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ABC’s shark tank has become synonymous with cutthroat deals and investors looking for prime opportunities. As consumer demand for vegan foods increases, the panel of veteran entrepreneurs, most notably Mark Cuban, along with a number of prominent guest investors, have shown greater interest in the booming plant-based sector. After turning vegetarian in 2019, Cuban has led offerings for numerous plant-based startups on the show. He’s even campaigned for some to appear in the past (see below).
Not all founders have struck a deal, but most have acknowledged that revealing a shark tank Appearance hasn’t hurt their businesses. Chief among them is Deborah Torres, founder of Atlas Monroe, who turned down Mark Cuban’s $1 million offer to buy her company outright.
The following seven performances proved significant for plant-based entrepreneurs and made for exciting viewing:
1. Everything legendary
Pitch: Vegan beef burgers “made in a kitchen, not a lab”.
Deal scooped: $300,000 from Mark Cuban for a 22 percent stake.
Major Achievements: Widespread distribution in Publix, Sprouts, Ralphs, Safeway and Target and a recently announced partnership with Live Nation to offer vegan food at summer concerts.
Based in Maryland, Everything Legendary is a black-led startup dedicated to transforming the impact of fast food, particularly on BIPOC communities. Products that use pea and hemp protein tend to be lower in calories and higher in protein than competing alternatives. Earlier this year, the brand confirmed it had closed a $6 million Series A funding round for the entire company expansion, including the development of several new product lines.
2. Project Pollo
Pitch: Plant-based chicken sold on a “pay what you can afford” basis in places that used to be traditional fast-food restaurants. Founder Lucas Bradbury has been vocal about putting Chick-fil-A out of business.
Deal scooped: None, although Kevin O’Leary called the product the “best fake chicken” he had ever tasted.
Major Achievements: More than a dozen restaurants have opened in Bradbury’s home state of Texas, and several are scheduled to be completed outside of the state later in 2022. Bradbury received an email from Mark Cuban suggesting he go on the show. Despite completing the rigorous application process, he left the company without a deal due to the pace of growth. Undeterred, he stated that he acts in a way that is best only for Project Pollo. Investors have been secured since the show aired.
Pitch: Vegan pork rind snacks that are healthier than their regular counterpart at 90 calories per serving.
Deal scooped: $250,000 from Mark Cuban for a five percent equity interest and five percent advisory interest.
Major Achievements: Expansion of Rockville factory due to surge in demand for TV appearance and distribution to more than 2,500 stores across the US
It was reported that when he first appeared shark tank, Snacklins founder Samy Kobrosly’s company posted around $5,000 in online sales per week. After the episode aired, it skyrocketed, with the Washington startup now grossing over $5.3 million in total. More distributions are expected this year, with new flavor lines also joining the roster.
4. Wild Earth
Pitch: Vegan dog food for improved animal health.
Deal scooped: $550,000 from Mark Cuban for a 10 percent equity interest.
Major Achievements: Targeted addition of vegan dog supplements targeting joints, digestion and skin.
Ryan Bethencourt presented his plant-based California dog food to the sharks. His focus on clean protein quickly caught the interest of Cuban and a host of future investors as well. In 2021, a year after Shark Tank’s appearance, Wild Earth raised $23 million in a Series A Plus funding round, with Cuban investing again. Some of the funds will be diverted to Bethencourt’s new interest: cultured meat for dog and cat food products.
Pitch: Freshly baked vegan cinnamon rolls, refined with various toppings.
Deal scooped: $200,000 from Robert Harjavec for a 40 percent equity interest.
Major Achievements: Opening of 69 franchise locations in the US and Canada.
Cinnaholic combines Cinnabon with every ice cream shop ever and some artisanal donut shops too. It makes big, gooey cinnamon rolls that can be topped with a variety of sweet treats, including brownie pieces, fruit, peanut butter, and cookie dough, all vegan, of course. The California startup has shifted to catering, cakes and make-it-yourself cinnamon rolls to keep things interesting.
6. Pan’s Mushroom Jerky
Pitch: Mushroom Umami Forward Jerky.
Deal scooped: $300,000 from Mark Cuban for an 18 percent stake.
Major Achievements: Sparking a bidding war between Cuban and fellow sharks Lori Greiner and Blake Mycoskie, who wanted to team up and offer a joint deal. Since the show aired, nationwide distribution has also been secured, with Kroger, Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods and Foxtrot Market coming on board.
Oregon-based Pan’s was inspired by founder Michael Pan’s experiences in Borneo with a mushroom snack that he said tasted just like regular jerky. Seeing an opportunity to offer a popular snack to a vegan audience, he developed a line of shitake mushroom-based jerky with clean, high-protein ingredients. Pan has spoken affectionately of his performance shark tankand called it an affirming and humbling experience.
7. Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli
Pitch: Vegan sausage specialties based on classic New York offerings.
Deal scooped: $250,000 from Mark Cuban for a 20 percent interest.
Major Achievements: A move from pure wholesale to retail that has enabled a switch to new lines, including turkey and steak slices, alongside the classic vegan corned beef.
Founder Jenny Goldfarb commented that she applied shark tank because a “Shark” dollar is worth five consumer dollars due to the wide media coverage that follows. Goldfarb started her business to veganize the classic New York City deli sandwiches she grew up eating. Corned Beef was their first launched product with exclusive distribution to food service partners.
Leading photo by ABC.