For many vegan entrepreneurs, ABC’s hit reality show, Shark Tank, has become more than just a source of entertainment—it’s a significant source of income. Thanks to vegan-friendly “Sharks” such as billionaire investor Mark Cuban, the deals made on this show have been pivotal to these plant-based endeavors. Even those who walked away from a deal have benefited from the show’s exposure, such as that of vegan fried chicken sensation Atlas Monroe and cookie dough queen Sabeena Ladha of DEUX. Based on a significant amount of binge-watching and interviews with these vegan companies, plus Cuban himself, here are the 14 best vegan Shark Tank deals of all time (in no particular order).
In today’s economy, you need to spend money to make money. There’s equipment to purchase, packaging and ingredients to buy, marketing dollars to consider, food safety and certifications to obtain, and so much more that requires funding. Even the smallest step into the business world—such as a single stall at a local farmers’ market—costs a few hundred dollars.
This financial hurdle is why many brands look to investors. Starting a business is a lot to shoulder financially, and some startup costs are impossible to front using personal credit cards, life savings, or generous friends and family.
Some vegan brands look to crowdsourcing campaigns like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Start Engine; others cold-email vegan venture capital firms like Stray Dog Capital or Blue Horizon; and others pour over pitch decks for individual investors.
An appearance on Shark Tank is a truly unique opportunity to secure not only a valuable investment, but a key marketing opportunity unparalleled by other forms of fundraising. Here are 14 vegan brands that made it to the screen.
1 Everything Legendary
We’ve all heard of Beyond and Impossible burgers, but Everything Legendary convinced the Sharks that there is still space in the plant-based beef market for fresh new products. Everything Legendary perfected a patty “made in a kitchen, not a lab” that’s infused with non-dairy cheese. While originally striving to compete in the frozen food sector, Cuban suggested a cloud kitchen model. In lieu of selling straight to consumers, the company would teach chefs how to create its product and sell through a delivery service. The team settled with Cuban and accepted $300,000 for 22 percent equity. Eighteen months after appearing on the show, the brand has expanded into retailers including Sprouts and Target.
Co-founder Duane Myko told VegNews, “We chose Shark Tank for funding, because Shark Tank is every entrepreneur’s dream. I was a business major at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, and Shark Tank is something that we talked about all the time. There are very few places where you can pitch your idea in a room full of billionaires. Making the deal is a dream come true.”
2 Project Pollo
Lucas Bradbury of Texan-born vegan chicken chain Project Pollo appeared on the season finale of Shark Tank in May 2022. The ambitious founder received an email from Cuban himself suggesting he appear on the show. Bradbury prepared the pitch for months, but his swiftly growing plant-based chicken empire caused concern for the sharks, citing that kind of growth was “like a cyclone.” With over a dozen locations in Texas and several in the works, Bradbury isn’t ready to put on the breaks, even to catch a shark. He’s seeking investments elsewhere while continuing to manage scaling operations of Project Pollo’s addictive vegan chicken sandwiches.
A vegan milk machine was the beneficiary of Cuban’s largest vegan investment at the time. In an episode that aired on March 29, 2021, the vegetarian investor agreed on a $2 million deal with Numilk founders Ari Tolwin and Joe Savino with a projected 10 percent of the company. The product has evolved from its original inception as a ready-made-milk kiosk in grocery stores to a smaller countertop professional unit made for coffee shops. The Shark Tank funds enabled the duo to launch production of its latest concept—a more compact, sleeker countertop machine meant for home use that can produce fresh plant milks, lattes, protein drinks, and more. A waitlist is available on the company’s website for Numilk Home which is set to ship in late 2023. Numilk Pro is currently available for foodservice accounts.
4 The Mad Optimist
Vegan and cruelty-free body care isn’t always cheap, but the founders behind this compassionate body brand believe that finances shouldn’t deter anyone from making conscious purchases. The Mad Optimist’s line of sustainable body care products is priced on a sliding scale. While this scared most of the Sharks, Cuban was intrigued. The team settled for a $60,000 investment with 20 percent equity and an agreement that all sales made from their episode would go to charity.
5 Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli
The tired adage may have some truth to it—the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, particularly if that man has an affinity for corned beef. Founder Jenny Goldfarb set out to veganize the classic New York-style deli meats she grew up with, and the result was good enough to secure a deal with a Shark. In 2019, Cuban offered $250,000 for 20 percent equity. Business soared until the pandemic hit, as at the time, Unreal corned beef was only available through delis. Cuban stepped in and suggested a pivot. By switching from wholesale to retail and developing a new vegan turkey product, the business survived and is now going strong. Customers can now find the original corned beef along with turkey and steak slices in retailers and some food service operations.
Goldfarb explained, “I chose to pursue funding via Shark Tank because one Shark dollar is worth five regular dollars. Between the vast media exposure, having a Shark as a partner, and getting this gift that keeps on giving with re-runs, update segments, and the lifetime pass I’ll get to carry, the equity I gave away is tiny in comparison.”
