Kodiak Cakes: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Utah-based Kodiak Cakes' humble beginnings can be traced back to a rather unlikely source: a little red wagon — oh, and an old family flapjack recipe, of course. It all started back in 1982 when Penny Clark loaded up the toy wagon of her then eight-year-old son, Joel, with paper bags full of her father's heirloom pancake recipe. Off the young boy went to sell the pancake mix throughout his neighborhood, returning with only an empty cart. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Twelve years later, Penny's oldest son, Jon, officially launched the brand, churning out Kodiak Cakes Frontier Flapjack and Waffle Mix, which could be made by only adding water. Joel joined the company in 1995. However, due to poor finances and minimal growth, Jon eventually had to exit just two years later. Despite almost having to declare bankruptcy, Joel forged ahead, unwilling to let anything get in the way of accomplishing his dream — and a family legacy. Fast forward to 2014, and he decided to make the ultimate leap of bringing his product before the Sharks. But, would any of the investors flip over Kodiak Cakes' whole-grain pancake mix? 

What happened to Kodiak Cakes on Shark Tank?

Clark made his splash in the Tank on Season 5, Episode 22 of the hit show. He was joined by Cameron Smith, who was the company's head of sales and marketing at the time. The duo sought $500,000 for a 10% stake in the company. Already available in Target, they were seeking funds for slotting fees in order to buy more shelf space.

The Sharks — Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Barbar Corcoran, and Mark Cuban — tried samples of the famous flapjacks, which featured a berry syrup that they loved. Berry-licious syrup aside, Greiner liked the outdoorsy feel of the packaging — which featured a brown box with a growling bear logo. O'Leary, on the other hand, wasn't completely sold on the product, calling it a "complete commodity." He also questioned the $5 million valuation, saying it was worth $2 million instead. The Sharks were also concerned over the fact that Kodiak Cakes' mix was twice as expensive as its competitors.

In the end, Cuban and Greiner weren't sold, with the latter saying her decision boiled down to her just not liking pancakes. Herjavec offered the full amount for a 35% stake while Corcoran made a partial offer of $250,000 for 20%. After going out, O'Leary changed his mind to make a joint offer with Corcoran: $500,000 for a 50% stake in the company. But, Clark and Smith decided to walk away from either deal, which Cuban said was a smart move.

Kodiak Cakes after Shark Tank

Yes, Kodiak Cakes' flapjacks are still flying off the griddle. That's right, the Sharks may not have been interested in the brand's creations, but its viewers certainly were. Clark estimated his company made roughly $1 million in the six weeks after the episode aired (per CNBC). But perhaps the biggest boost in sales came a few months later when the brand launched a new product called Protein Power Cakes, which packed a whopping 14 grams of protein. According to CNBC, Kodiak Cakes was Target's number-one-selling pancake mix brand, topping the likes of Aunt Jemima and Bisquick — probably much to the "Shark Tank" investors' chagrin.

The brand did eventually make a deal in 2016, but not with the Sharks. Colorado-based investment firm Sunrise Strategic Partners made a minority investment in Kodiak Cakes for an undisclosed amount. According to the firm, it helped increase the breakfast company's revenue from $15 million to more than $200 million. However, perhaps the brand's biggest deal came later when private equity firm L Catterton acquired a majority stake in the company in May 2021 for a rumored $800 million (per Forbes). But, that doesn't mean Clark let go of the wagon reins altogether. Per a press release by L Catterton, the company's founders and management team were able to retain their minority stake in the brand.

Is Kodiak Cakes still in business?

Kodiak Cakes has come a long way since its early bootstrapping days. After being acquired by L Catterton's in 2021, the company is certainly still in business — and thriving at that. Featuring 100% whole grains and no added fats or sugars, it's not hard to see why people can't get enough of these breakfast staples. 

Over the years, the brand has certainly expanded beyond the realm of pancakes and waffles, which now include pumpkin, raspberry lemon, birthday cake, buttermilk, cinnamon oat, dark chocolate, and chocolate chip mix varieties, among others. There are even gluten-free and plant-based versions available as well as the most perfect pancakes and waffles in frozen form. Having added snacks to the mix, Kodiak Cakes also offers oatmeal packets and cups, crackers and cookies, and granola bars. 

Now, a key player in the pancake and waffle space, the company has certainly proven it's more than just a "complete commodity." In addition to Target, its products can be readily found in other leading retailers across the country, including Costco, Walmart, Publix, Safeway, and many more.

What's next for Kodiak Cakes?

With a diverse product range and a loyal fan base, the sky is certainly the limit for Kodiak Cakes. It's certainly popular among athletes. In 2022, the company announced it had received an investment from Patricof Co, a private investment platform for professional athletes. Notable investors included NFL quarterback Joe Burrow, NFL tight end Travis Kelce, and tennis player Sloane Stephens, among others.

But, that's not all: Kodiak Cakes is a hit with celebrities, too. Later that year, actor Zac Efron — who gained notoriety with his breakout role in the 2006 film "High School Musical" — joined Kodiak as its new board member and Chief Brand Officer. The fact that the company gives back to wildlife, supporting conservation organizations like the Vital Ground Foundation and Katmai Conservancy, was a major draw for the actor. "Kodiak Cakes is an incredible company that offers comfort food made with good ingredients," he told Forbes. "The fact that they've made a lot of efforts in wellness, wildlife conservation, and sustainability connects with me. It feels like food with a purpose."

Smith and Clark announced that they are stepping back from their roles leading the company, but that doesn't mean it will change direction (per LinkedIn). The new CEO, Valerie Oswalt, remains dedicated to the company's culture of good foods that are good for the planet, too.