The food industry is freakin' tough, what with low profit margins, perishable products, competition from me-too companies, and food safety and ethics scandals. Kudos to those who try and especially to those who are succeeding, like those gutsy contestants on ABC television's Shark Tank. The 2015 and 2014 Emmy-winning show features sharks — tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons — who decide whether to invest in people's lifelong hopes and dreams. Contestants present business ideas to the sharks, who either invest or pass. Many of those business plans are based on new food products, and some of those edible ideas are downright awesome. We selected the nine best foods that won the confidence (and a lot of money) of at least one investor.
Now in its eighth season, six sharks decide the fates of business hopefuls as they pitch their big plans. Read reviews, see photos, and watch full episodes on TV Guide. These are some plucky people. And we can taste their dreams.
The Cookie Dough Café | Buy Now
When you're baking cookies, you're tempted. Some of you risk it. Children and pregnant women shouldn't risk it. But what if there was edible cookie dough that you can enjoy without the risk of salmonella poisoning? Inventors Joan Pacetti and Julia Schmidmade have made this dream dangerously easy. Now, especially with the help of the Shark Tank investors, the duo can create and sell Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Chip, and The Monster flavors. Don't bake it. Just dig right in with a spoon. We chose the first one because it's nut-free (Monster has peanut butter) and it's not as common as chocolate chip, which you can buy somewhere else more easily. Each container is 1 pound of cookie dough, and an order comes with eight containers. Think of the slumber party you could have with that amount! Buy them as party favors, gifts, or just keep them for an indulgence to last all winter long when you need your Netflix-and-cookie-dough binges. Buy Now.
Three Jerks Jerky | Buy Now
This company makes the filet mignon of jerky … literally. It's beef jerky upgraded —every piece is made from pure filet mignon meat. So instead of being tough and chewy (which is what we love about jerky, but anyway) , this gives the jerky a tender, buttery texture (however, we do love buttery). Friends and only occasional jerks Jordan Barrocas and Daniel Fogelson created the jerky they call an aristocrat among plebians. Those lowly jerkies are made from top or bottom round beef at best, which is the most overworked muscle in the cow so it's super tough and flavorless. This filet mignon jerky is marinated, spiced and packaged in California. It has no nitrates, gluten, or preservatives. Buy Now.
ABS Protein Pancakes |Buy Now
Hot abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym, is an axiom widely known among fitness experts. No matter how many crunches you do, your growing abdominal muscles won't show through that layer of fat if you have a bad diet. To combat this bummer, the fitness industry keeps providing ever-more palatable solutions. Created by fitness trainer Ashley Drummonds, ABS Protein Pancakes and Waffle Mix is a healthy alternative to traditional breakfast pancakes and waffles. One stack of four pancakes is less than 250 calories, is low sugar with 4 net carbs, gluten-free, and has 24 grams of protein from casein, whey protein, and milk protein. The natural flavoring extracts include non-GMO rice powder, guar gum, stevia, soy lecithin, and organic coconut. One bag of ABS Protein Pancakes is 10 servings, which will make about 40 pancakes. You can get vanilla cake batter, chocolate chip, and cinnamon swirl. Note that the batter comes out thicker than regular pancakes, and we recommend adding nuts and berries to the vanilla batter. Drummonds says ABS stands for Authentic Beauty and Strength. And you know, abs. Buy Now.
Brazi Bites | Buy Now
They're like Brazil's version of cheesy poofs — but better than any American version. Originally called pão de queijo, founder and CEO Junea Rocha and her husband, Cameron MacMullin, took one of Brazil's favorite snacks that is naturally gluten-free because it's made with tapioca flour, and made it easy to enjoy and accessible to the North American masses by providing a bag of seven servings, frozen. Get a case of 12 bags of the nitrate-free bacon flavor, which is 84 servings, enough for a massive party and some for the freezer. Brazi Bites make great sides to soup, salad, chili, and stews, as well as gluten-free slider buns, pigs in blanket, and bread bowls for spinach and artichoke dip. They're fluffy, cheesy, and bready — be still my heart. Buy Now.