Pork rinds, anyone? Don’t worry, they’re vegan, and they’re unbelievably healthy for something akin to a pork rind (only 90 calories per bag). Cuban was sold. When asked about his vegan investment streak, he told VegNews, “I like to invest in products that are healthy and that I would eat, because I love how they taste. I’m a vegetarian and all these products fit that description. Healthy and really, really tasty!” Founder Sam Kobolsy received $250,000 in exchange for five percent equity and five percent advisory shares.
7 Umaro Foods
This Berkeley-based California food tech startup decided to tackle one of the most pressing challenges in the industry: perfecting vegan bacon. The brand appeared on Shark Tank in April 2022 and secured a whopping $1 million from Mark Cuban, luring the Shark in with its seaweed-based, super crispy plant-based bacon.
Since the show aired, Umaro has secured dozens of food service accounts across multiple states and key cities including San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Denver. Diners are enjoying Umaro bacon in exciting new applications that extend far beyond a side with their pancakes such as vegan bacon-egg-and-cheese and truly satisfying bacon bits on fully loaded salads.
8 Pan’s Mushroom Jerky
If omnivores can make jerky out of whatever animal they care to slaughter, vegans can certainly make jerky out of plants. This mushroom rendition sparked a feeding frenzy among the Sharks, and founder Michael Pan received multiple offers. After considering a dual venture with Lori Greiner and Blake Mycoskie, he decided to team up with Cuban who agreed to a smaller equity share. Pan walked away with $300,000 for 18 percent of the company. Since the show aired, Pan’s can be found in retailers nationwide including Kroger, Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods, and Foxtrot market.
This plant-based company makes overnight oats even easier. No prep required, just peel back the film and dig in. Prior to their appearance on Shark Tank, co-founders Ashley Thompson and Kat Thomas were working the farmers’ market circuit. After sealing a deal with Mark Cuban for $300,000 with 10 percent equity and an unlimited line of credit, MUSH has expanded into over 3,500 locations nationwide—including Whole Foods.
Thompson told VegNews, “Shark Tank set us on an incredible trajectory, and we wouldn’t trade the journey for anything. The show and Cuban certainly helped us get to where we are today! We are so grateful for the experience.”
10 Wanna Date?
It’s not a nut butter and not a jam—this sweet spread is in a silky smooth category all on its own. The thick, date-based spread was brought to the Sharks by young entrepreneur Melissa Bartow. Cuban melted for this healthy treat and offered $100,000 for 33 percent equity. Today, the range of products have expanded to include addictively good and surprisingly good-for-you Date Dough—date-based vegan cookie dough. It’s not meant to be baked (although you can). Because we all know cookie dough is the best part of baking.
DEUX makes cookie dough you can eat by the spoonful—and not get reprimanded for consuming raw batter. Not only are the flavors vegan, but they’re also “enhanced” with functional ingredients such as essential vitamins and minerals, pea protein, maca, and ashwagandha. The dough can be enjoyed straight from the container or baked into cookies, if you have the patience. Or, you can aim for the middle ground like us and microwave a generous scoop of DEUX in a mug for a warm, gooey, cookie dough treat. While flavors like Peanut Butter Cup, Brownie Batter, and Birthday Cake seem impossible to pass up, the Sharks ultimately did not bite, and founder Sabeena Ladha walked away without a deal.
That’s not stopping her, though. DEUX continues to crank out new products (hello, Enhanced Hazelnut Butter) well after the Shark Tank episode aired in 2021. “We saw really great sales and awareness after airing, but it was really our social marketing after the fact that put it over the top. After Shark Tank, we created viral TikToks and Instagrams about the episode and were able to not only tell our story more deeply, but broaden our reach and audience,” Ladha told VegNews.
Who wouldn’t throw money at a vegan bakery dedicated to massive, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls? Cinnaholic essentially combines Cinnabon with Coldstone—not only do you get a giant, gooey cinnamon roll, you’re encouraged to top it with over a dozen goodies. Cookie dough, peanut butter, fresh strawberries, crumbled brownies … you get the idea. Shark Robert Herjavec bought in at $200,000 for 40 percent of the company. That’s a pretty sweet deal. As of January 2023, the franchise boasts just over 70 locations across the US and Canada.
13 Wild Earth
Shark Tank’s vegan investments aren’t limited to human goods—vegan dogs benefit as well. Ryan Bethencourt, Wild Earth’s founder, stood up for our four-legged friends when he appeared on Shark Tank in 2019. Cuban came in, once again, with a generous offer. Bethencourt secured $550,000 for 10 percent of the company. Since the episode aired, Wild Earth has expanded its line of vegan dog products to include supplements for joint, digestion, and skin health.
Entrepreneurs and husband-and-wife team Alicia Long and Dane Turk appeared on the hit television show with their plant-based milk maker Nutr. They stood before the sharks hoping to secure a $500,000 investment in exchange for 5-percent equity. While guest shark Daniel Lubetzky was impressed by Nutr’s ability to easily create creamy, plant-based milks, he, along with the rest of the sharks, let Long and Turk walk away without a deal. Cuban noted his prior investment in Numilk, a direct competitor to Nutr, as his reason for not investing. Today, Nutr is focusing its efforts on upping its social media presence and has introduced bundled products to increase affordability and accessibility for its customer base.