syrup), or preservatives that some of those more popular drinks use, and has a healthy ratio of electrolytes to calories for more effective hydration.

CLIF Quench comes in four flavors, although all of them are clear-colored, which might make for a fun shot glass game of “guess the flavor!” at your running club’s holiday party. It’s not currently available in powder form, which is kind of a bummer, because that’s my preferred method of use. Lime-Ade is my favorite, but the flavors are all nicely mild, neither too sweet nor salty. It’s not going to replace my Diet Pepsi as a “leisure-time” drink, but I’ve enjoyed using it on 1-2 hour trail runs.

The other new product is my favorite of the samples I received: CLIF SHOT ROKS, which are chewy little protein balls in a protective candy coating. There are about 9-10 gumball-sized pieces in each packet, combining for 20g of protein. The shell is slightly crunchy, and is supposed to be temperature-resistant in both extremes: they won’t freeze in the cold, and they won’t melt if they’ve been tucked in your pocket on a hot day. They’re designed as a portable protein source during activity, or as a snack to speed muscle recovery after a hard workout. To my knowledge, there really isn’t another product on the market quite like it. (*Updated: they're similar to Power Bar ProteinPlus Bites, but the textures are different, and only the CLIF products claim temperature resistance.)

CLIF ROKS come in three flavors; I’ve tasted the chocolate and peanut butter flavors and they’re both pretty yummy. The third flavor is chocolate chip cookie dough, which sounds delicious as well. Each pack typically retails for $3, so they’re more expensive than regular energy bars, but similar to a lot of high-protein bars on the market – and trust me, ROKS taste way better than most high-protein bars.

I also received samples of CLIF SHOT BLOKS, which are a known commodity among endurance athletes. If you’ve liked the previous versions of these chewy energy cubes, there’s nothing to worry about; the only changes to this product line were to add one flavor (mountain berry) and repackage the blocks in a linear fashion. CLIF calls the new wrapper a FastPak, which can be opened with one hand – I actually tested this, and was able to do it - and the overall amount of packaging is reduced, keeping with CLIF’s eco-mindedness.

The last item in the sample shipment are seasonal flavors of the original CLIF bar. I’ve previously tried the iced gingerbread and spiced pumpkin pie flavors that were available last winter, and they both tasted awesome. This year, CLIF has added cranberry orange nut bread to its holiday catalog, and all three flavors are available through the winter wherever you normally buy regular CLIF bars. They’d be great stocking stuffers for the runner or triathlete on your list.

So have I whetted your appetite yet? If so, I’m able to share the love with a couple of lucky readers. Leave a comment below this post by 6PM PST on Thursday 12/17, and I’ll select two winners to receive a sample pack of CLIF ROKS, BLOKS, and winter CLIF bar flavors. Good luck!

*Products provided by Clif Bar & Company
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


Pinkcorker 12/15/09, 9:36 PM  

Hi Donald!
Early bird gets the worm? I would love to try some of these new CLIF products.

Turi 12/15/09, 10:01 PM  

I can't fine the winter flavors around here at all...


Anonymous,  12/15/09, 11:15 PM  

Hi Donald,

you don't get clif shots or roks here in Europe - wouldn't this qualify me to receive the package?!...


P.S. Very interesting blog overall, very nicely written!!

Clynton 12/15/09, 11:35 PM  

Sound good. Count me in for the drawing. Thamks for the post.

Denise 12/16/09, 3:34 AM  

Yum! I'll have to try the Roks soon. Thanks for the contest!

TK 12/16/09, 4:18 AM  

I haven't seen the winter flavors in my area either. Great review!

dubbelklik 12/16/09, 4:32 AM  

I'm also from Europe (Holland to more precise) and I haven't heared before of CLIF.

Please count me in for the contest to do a test in Europe.

Jan Willem.

Al Nye 12/16/09, 5:12 AM  

When I run I get stinky,
Just take a whiff,
And I need more energy,
Please send me your CLIF.


Stuart 12/16/09, 5:48 AM  

Count me in please!

Chris 12/16/09, 6:31 AM  

Would love to try some of these CLIF products. Great blog...even greater if I win something!

Bob,  12/16/09, 6:36 AM  

Me too! I want to try Roks -- I've used the (similar?) Powerbar Bites, would like to compare. I've also tried the iced gingerbread CLIF bar, and I'd love to have more! Thanks for the contest.

Bob in Michigan's Thumb

BD 12/16/09, 6:49 AM  


As a poor PhD student/ultra-runner I need all the free nutrition I can get! Would love to try some CLIF products, happy holidays! Thanks.

