As Instant Pot Sales Plunge, Its Maker Looks for Another Hit

The all-in-one kitchen gadget was an annual bestseller before the Covid-19 pandemic, making its way into millions of homes. It spawned a legion of devotees that swapped recipes online and spurred rivals to develop their own multicook machines. In 2019, the business was purchased by a private-equity firm and merged with the company behind Pyrex and CorningWare. 

Since then, Instant Pot sales have slumped and the company that owns the brand is struggling. Sales of electronic multicooker devices such as the Instant Pot hit $758 million in 2020 but have since fallen by 50% to $344 million in 2022, according to NPD Group. Instant Pot makes up the majority of the category.

The company, Instant Brands Inc., hired restructuring advisers in recent months, a sign it needs to revamp its finances. The company’s troubles show how hard it can be for a business to grow sales on the back of one big hit product. Only so many people want an Instant Pot, and those who do buy a new one infrequently.

As sales growth slowed for the Instant Pot, management missteps at Instant Brands and the cost pressures of pandemic-related supply-chain snarls put the company in a difficult financial spot, according to people familiar with the situation and credit-ratings firms. 

The Instant Pot was a “product phenom and product phenom ultimately, eventually they slow down” in sales, said

Ben Gadbois,

who became Instant Brands’s chief executive in 2020. He had worked at

Newell Brands Inc.

working to boost sales of Rubbermaid and Sharpie before helping to turn around toy maker

Spin Master Corp.

The Instant Pot, an all-in-one kitchen gadget, was an annual bestseller before the Covid-19 pandemic, but sales have slumped.


Douglas R. Clifford/Zuma Press

Mr. Gadbois pushed the company to come up with new kitchen gadgets under the Instant brand. He said there is growth ahead through international expansion and new products such as an electric Dutch oven, stand mixer and coffee maker. The company will also introduce a new design of the Instant Pot it hopes will spur fans to buy a new machine, said Mr. Gadbois.  

“We believe that the Instant Pot product is going to be around for a long, long, long time, and we still sell a lot of volume,” he said. “But no product stays at a phenom level forever.” He declined to comment on the financial results of the business or why the company hired restructuring advisers. 

Mal Labriola first got an Instant Pot in 2019 and, as a vegan at the time, loved using it to make nut-based yogurt and large batches of beans. “It is a very versatile implement for the kitchen,” said Mx. Labriola, who uses the gender-neutral honorific.

But when they planned a move to a new home this month, it was time for the Instant Pot to go. No longer vegan, “we’re just not using it as much as a staple anymore,” Mx. Labriola said. They sold it on Facebook Marketplace earlier this month for $45, $20 less than they listed it for.


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The Instant Pot was brought to market more than a decade ago by Robert Wang, a laid-off technology worker. He wanted something like a Crock-Pot, an electric device that cooks food unattended, but faster and with multiple uses so dinner planning for his two young children could happen quickly, Mr. Wang said in an interview. 

He used factories in China to produce his designs, which he started selling on to reach many shoppers, he said. The Instant Pot developed a cult following, and Mr. Wang was CEO until the company was acquired. He retired from active involvement in late 2021, he said, but is still on the board.  

“Once we became a little successful, there were a ton of copycats,” Mr. Wang said. The company worked to introduce its own versions of other kitchen appliances, such as a blender, but they struggled to break through the way the Instant Pot did.

Mr. Wang and other early employees sold the company to Cornell Capital, a small private-equity firm, in 2019 to help it grow internationally and into new product lines, he said. They hoped Cornell Capital—which already owned the company that sells Pyrex and CorningWare, called Corelle Brands—could provide supply-chain management and other infrastructure to keep growing, Mr. Wang said. The combined company was valued at more than $2 billion. 

Some Corelle employees hoped the Instant Pot would add sales growth to a portfolio of steady brands. “When we acquired them, they were the hottest thing in town,” said Mike Scheffki, who worked at Corelle in marketing before and after the acquisition. “I remember feeling really energized by that.”

Soon it became apparent to many employees that Instant Brands was struggling to keep pace with companies such as SharkNinja that had quickly introduced new gadgets such as air fryers. “Ninja was always the Pepsi to our Coke,” said Mr. Scheffki, who left in 2021. “Lots of time and resources went towards playing catch-up and how do we rekindle the magic,” he said.

Instant Brands introduced the first iteration of its air fryer in 2019, then another in 2020, later than would have been ideal, Mr. Gadbois said. Air-fryer sales are starting to cool now that the gadgets are in nearly half of American households, he said. “That similar cycle that happened with the Instant Pot is starting to happen with the air fryer,” he said. 

Instant Brands has struggled to keep pace with rivals that quickly introduced new gadgets such as air fryers.


David Parry/Zuma Press

Some bets flopped. In the midst of the pandemic, Instant Brands made plans to sell an air purifier, but the market was saturated by the time it came out in 2021 saddling the company with unsold inventory, according to people familiar with the project. A company spokeswoman said the unsold inventory of air purifiers “is minimal and comprises approximately 1% of current inventory value.”  

As the price to make and import many goods rose in 2021, Instant Brands decided to cancel more than $100 million worth of orders placed by retailers, pull back on discounts to boost profitability and avoid future markdowns as some products arrived late, said Mr. Gadbois. It was a necessary step to save money and keep the premium impression of the brand, he said.

“At first the retailers weren’t sure what we were doing,” but as overall inventories piled up at many large retailers last year, some retailers were pleased to not have too many Instant Brands products on hand, Mr. Gadbois said. 

As demand dropped and some new products faltered, some retailers cut back the prime space they once gave the company’s biggest products, said people familiar with the situation. Reduction in shelf space was related to falling demand for the Instant Pot, not other products or order pullbacks in 2021, said a spokesman for the company.

Instant Brands has more than 1,900 full-time workers after having laid off about 15% of its workforce since 2020, according to a spokesman.  

In December 2022, S&P Global Ratings cut Instant Brands’s credit rating deeper into junk territory, noting the company has reported five straight quarters of sales declines and likely needed additional capital. Earlier this month Moody’s further downgraded its credit rating on the company calling Instant Brands’s capital structure “unsustainable at current earnings levels.”

“We have taken proactive measures to strengthen our financial position, increase flexibility, and ensure the business is well-capitalized to invest for the future,” said a spokeswoman for Instant Brands. 

Some of the cookbook authors and recipe bloggers that grew their following along with the Instant Pot are moving on. Jeffrey Eisner, who has written four cookbooks of Instant Pot recipes, said his next cookbook likely won’t be about the Instant Pot.

He recently polled his followers about how often they use their Instant Pot. Many people said they weren’t using it frequently, he said. “I have to listen to that if I want to survive and evolve,” he said.  

Jodi Xu Klein and Alexander Gladstone contributed to this article.

Write to Sarah Nassauer at

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2023-03-11 13:00:00