What Happened To Ka-Pop! After Shark Tank?

With an impressive portfolio and work history at snack food giants Kellogg's and General Mills, Dustin Finkel already had plenty going for him when he launched his first-ever startup Ka-Pop!, a line of healthified, savory, air-puffed sorghum chips. Sorghum is an ancient grain, much like quinoa. Unlike wheat or rice, ancient grains haven't been modified or hybridized over time, meaning they're practically identical to the seeds used hundreds of years ago. As a result, ancient grains like sorghum tend to contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than modified grains, making for a more nutritional snack than puffed corn or rice.

Over the many seasons of "Shark Tank," viewers have seen dozens of healthified snack foods, from Cave Shake's paleo-compliant milkshakes to Me & the Bees' flaxseed lemonade, so it can be difficult for new businesses to make an impression on the Sharks — let alone in the saturated market of the grocery store aisle. But that didn't stop Finkel from shooting his shot on Season 11, Episode 12 of the show.

What happened to Ka-Pop! on Shark Tank?

Upon entering the Tank, Finkel removed his suit jacket to reveal a Ka-Pop!-branded superhero outfit, which he used to defeat cartoonish characters labeled gluten, allergens, empty calories, and GMOs that descended from the ceiling. After this display, Finkel asked the Sharks for $350,000 for a 5% stake in his company. Finkel said of his snacks, "We are vegan, we are non-GMO, gluten-free, and allergen-free, but we are not taste-free."

Healthy snack alternatives can easily be bland or have a cardboard-like texture, but after Finkel passed out samples to the Sharks, it was clear this wasn't the case for Ka-Pop. Even the notoriously critical Kevin O'Leary said, "I've tried a lot of this GMO, no-carb yada yada — this is good." The other Sharks agreed, but sadly, great flavor wasn't enough to woo them, and they dropped out one by one.

Barbara Corcoran was the first to bow out, saying she didn't feel she could contribute enough to the business besides cash. Marc Cuban stated that he felt as though Finkel was over-selling them, which put him off. Lori Greiner and guest panelist Rohan Oza also withdrew. Despite liking Ka-Pop!, O'Leary thought the valuation was far too high for such a new product, which had just launched the year prior. O'Leary offered Finkel $350,000 for a 17.5% stake in the company, giving it a $2 million valuation. Finkel tried to negotiate but was unsuccessful and walked away without a deal.

Ka-Pop! after Shark Tank

In the world of "Shark Tank," entrepreneurs, of course, hope to seal a deal with one of the show's esteemed investors, but it's not always the kiss of death for a company to exit the Tank without a deal. Thankfully for Finkel, he found plenty of success after appearing on the show. Ka-Pop! saw huge growth following the episode's premiere. In an interview with National Sorghum Producers, Finkel described the experience as a "long-form Super Bowl commercial" and said the company sold more in the following nine days than in the entire previous year. Following this major success, Ka-Pop! found itself on the shelves of over 1,000 stores across the U.S.

When Ka-Pop! first launched, it offered just four flavors of puff chips: rosemary and garlic, salt and vinegar, olive oil and sea salt, and vegan cheddar. Eventually, though, it updated its line to include sorghum-based puffs and rings, which seem to be healthified versions of Cheetos Puffs and Funyuns, respectively. Not only did the company expand its product types, but it also expanded its flavors. Ka-Pop! now produces sweet offerings like cinnamon churro and sweet and salty kettle puffs, additional savory options like BBQ and dill pickle, and limited-edition flavors.

Is Ka-Pop! still in business?

Ka-Pop's success was anything but short-lived. It's still a thriving enterprise housed under Awakened Foods. This parent company manages several healthy snack alternatives like B.Fine Foods and Awakened Food Crafters, and for a few years, Finkel even served as the company's CEO. You can still purchase Ka-Pop! snacks through the brand's website (which even offers a subscription service), as well as hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores.

Notably, Ka-Pop's packaging and branding have drastically changed since Finkel appeared on "Shark Tank." Previously, the pop chips came in a parchment paper-style bag with a shimmering metallic logo. Now, the packaging seems to be aimed more toward children, as it features bright colors and playful graphics. The ingredients, however — aside from the expanded flavor range — have remained practically unchanged since the product launched. Every snack on the website has extremely positive reviews and high star ratings. Many customers even write that the brand's products are their go-to snacks, claiming that Ka-Pop! conforms with many dietary restrictions and actually tastes good.

What's next for Ka-Pop's founder?

With such a successful business in his portfolio, you might expect that Dustin Finkel has remained attached to Ka-Pop! all this time. In actuality, he announced his departure from the role of CEO for both Ka-Pop! and Awakened Foods in 2023. In a LinkedIn post, Finkel said this was the "hardest professional and personal journey" he had ever encountered, and that he had plenty of mixed emotions. He added, however, that he would remain a board member and took heart in being Ka-Pop's founder.

After stepping away from Ka-Pop!, Finkel has continued to work as an investment and business consultant, as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado. He also seems to have briefly worked as the CEO of Tender Belly, a company that produces antibiotic-free and vegetarian-fed pork products. This seems to have only lasted a few months, though Tender Belly is still a fully operational business. Perhaps Finkel will come up with another equally successful better-for-you food in the coming years, but for now, it seems as though he's taking a break from the culinary realm.