Details About Toast-It From Shark Tank

We've seen it all when it comes to food products on "Shark Tank." There's been mushroom jerky, pizza cupcakes, and eggless frozen cookie dough, just to name a few. In the new season of "Shark Tank," we are about to see even more entrepreneurs give it their all in front of the sharks to try to strike a deal. One new contender on Season 15 is Toast-It, a food company founded in 2019 that offers frozen aisle, toaster-friendly versions of South American arepas. 

There are several variations of classic arepas, but they are usually fried up to order, which means you can't always get one when the craving hits, especially if you're at home. Maria Fernanda Römer Cabezas and Maria Corina Vieteis, the two sisters behind Toast-It, hail from Venezuela, which is one of the South American nations that lays claim to the origins of arepas, along with Colombia. Unlike traditional arepas, these premade corn flour breads can be frozen and heated in an air fryer, toaster, or regular oven, making for a convenient snack. 

The story behind Toast-It

Arepas are a staple food in Venezuela, and can be eaten at any time of day. They're typically prepared with either savory ingredients like cheese, but there are also ones with sweet fillings, also known as arepas dulces. Like many immigrants, the sisters who founded Toast-It in 2019 missed the flavors of their home country, specifically arepas. But without the same culinary traditions around them and less time in their new lives, they found it difficult to replicate those meals conveniently. So they sought to find a way they could make the time-consuming arepas ahead of time and just pop them in the toaster when they got a craving. 

The sisters took inspiration from their mother's original arepas recipe, and once they perfected their version, they started selling these ready-to-toast arepas, cooking and packaging each box in their own residential kitchen. Latinx folks and gringoes alike loved being able to have arepas at a moment's notice. One review on the original recipe reads, "The best guilt-free but delicious arepas out there! They go well with everything and you can eat them all day, for breakfast, lunch or dinner." Toast-It experienced a boom on its own website before securing a deal with Walmart last year through its Open Call program. 

Toast-It provides more than basic corn arepas

While convenience is perhaps the biggest selling factor for Toast-It, the brand also boasts an impressive yet minimalist list of ingredients. Fresh arepas are typically made with only a few ingredients such as corn flour (specifically masa arepa), oil, salt, and water. Toast-It offers its take on this style in their original recipe which is made from water, white corn meal, Himalayan pink salt, and extra virgin olive oil. But they also offer versions made from cassava, also known as yuca, as well as a nontraditional chia and flaxseed blend. 

Cassava is a South American drought-tolerant root vegetable and has long since been used in Venezuelan cuisine, including in arepas. Toast-It's cassava arepas still use white cornmeal, but the major difference is that the cassava version has five grams of protein while the original has only two. If you're looking to incorporate more protein into your diet, this would be a good choice. Chia and flaxseed are not traditional choices for arepas, but according to Toast-It's packaging, provide four grams of dietary fiber as well as slightly more calcium and iron, making this version ideal for those who want a bit of a nutritional boost. 

What happened to Toast-It on Shark Tank

In Season 15, Episode 2 of "Shark Tank," Venezuelan-born sisters Maria Fernanda Römer Cabezas and Maria Corina Vieteis brought their product to the Sharks, describing the Toast-It line as better-for-you, authentic-tasting South American snacks. The company's founders sought $100,000 for 5% equity in their business. 

After sampling the arepas, it was clear all of the judges were impressed with the flavor. Though the consensus was that the product was great, Lori Greiner, Daymond John, and Marc Cuban opted out of investing, saying it wasn't the right product for them. However, Kevin O'Leary loved the yuca-based arepa, noting that it didn't spike his glucose levels like other bread products. Nevertheless, he estimated the company's valuation was too high and offered the duo $100,000 for 20%. Citing the slim margins, guest Shark Daniel Lubetzky, founder and chairman of Kind Snacks, said he would only offer the same deal. He advised that they needed to decide if they would rather swim with a Shark or be eaten by one (O'Leary). Cebezas and Veiteis countered again, asking them to reconsider $150,000 for 15% equity. O'Leary held firm, but Lubetzky agreed on $150,000 for 20%. After brief deliberations, the sisters decided to take the deal and brought Lubetzky on as a partner. 

Toast-Its' product line is already expanding

While arepas are a keystone of South American (and specifically Venezuelan) cuisine, they're neither where it begins nor ends. The same is true for Toast-It, which has already started to expand its product line. The newest addition to the brand's line is pandebono, also known as Colombian cheese bread. Toast-Its version is made with cassava, tapioca, white cheese, and Himalayan pink salt. Most notably, this recipe does not use sugar, but stevia instead. These can be prepared either in an air fryer or toaster oven for a quick snack. Unfortunately, Toast-Its pandebono is only available for purchase in stores and not for delivery from the company's website. This may be due to shipping costs associated with refrigerated dairy products. 

The next product in Toast-Its lineup will be plantain buñuelos, which have yet to be released. Buñuelos is a title applied to many different foods across Spain, Latin America, and Mexico, but the ones by Toast-Its are sort of like cheesy plantain donut holes. According to the website, the recipe was inspired by the founders' abuela. Because these ready-made snacks also contain cheese, it's likely they'll only be sold in brick-and-mortar grocery stores, not through the Toast-It website.

Where can I buy Toast-It products?

Toast-It started out as a direct-to-consumer online company, and interested shoppers can still place orders through the Toast-It website. All three of the original arepas are available in six-packs (30 arepas in total), with the original and cassava recipes listed for $49.99 and the chia and flaxseed arepas for $55.99. The company is also currently offering a variety pack called the "Shark Tank Bundle," which has two packs of each arepa variety (aka 30 arepas per type) for $55.99. The site currently only offers free shipping on orders over $25.00 within the state of Florida. 

You can also find Toast-It at several major retailers such as Publix, Walmart, Whole Foods, Winn Dixie, and many more. Be sure to check out the international foods frozen aisle for the company's arepas, pandebonos, and soon, plantain buñuelos. While the majority of the locations that carry the products are located in the Southeast, it's likely that exposure from "Shark Tank" will make these convenient Latin American snacks more widely available across the US.