Kevin O'Leary's Secret To A Successful Food Pitch On Shark Tank - Exclusive

After 15 years as an investor on "Shark Tank," Kevin O'Leary has had nearly everything you can imagine pitched to him, especially when it comes to food and cooking. "I've seen every single kitchen idea," he told Mashed recently in an exclusive interview. Mr. Wonderful, who's known for his affinity for cooking and eating well, opened up about his own culinary journey and the tools he turns to in the kitchen.

While he's seen a lot of products over the years meant to make cooking easier and more enjoyable, "very few of these kitchen gadgets do you use a second time," he admitted. For O'Leary himself, "the go-to things that [he uses] every day," he said, include his Japanese steel steak knives; specialty utensils, because he does "a lot of work with delicate foods," like caviar; and a zester (think about how many dishes benefit from a pop of lemon zest).

However, it's safe to say that most of the things that have come across his radar are quickly forgotten. "Once you get into your rhythm of cooking, you don't need new gadgets. You need to know what works," O'Leary said. And whether you're planning your own big idea to pitch or simply want to hone your couch investor skills while watching "Shark Tank," this begs the question of what exactly does catch his — and his wallet's — attention. Luckily, he explained to Mashed what makes for a good food pitch in today's market and what he's keeping in mind when considering what to invest in.

Mr. Wonderful says it's all about giving families what they want

At the end of the day, the "Shark Tank" investors are looking to make money, which means they're seeking out products that will have the broadest appeal. And when it comes to the food and kitchen category, the biggest demographic, above all else, is households. Kevin O'Leary told Mashed that the best food pitches on "Shark Tank" are for products that are developed and marketed with that in mind: "I always say to the people that do this, think about a family — how busy they are and how the day is chewed up with the kids going to school or soccer practice or whatever." 

So any product — whether it's a cooking tool, food item, pre-made meal, or otherwise — that makes it easier for families to whip up meals "in 30 minutes, 20 minutes, whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner," is going to garner the most interest from the investors. Specifically, O'Leary said that when pitching edible products, "the basic dishes that are getting a lot of attention are recipes that can be made quickly or are already frozen."

Healthy foods are key

On top of that, health matters more than ever to families when deciding how to stock their kitchens. While he's the first to acknowledge that "there's nothing wrong with a little sin food, a crazy dessert, a key lime pie," that's not where the money is. "The stuff that really flies on 'Shark Tank' is our food preparations that have three basic things: less cane sugar, less sodium, less gluten," O'Leary explained.

Mr. Wonderful said that more than any other category, healthy and delicious snack food is a surefire way to get noticed. "Snacking with healthier options now is a multi-billion-dollar industry," he said. Those types of products "are getting tremendous traction in a lot of deals because that's where people want to go," he explained. "... That's what I'm looking for."

Follow the latest from Chef Wonderful on Instagram, and catch episodes of "Shark Tank" on Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on ABC.