Bryan E. 12/16/09, 7:28 AM  

i wasn't a big fan of the drink when i tried it but i love the clif bloks and mocha clif shot!

Dave 12/16/09, 7:51 AM  

Donald...you know your and endurance guy if you give your kid a choice between a Cliff Bar - Brownie...or an ice cream....and they pick Cliff Bar Brownie....have I ruined them....seriously....put me in...

Meg T 12/16/09, 8:32 AM  

I love cliff bars! I really want to try the Rocks and the shots!

Josh 12/16/09, 9:12 AM  

Really enjoying the blog! Add me to the giveaway drawing, please! Thanks

runningcommentaries 12/16/09, 9:36 AM  

Enter me in! I tried the Roks at the CIM expo-- they were good.

Bob 12/16/09, 9:44 AM  

I've been using CLIF products since for over 10 years and love them! Great review, Don!

Sean 12/16/09, 9:56 AM  

Who doesn't like free stuff. :) Enter me in...

Darren 12/16/09, 10:03 AM  

Now I'm hungry and thirsty! I'll put my name in the hat!

nrmrvrk 12/16/09, 10:34 AM  

I'd be interested in trying the Roks and the Bloks. I haven't been to a store that carries them yet. Add me to the list. Thanks.

The Dude 12/16/09, 11:27 AM  

Count me in, CLIF is not exactly sold on every corner here!

robb 12/16/09, 11:47 AM  

I tried a sample of the Roks at a race expo recently... they were great! I like the Shot Bloks too.

Put me in for the drawing! :-)

Dave 12/16/09, 12:02 PM  

I ran a marathon this past Sunday. Some CLIF goodies would be come in handy!

mweston 12/16/09, 12:25 PM  

They sound like good things to try. Count me in!

When I saw the picture of the Quench, my first thought was that the last thing we need is more single-use plastic containers, so I'm glad you made that point too (kind of, by saying that you prefer powder).

Donald 12/16/09, 3:12 PM  

@mweston: For what it's worth, the Quench bottles use 40% post-consumer plastics. Your point is very well taken, though. Thanks.

adam 12/16/09, 3:50 PM  

Oh man I would love these freebies! There isn't anything I like more than CLIF products

adam 12/16/09, 3:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gretchen 12/16/09, 4:14 PM  

I ate the Rox for the first time at Zion, and they were definitely the hit of the weekend for all of us. Cookie dough were the best, and I would say tasted like something between a Whopper and a Milk Dud. Seriously, how much better could it get!
(Don't worry about sending me anything though because I am not running right now and just getting fat off holiday cookies and fudge!)

The BIG E 12/16/09, 5:49 PM  

Hey Don. Though I usually do not frequent blogs as a rule, I have found you and I on a similar path. I have slowly moved to minimalist shoes both for running and every day work. I enjoy your writing style, maybe because you actually know how to write and look forward to your product reviews. I'm a big fan of Hammer, but always looking to try something new on longer runs. Enjoy the blog. If Cliff has extra test product I would not mind giving you some feedback.

mo 12/16/09, 8:17 PM  

you write about clif
the products sound really good
I would like to try
(so haiku isnt my strong suit...)

Oz Runner 12/17/09, 5:04 AM  

great giveaway, thanks!

Bill C 12/17/09, 5:48 AM  

Hi Donald,

Throw my name in the hat. I love Clif products. Have you tried the blueberry crisp bar?

Bill Cotton

Jaska 12/17/09, 7:03 AM  

Me: Give me the CLIF!
You: Sheesh! I never gave stuff away for so little, except once, and that was a very noble cause.
Me: This is noble, sir. My wife is crippled. My children are on the brink of starvation.
You: Are you a rotten liar.
Me: I need CLIF products to help avenge my father, murdered these twenty years.
You: Your first story was better.
Me: But I am Buttercup's true love -- If you heal me with CLIF products, I will stop Humperdinck's wedding.
You: Wait. Wait. I make you better with CLIF products, Humperdinck suffers?
Me: Humiliations galore!

I hope you answer: That is a noble cause. I'll give you the CLIF.

Anne 12/17/09, 7:39 AM  

This company's ascension in the sports nutrition marketing has been pretty amazing in recent years. So far, I've enjoyed almost every product they make (I hate chocolate, so most of their bars aren't to my liking, but the Shot Blox and Roks are a favorite.) I think I'll pick up their newest drink next time I'm roaming the energy aisle. Thanks, Donald!

Doug,  12/17/09, 7:49 AM  

There stuff is great. Free is even better.

cheercfa07 1/18/11, 11:17 AM  

I really want to try the seasonal flavors! And a Clif drink?!?! Cool!

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