What Happened To Off The Cob Chips After Shark Tank?

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Tortilla chips are a salty snack that really tests self-control. Sure, we might never agree to eat 12 corn tortillas on their own, but if you cut them into triangles, fry them, and sprinkle a little salt on top, we'll go through the whole bag. What if using better corn made the already delicious tortilla chip even better? That's what Cameron Sheldrake, farmer and entrepreneur, asked. One of the crops grown on his Ithaca-based, family-owned farm was sweet corn, the yellow and white checkered cobs you see at farm stands during the summer months. With excess corn during the harvest going to waste, Sheldrake decided to invent a new kind of tortilla chip branded Off the Cob Tortilla Chips. 

While most corn chips are made from grain corn, a starchier, less sweet variety, Sheldrake's used only fresh-picked sweet corn, which makes for what he described as a chip with less starch and more natural, better-tasting flavors. In 2012, Sheldrake launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $15,000 as his initial phase of funding. With the success of the campaign, Sheldrake went looking for additional capital for a massive distribution launch, which brought him to "Shark Tank" in 2014. 

What happened to Off the Cob on Shark Tank?

In Season 6, Episode 10, Cameron Sheldrake pitched the "Shark Tank" panel, asking for $100,000 for a 15% stake in Off the Cob. Sheldrake demonstrated the differences in the two corn types, grain and sweet, explaining why his fresh sweet corn made for better chips before offering the Sharks a bag and some salsa. He stated that he'd managed the impressive feat of getting the chips into several Whole Foods and Wegmans stores. Guest judge Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro cameras, was the first to say that he loved the packaging and the name of the company. Lori Greiner said she thought the chips were especially good, though she said she doesn't typically eat tortilla chips. 

When asked how much money he had made, Sheldrake said he'd earned $45,000 after being in business for 13 months and still had yet to turn a profit. The margins were also shocking to the Sharks. Most companies use grain corn because its flour costs just cents per pound, while Sheldrake revealed he was purchasing sweet corn flour at $5.50 per pound. Kevin O'Leary dropped out quickly, stating that the flavor difference wasn't enough to justify the cost of using sweet corn. The other panelists, including Marc Cuban and Daymond John, also opted out, leaving Sheldrake to walk away from the Tank without a deal. 

Off the Cob after Shark Tank

 A company's story rarely ends with "Shark Tank," even when there's no deal. The publicity for a product can often spur new sales and catch the attention of investors. Thankfully, this was the case for Off the Cob. In a 2017 interview with Local SYR, Sheldrake said that after the episode aired, he saw a massive spike in orders. "Our business doubled in two weeks," he said, explaining that the order spike depleted Off the Cob's stock for two months. He also revealed that the company's annual revenue was six times what it was at the time of the "Shark Tank" airing. 

In a 2018 post on Instagram, the people behind Off the Cob stated that the "Shark Tank" boom had been overwhelming, but they managed. "We had just enough money to fill the orders and stretched each dollar as far as it could go." Local SYR also reported that, as of the article's publish date, Off the Cob tortilla chips could be found in over 300 grocery stores and were available to purchase directly from the company's website. By all accounts, Off the Cob seemed to be a success story more than three years after its "Shark Tank" appearance. 

Why did Off the Cob go out of business?

Even businesses with a ton of momentum and a solid product can still be brought down, and sadly, as of 2023, Off the Cob is no more. The company's official website has been taken down, grocery stores no longer stock the chips, and Off the Cob products are listed as "currently unavailable" on Amazon.

No official reason for the company's closure has been released to the public, but it seems likely that the massive costs of fresh, organic sweet corn became too much to manage. This can often happen when entrepreneurs/farmers make a by-product from excess crops, as Sheldrake did with Off the Cob. Consequently, they must find more external inventory from other growers at a significant markup. Also, Off the Cob used fresh-shucked sweet corn, which may have come with unusual preservation, processing, and manufacturing needs that forced the price too high. Ultimately, many consider tortilla chips nothing more than affordable vehicles for salsa and guacamole and found the steep price of Off the Cob hard to justify. 

On his LinkedIn profile, Sheldrake still lists himself as the president of Sweet Corn Tortilla Chips, Inc., and hasn't reported any other employment updates. However, we know that Sheldrake started the company to support his family-owned farm in Ithaca, New York, so he may have returned to farming full-time.