What Happened To Wink Frozen Desserts From Shark Tank

Wink Frozen Desserts co-founder Gabe Wolff loved sweet treats as a kid. As he told Little Word Bites, "I [grew up] on a steady diet of Milanos and Oreos." But by the age of 17, he had been diagnosed with Celiac disease and a dairy intolerance. While attending college in Quebec, he was frustrated with his lack of frozen dessert options. "I thought, there has to be a better way to do this."

Wolff started experimenting on his own, using a Mexican restaurant's basement as his base of operations. In a Reddit IAmA, the Wink team talked about the formula initially using Splenda, which Wolff changed to a stevia-slash-monk sugar combo. But in his desire to keep the fat and sugar low, he ran into issues getting the texture right. "The main obstacle that I had to overcome was the fact that sugar acts as an anti-freeze in fat-free ice creams, he said. "Without fat, sugar keeps water molecules separated, to prevent ice from forming."

Wolff and co-founder Ani Blinova got Wink into Whole Foods and other smaller stores. However, they needed more money to expand their reach to other retailers. They turned to "Shark Tank," hoping to make a deal. Despite the sharks' initial excitement about the product — especially the lactose-intolerant Mark Cuban — none of them liked the taste. Fans may remember Robert Herjavec and Cuban visibly wincing after trying it. The always outspoken "Mr. Wonderful" had no trouble telling them he thought it was "taste-free."

The sharks thought Wink Frozen Desserts was tasteless

Gabe Wolff and Ani Blinova appeared in Season 7 of "Shark Tank" in 2015, seeking $300,000 for 15% of their company, Wink Frozen Desserts. The dairy-free, fat-free, and sugar-free frozen dessert was also free of the top eight allergens and only 100 calories per pint. Wolff and Blinova were proud of their product, which they said was made with natural ingredients.

The dessert came in six varieties: cake batter, cocoa dough, cinnamon bun, iced latte, choco-mint, and vanilla bean. None of the sharks were impressed with the flavor, calling it bland and tasteless. Kevin O'Leary pointed out that even if the frozen desserts had 200 calories, that would be 50% less than consumers get from most grocery store pints with milkfat and more flavor. Wolff admitted that O'Leary was correct, but the founder was reluctant to add fat and sugar to the product.

The sharks initially looked impressed with the $534,000 Wink had made until they were informed that it was over three years. Barbara Corcoran dropped out first, saying the business didn't have enough profits. Next were Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Lori Grenier, who didn't love the product. O'Leary went as far as to say it "taste[d] like crap," and they should've improved the taste. He went out, too, and the entrepreneurs left without a deal.

Wink's founders have lofty goals

"We're super disappointed that they didn't like it. We really wanted them to enjoy the product," Ani Blinova said in the "Shark Tank" post-pitch interview. "We really could use the money right now to step on the gas," Gabe Wolff agreed. Despite the lack of a deal, the partners kept going on Wink Frozen Desserts even though they knew it would be more challenging with the funds.

Blinova and Wolff knew they had a niche product and not everyone would like Wink. They also knew those expecting it to taste like ice cream, which it wasn't, would have a harder time accepting the taste. "We find the dairy-free, sugar-sensitive individuals who want a sweet treat and focus a fair amount of our attention on them," Wolff said. "Our online customer is a mixture of all of the above – the diabetics, the dairy-free, the allergy-conscious" (via New Hope Network).

Despite the potentially limited appeal, Wink added more flavors, such as pumpkin pie latte, lemon cake, and salted caramel. It was active on Twitter and Instagram, posting photos of Wink in recipes and promoting giveaways. Wolff had a positive outlook, which included expanding Wink's product line and creating more allergy-friendly items under the Wink brand. He wanted to bring Wink to more countries and collaborate with other companies on future products. He also hoped he and co-founder Blinova, who had gotten married, could find time for their honeymoon.

Wink went out of business

By January 2020, Gabe Wolff and Ani Blinova had departed from Wink. The company made a final Twitter post on December 3, 2019. It's unclear why Wink shut down, but it had vocal detractors. In 2019, someone created a Facebook page called Wink Frozen Desserts Reviews. The site claimed that the company deleted bad reviews and blocked users on Yelp, where it had an average rating of 1.5 stars. When a Reddit user asked for opinions about Wink, most of the reviews were negative. "I tried it, and I think it's terrible. The texture isn't close to anything like ice cream or gelato, it's surprisingly chalky, and [has] a weird flavor," one person wrote. In a different Reddit thread, a user said of Wink's strawberry cheesecake flavor, "It basically tastes like a popsicle that was melted, frozen, melted again, blended and then frozen with a sprinkle of strawberry flavoring."

A commenter complained on a Go Dairy Free post, "Things started to go south ... when Wink changed their formula to replace xanthan gum with flaxseeds and locust bean gum." The formula did change at some point. It contained the food thickener and stabilizer xanthan gum in 2014, per the Stamford Advocate, but an ingredient list from an unspecified year showed flaxseed and locust bean gum. While locust bean gum is considered better at suppressing ice crystal formation in ice cream than xanthan gum, not everyone is a fan. The Go Dair free commenter thought Wink's formula change ruined the texture.

The founders have moved on with different careers

As of March 2024, Wink Frozen Desserts' Twitter page is still up, but its Instagram and Facebook pages have disappeared. Wink's website still shows pictures of its frozen dessert pints. Still, current site owner Katia Pavlishchev has repurposed it as "a community for anyone who loves to enjoy and explore all things sweet." Wink has very little presence on Gabe Wolff and Ani Blinova's social media accounts.

The Wink founders have moved on to different business ventures. Blinova, who now goes by Blinova-Wolff, is still an entrepreneur. According to her LinkedIn page, she created the event and luxury wedding planning business, Ani Wolff Weddings, in 2017. By 2019, it had expanded and changed its name to Ani Wolff Weddings & Wellness. Gabe, on the other hand, has moved away from entrepreneurship. According to his LinkedIn page, He worked for Kinetic Brands for two years and has been a managing partner and growth operator for the marketing company Everything Bagel since January 2022.