By Alicia Cunningham | Aug 17, 2016
Park City, Utah
Park City, Utah
While other kids were busy with lemonade stands, Joel Clark was toting a small wagon door-to-door selling something a little different: flapjack mix.
Years later, Joel’s older brother Jon invited him to start a business together based on the family flapjack and waffle mix recipe but determined if they were going to honor their family tradition, they were going to do it right.
This passion – to do it right – still fuels the company today. "Kodiak Cakes would have been 6 feet under years ago without the passion to keep going when all logic said we should have given up. Kodiak Cakes is not the rapid, take-off quickly growth story that we all love to hear about, but is, rather, a story of perseverance over many years that finally led to the rapid growth that we are now experiencing. Some things just take longer to get going. So you have to figure out how to stay passionate long enough to give it a fair chance to work,” says Joel Clark, CEO of Kodiak Cakes.
The business started with Jon deciding he wanted to make a product with the highest level of ingredients. “So he got the right ingredients together first and then set the price. The focus from day one has always been on quality,” says Taylor West, Vice President of Marketing.
For ingredients, the Clarks looked locally as well as internationally. “Our wheat comes from the north and central United States. Our oats come from Canada,” West says. Kodiak Cakes utilizes the services of a co-packer in the manufacturing process, but they have established their headquarters in Park City, Utah.
“Park City is perfect for us. It fits our philosophy of an active outdoor lifestyle. We are surrounded by the best mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. It is a year-round outdoor playground, and it keeps us close to nature, which is the root of our brand,” says West.
Now a company over two decades old, Kodiak Cakes received a boost in both recognition and sales by pitching their product on ABC’s Shark Tank.
CEO Joel Clark recounts: “Shark Tank was a great experience for the company. It helped us gain a lot of awareness and increase our sales. Our product quickly ran out of stock on shelves at Target shortly after the episode aired.”
Today Kodiak Cakes are sold in most grocery stores through the United States. “Target and Costco have given us a lot of distribution and continue to be great partners in expanding our business,” Clark adds.
Products include everything from the original flapjack and waffle mix to products packed with protein and others marketed to the consumer on the go. “We have some microwaveable muffins in a cup and microwaveable flapjacks in a cup. We also have a line of syrups made with real fruit and some additional whole grain mixes: brownies, cookies, oatmeal and granola,” West says.
Challenges: Building awareness. “A lot of health conscious consumers have abandoned the entire pancake category. We need to bring them back to show them that Kodiak Cakes are both healthy and taste amazing. And when they try Kodiak Cakes, they are surprised and delighted. We are not producing a product which delivers empty calories,” West says.
Opportunities: New products. Kodiak Cakes just launched a dark chocolate as well as a crunchy peanut butter high protein pancake mix at Target. “We collect ideas and insights from everywhere. We watch the trends and figure out what is good for our brand and what consumers want to buy and eat,” West says.
Needs: People. “We want to build our team,” West says. But growing the right way with the right people is a priority for Kodiak Cakes. “We are building a foundation for a well-built business, one that is mindful of product quality and brand authenticity. We do not want to take any shortcuts or follow a route that does not make sense for our philosophy.”