Start-ups

Mark Cuban 'went vegetarian' and invested $250,000 in plant-based corned beef on 'Shark Tank'

ABC

Mark Cuban as the "poster child" for vegan corned beef?

That's what the billionaire Shark said on Sunday's episode of "Shark Tank" on ABC.

Some might be skeptical of low-fat, 100-calorie plant-based deli meat. But not Cuban, who recently became a vegetarian and has said he is on the lookout for things he can eat.

"This is really good," Cuban said after biting into a Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli Corned Beef sandwich from founder Jenny Goldfarb, who was pitching her plant-based cold cut company.

@unrealdeli on Instagram

"I came up with the recipe," Goldfarb said. The "corned beef" is made from beets, chickpeas, tomatoes and spice, according to the company's website.

"I became vegan five years ago. I ate meat my whole life, and then I started seeing videos of animal cruelty, documentaries, and it was so heartbreaking. I couldn't stand to continue to eat the way I was eating."

After buying "every vegan cookbook" that she could find and experimenting with recipes for her family, her food "started getting good."

"I realized, there are a lot of delicious burgers on the market in the plant-based world, but no authentic, classic deli meats," she said.

Goldfarb said she had her "meat" in half a dozen Los Angeles delis and had deals in place to put her product in 58 Whole Foods Markets and in chain restaurants. (According the company website, vendors in New York City, Boston and Washington D.C. are selling Unreal Corned Beef and Whole Foods Market stores in Southern California, Arizona and southern Nevada will start carrying Unreal in December.)

But Kevin O'Leary brought up the competition — presumably Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat — asking Goldfarb what would stop the "two very large," well-funded plant-based meat companies from taking her vegan deli meat idea.

The competition doesn't matter, said Goldfarb, "because I'm gonna start working with one of you and we're gonna bring this to market."

"Good answer!" said Cuban. (Cuban and Goldfarb also bonded over having grandfathers who emigrated from Romania to America.)

Cuban offered Goldfarb a deal: "I'll simplify everything. I love it. I went vegetarian. I'll make you an offer. I'll give you $250,000 for 20%.

"I'll be on the front page of it. I'll be the poster-child for it. We'll hustle. I don't mess around," Cuban said. 

Goldfarb accepted.

"Now that I have a deal with Mark, the future of Unreal Deli is extraordinary," Goldfarb said. "We thought we were doing great things before, just wait and see what's gonna come. This business is a cash-cow. We're making cash, and we're saving the cows."

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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