Joel Clark, founder of Baker Mills and the Kodiak Cakes brand, got his start in the food business when he was just 8 years old, pulling a wagon around his Salt Lake City neighborhood selling whole-grain pancake mix in paper bags door-to-door. His mom ground the wheat. It was his grandfather’s recipe.
In the 1990s, Joel and his brother Jon (who eventually handed the business off to Joel), now in their 20s, found a co-packer to make the mix, and they sold it to ski towns boutiques throughout the region.
By 2014, the mix was in the likes of Safeway and Target, but Joel and his business partner, Cameron Smith, saw even greater things to come. They wanted to infuse capital to develop protein-rich products. So they went on “Shark Tank” and predicted $20 million in growth over the next four years. But the investor hosts—the “sharks”—didn’t make an offer they felt he could accept. They didn’t see the value.
But the viewers did. TV exposure jump-started sales, bringing in an estimated $1 million in incremental growth over the ensuing weeks. Now they had the capital and motivation to expand, first with Power Cakes pancake mix at 14 grams of protein per serving. Other products followed.
They eventually included frozen Power Waffles—an area we actively cover here at SF&WB. That’s when I started paying attention. In our June 2018 “State of the Industry” coverage, Baker Mills first appeared in our frozen waffles IRI data set, with an impressive $5.5 million in sales.
This year, Kodiak Cakes will reportedly generate over $100 million in sales—and $20 million alone is coming from its frozen waffles (see this month’s Market Trends story for data details).
That’s some powerful growth. Maybe those sharks needed a better breakfast that day.