Squirrel Nut Butter | Buy Now
College undergrads and best friends Erika Welsh and Keeley Tillotson were consuming peanut butter by the jarful when the idea hatched to make their own flavored versions. Their line of nature peanut butters comes in flavors like honey pretzel, cinnamon raisin, and chocolate coconut. Note that it's not like Nutella: peanut butter is the predominate taste, with backnotes of the other flavors. The product contains no unnecessary sugars, preservatives, or oils. (Do not confuse this with Squirrel's Nut Butter, a natural anti-chafe and restorative salve.) Spread these peanut butters on toast, crackers, celery, in baked goods, in smoothies, or just eat it from the spoon like we know you want to. Buy Now.
Bee Free Honee | Buy Now
Hey, you know what would go great with some Squirrel Nut Butter? This bottle of liquid sweetness made from certified organic apples grown in Michigan. Vegans, young children, people with honey allergies, and those with compromised immune systems (who can't have honey because of botulism risk) can now rejoice. Bee Free Honee is a 100-percent plant-based, sustainable honey alternative made from apples, lemon juice, and cane sugar. Katie Sanchez founded the company in 1999. Growing up in Minnesota, her family had an apple orchard and her father was a bee keeper. Brand developer Melissa Elms became co-owner when they met at a trade show in 2013. All the apples are grown in Michigan. Buy Now.
Chapul | Buy Now
Pat Crowley is the founder of an energy bar made with a sustainable source of protein — crickets. The crickets are ground down into an FDA-approved flour, so there are no crunchy legs or antennae. Sure, there are other ingredients like organic dates, cocoa powder, flaxseed, organic raw honey, nuts, cayenne, and coffee. Each bar contains twice as much protein as a bar made from other protein sources of a comparable size. You also get the equivalent of vitamin B12 that you'd get from salmon, more iron than spinach provides, and many more essential nutrients. Because crickets only require 8 percent of the water and feed that cows do to make equivalent amounts of protein, crickets are an eco-conscious choice. Compare the four flavors with a sampler pack of 12 bars, three of each: Aztec with dark chocolate; Coffee & Cayenne; Chaco with its blend of peanut butter and chocolate; Thai and its mix of coconut, ginger, and lime; and matcha, which has a blast of tea, goji, and nori. Buy Now.
Pipcorn | Buy Now
Here's a popcorn product that's smaller and easier to digest than regular popcorn. It's great for people with irritable bowel syndrome or anyone with dietary restrictions: it's gluten-free, vegan, and whole grain. Chosen as one of Oprah's "Favorite Things" in 2012 and 2013, the mini kernels have delicate shells, making them much easier on your teeth. Pipcorn is popped in small batches by brother and sister team Jen and Jeff Martin. Pipcorn comes in flavors such as truffle, rosemary, and sea salt. We recommend the slightly sweet kettle corn flavor. Buy Now.
Daisy Cakes | Buy Now
Each cake is handmade and shipped anywhere in the United States in a special tin that keeps it moist and fresh until you've enjoyed every bite. Founder Kim Adams Nelson named her cake bakery and nationwide delivery service after her great aunt Daisy. She learned to bake from her and both her grandmothers. Shark investor Barbara Corcoran called the business her "greatest investment." Order a cake at the I Love Daisy Cakes site or you can get the hardcover cookbook and learn her secrets to such moist, dreamy cakes. The book, Daisy Cakes: Share a Slice of Love, has more than 40 recipes, each with a full-page photo. She also shares some baking tips and instructions on kitchen baking equipment. Buy Now.
— Head Image: Twitter
Amy Sowder is a New York City-based food and fitness writer who's also on Chowhound's editorial staff. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Ice cream is a strong motivation for her running habit. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.