What Happened To Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli After Shark Tank?

It's no secret that plant-based meat alternatives are on the rise, but there are still many bases to cover. Jenny Goldfarb noticed a gap in the market when it came to sandwich meat. Goldfarb's great-grandfather was a successful deli owner, and she had grown up in New York City, where she learned a deep appreciation for local bagels and sandwiches made from quality cured meats. When she moved to California, she was craving the flavors of her hometown. But Goldfarb had gone vegan in the meantime, and in 2018, she went on a mission to recreate the flavors of the meaty sandwiches she grew up with, using plant-based ingredients.

The first deli meat that she mastered was corned beef, which she experimented with at length until she got it just right. She incorporated beets, wheat, chickpeas, tomatoes, and a whole host of spices into the mix to pack it with flavor. After perfecting the recipe, Goldfarb pitched her product to a Los Angeles deli, and the restaurant promptly purchased 50 pounds. Shortly afterward, the plant-based deli company appeared on "Shark Tank," and even though the company was only a few months old, the Sharks had no problem envisioning potential growth.

What the Sharks thought of Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli

Jenny Goldfarb entered the "Shark Tank" with an impressive and innovative product, but not the highest sales numbers. The company was still very young and had done about $10,000 in sales. As Inc. explained on YouTube, Goldfarb's pitch was especially successful because she was able to back up her valuation and was not afraid to negotiate. The investors were rightfully concerned with the amount of competition from larger companies in the plant-based market, but Goldfarb explained that since she developed the recipe, she brought a lot of value to the table.

Despite the appeal to value, she was also willing to give up a massive slice. Goldfarb later told Female Startup Club, "I was willing to give up as much as 30% because you have to like have some wiggle room." But she didn't need that much wriggling. Mr. Wonderful immediately made an offer of $100,000 for 20%, which Goldfarb considered, but did not give an answer to right away. Mark Cuban was especially excited about this idea since he is vegetarian and invests in a lot of nutrition-conscious brands. As he often does, Cuban jumped in with an ultimatum, offering $250,000 for 20% or nothing, so it was "do or die." Goldfarb had previously stated that a Shark's dollar is worth five times more than a typical investor, so she joyfully took the deal and secured the company's spot as one of the best foods we've seen on "Shark Tank."

Unreal Deli expands despite the pandemic challenges

Mark Cuban invested in Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli in 2019, and the company saw great success, selling exclusively out of 175 restaurants and delis — until the pandemic hit. Unsurprisingly, sales were terrible during Covid, when getting deli sandwiches wasn't much of a thing. "We were plummeting to zero," Cuban told CNBC. "It was a disaster in the making there for a minute." With Cuban's help (to the tune of another half a million dollars), the company was able to recover and move into grocery stores with a couple of brand new products: Unreal Roasted Turk'y and Unreal Steak Slices. Despite the setbacks, the company was able to expand into 1,000 stores in 2020. 

Unreal Deli ended the pandemic year with annual revenues of $4 million. In 2020, Mark Cuban predicted that Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli would be a $50 million company in a few years. The company's next big move was creating pre-made sandwiches in 2021 for people on the go at airports, colleges, and grocery stores.  Unreal Deli's products expanded, becoming available in thousands of retail locations and restaurants, including Publix, Whole Foods, Quiznos, and Which Wich, and, later, in Costcos in Hawaii and California. By the end of 2022, company revenues were up to $40 million. Sounds like Cuban's predictions were on track — thanks, in part, to his support.

Where is Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli today?

The brand also decided to take advantage of the growing number of delivery apps and ghost kitchens to create the first vegan sub shop chain in partnership with Only Plant Based, a collaboration that the company announced in 2022. As of 2023, Unreal Deli has expanded into 400 Sprouts Markets across the country, securing a presence in yet another important national supermarket with a natural fan base. Unreal Deli has been rolling out its lineup across the country this year and plans to expand further.

Mrs. Goldfarb's plant-based meat sandwiches became available for delivery this spring in Austin, Denver, LA, NYC, and Raleigh. Unreal knows that picking fan favorites is a great place to start: It has shared recipes for meatless versions of turkey subs, Reubens, and Philly cheesesteaks — providing plant-based takes on the greatest sandwiches of all time. The deli meat that Jenny Goldfarb is hoping to develop next might add another sandwich to that lineup: she's set her sights on developing a vegan variety of ham.

Goldfarb notes that the enthusiasm for vegan alternatives may bring more flexitarians into the market for Unreal Deli's products, which is an important segment of its consumers. More and more Americans have included meatless options in their diets in recent years, whether or not they fully abstain from meat products — all of which point to a bright future for Unreal Deli.