The Recipe for Success for Kodiak Cakes

pancakes with egg on black ceramic plate

Mark Cuban may have passed on Kodiak Cakes, but he saw their potential.

The high-protein breakfast food company made a name for itself when it appeared on Shark Tank in 2014.  

“I think you guys are smart,” Cuban said to co-founders Cameron Smith and Joel Clark after they declined a lowball offer of $500,000 for 50% and exited the tank, according to an article by Looper

Cuban was right and the rest of the Shark Tank crew may be kicking themselves now after seeing the grocery, retail, and sales success of Kodiak Cakes. After launching a new pancake mix in 2014, Protein Power Cakes, the mix became the No. 1 selling pancake mix at Target, according to Looper. In 2018, Kodiak Cakes topped PepsiCo’s Pearl Milling Company (formerly Aunt Jemima) and General Mills’ Bisquick as the best-selling pancake mix at Target, and in 2020, Kodiak Cakes hit $200 million in annual sales. 

That’s a lot of flapjacks and many, many happy children and consumers from this formerly unknown brand.

A Health-Conscious & Appealing Breakfast Food 

Kodiak Cakes has found a way to set itself apart from the competition by appealing to millennials and finding creative ways to market. Alfred Goldberg, Chief Brand Strategist at Absolute Marketing Solutions, says that the pancake mix market had become somewhat outdated and that presented a ripe opportunity for Kodiak Cakes. 

“One unique aspect of Kodiak Cakes is its strategic market positioning. Unlike conventional options, Kodiak Cakes introduced a health-conscious variant to the pancake mix aisle with its whole wheat, oats, and honey-infused mixes, most notably its Protein Powder Pancake mix,” Goldberg told The Food Institute. “This product appeals to health-focused consumers and captures a niche that values nutritional benefits in traditional comfort foods.” 

Goldberg added that through its unique product offerings and strategic influencer partnerships, Kodiak Cakes has differentiated itself and created a strong brand persona that resonates deeply with modern consumers. 

“This comprehensive approach to branding has secured its place as a beloved name in many households far beyond the traditional pancake mix aisle, as evidenced by its extended product line,” Goldberg says. 

Star Power Promotion

After an acquisition by a private equity group and a new CEO, Valerie Oswalt, the company has found some high-profile investors, such as Travis Kelce and Joe Burrow, according to Looper.

Earlier this year, Travis Kelce and Kodiak donated 25,000 meals to the children of Kansas City through Operation Breakthrough, an afterschool program. 

“Joining forces with my friends over at Kodiak to fuel the Operation Breakthrough families is a total privilege. Alongside Kodiak, a brand I love, we will be making a meaningful difference in the day-to-day life of hundreds of Kansas City kids, and I couldn’t be more excited to make this happen,” Kelce said in a press release. 

The star-power doesn’t stop there – in 2022, Zac Efron joined the company as its Chief Brand Officer.  

Authenticity & Brand Partners Drive Sales

Kodiak Cakes has a millennial following and has found success by growing its name recognition by collaborating with influencers, a move that Monica Kwok, a food and healthy living attorney at Goodwin, thinks is smart.

“Any food business looking to maximize impressions and grow its name recognition, especially in this day and age, should be working to maximize collaboration with micro-influencers, whether it be through personalized engagements or strategic sharable content creation,” Kwok told The Food Institute. “What consumers ultimately want to see are authentic user experiences. When it comes to food branding and marketing, trust is key. Kodiak has done a fantastic job in achieving that in its recent campaigns.” 

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