Details About Gatsby Chocolate From Shark Tank

Shark Tank is opening Season 15 with a strong foodie presence, featuring both canned wine to drink with pizza (Pie Wine) and Gatsby Chocolate, a low-calorie chocolate bar. Gatsby has been called the Halo Top of chocolate, and with good reason — that's how its inventor refers to it, not surprisingly, since the company was founded by Halo Top's co-founder, Doug Bouton. Bouton sold the high-performing, low-cal ice cream company in 2019 and then looked for the Next Big Thing. After taking a glance at the available options, Bouton and his colleagues realized there was a gaping hole the size of a halo in the chocolate business: No one was making low-calorie, tasty chocolate.

It seemed like a golden opportunity, especially given that the global market for chocolate is huge — even bigger than that for ice cream. Bouton decided to take the same approach he had used in manufacturing Halo Top and apply it to chocolate, providing consumers with a delicious alternative that has low fat and sugar. Bouton founded Gatsby in 2021 and got to work right away, seeking to perfect the new product and see if he could develop it along the same lines that had made his Halo Top so successful.

Gatsby uses special technology to make its low-calorie chocolate

Doug Bouton's focus was on making the chocolate extraordinary, insisting that the taste was what would retain customers. So, has he succeeded? The bars have earned high ratings on Walmart's website (all flavors of the bars are currently unavailable on Amazon) as well as rave reviews from Pop Sugar and others.

Gatsby integrates new technology to make its confections taste so much like higher-calorie versions. Bouton's Halo Top partner, Jason Woolverton, came up with the Halo Top recipe, utilizing alternative sweeteners and protein-laden ingredients to make a sweet and satisfying ice cream. Gatsby took a similar approach and teamed up with Epogee, a company with a vision of "a world where we can all choose foods that are delicious and better for us," to create a chocolate with fat-alternative technology, called EPG. The combination of EPG (which replicates the fat content) and allulose (an unusual form of sugar that is metabolized differently from glucose and other sugars) is what provides the candy's sweet taste. That dynamic duo gives the treat a great mouthfeel and the richness typical of traditional chocolate bars but with only half the calories and dramatically less sugar. To top it off, it comes in white, milk, and dark chocolate versions — all of which are gluten-free and keto-friendly.

Gatsby's founder loves the grind -- and the process

Doug Bouton's experience with start-ups and product development gave him a lot of insight into building a business model when he began with Gatsby. Halo Top's ice cream started with a recipe that partner Jason Woolverton had created in his own kitchen, and their success story surprised them both. Initially, they were convinced that their product would speak for itself, but as Bouton said in an interview with Forbes Magazine, they were "humbled quickly in that respect." 

When they turned to the business side of the equation, they faced a number of setbacks, as they made bad hiring decisions and faced challenges in building and leading their team. But in a relatively short period, Halo Top's sales increased exponentially — and a star was born. The business grew so quickly that it was hard to manage. But Bouton had never planned to stay with Halo Top forever and (as mentioned) he sold it in 2019.

He was eager to move on because he loves the initial phase of building a company. While he acknowledges the burdens of a heavy workload, he explained to Forbes, "My favorite days of startup life are the grind, the early days when it's just you and a small team. It's so intimate, it's so intense, but it's my absolute favorite." Bouton has learned to focus on the process rather than results, and he's a firm believer that the discipline it takes to stay in your lane is well worth the effort.

Not everyone is impressed by the innovation

You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and you arguably can't have low-cal innovation without some unusual ingredients. Not everyone is ready to ride the Gatsby Chocolate train. Some aren't sold on the chocolate's taste or mouth feel: Hurried Hostess found it off-putting, and Clay Gordon of The Chocolate Life published a very negative review of the stuff, refusing to even taste it while insisting that the product be called "chocolate-adjacent" because of its ingredients. Gordon also notes that the label uses the term "chocolate style" rather than "chocolate," which he presumes is a legal requirement given the presence of the fat-substitute technology used in creating the product, eliminating the need for the cocoa butter and sugar standard in the production of genuine chocolate.

In Gatsby Chocolate, allulose and EPG replace some of the more natural products familiar to cocoa-lovers, which makes it an alternative for those looking to reduce fat, calories, and sugar — but not for those seeking to avoid highly processed ingredients. All in all, though, Doug Bouton has big plans. While he hasn't disclosed specific details, he has said that Gatsby is planning to further expand its offerings, possibly including additional kinds of chocolate candy, desserts, and pastry.

What happened to Gatsby Chocolate on Shark Tank

Doug Bouton and his brother (and business partner) Ryan made a strong entrance when the pair pitched their tantalizing chocolate. Gatsby Chocolate immediately grabbed the attention and interest of the sharks because of its relatively low calories and sugar compared to most other chocolates, as well as Bouton's track record with Halo Top. 

The ask was for $500,000 for a 5% stake in the company with a pitch that included offering the sharks a sample of their product. After exchanging cost and profit margins and product sales, it became clear that Lori Greiner felt a connection to the product. However, she wanted to make some drastic changes to the product and packaging and to offer $250,000 of the requested $500,000 as a loan with a much larger stake in the company. At first, the Boutons were interested, but Doug Bouton balked and wanted to know what Mark Cuban would offer. Greiner seemed unhappy and it looked like everything was falling apart while the Boutons entertained an offer from Kevin O'Leary and Greiner walked to Cuban's side of the stage.

But all was not lost. Ultimately, Greiner and Cuban came up with an aggressive counteroffer. While it took another brief round of negotiations, Greiner and Cuban settled with the Boutons for $250,000, plus a $250,000 loan, for a 20% stake in the company that will increase to 30% at $10 million in sales and 40% at $50 million in sales.