Marvin Montague, Meat The Mushroom

"I like to let the mushroom show me the way," Meat The Mushroom co-founder Marvin Montague tells Green Matters.

Bianca Piazza - Author

Mar. 14 2024, Published 3:27 p.m. ET

Marvin and Aleah Rae Montague smile as they present their vegan mushroom on ABC's 'Shark Tank.'
Source: Disney/Christopher Willard

Meat The Mushroom co-founders Marvin and Aleah Rae Montague on ABC's 'Shark Tank.'

Baltimore-based husband-and-wife duo Marvin and Aleah Rae Montague arrived in the Shark Tank seeking $150,000 for 7.5 percent stake in their plant-based bacon company, Meat The Mushroom. And when the skeptical sharks sunk their serrated teeth into the king oyster mushroom product, Shroomacon, they were pleasantly surprised.

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With just five recognizable ingredients — mushrooms, olive oil, natural smoke flavor, salt, and black pepper — Shroomacon is a healthy bacon alternative free of cholesterol, saturated fat, nitrates, and gluten.

Plus, as Marvin Montague exclusively tells Green Matters, mushrooms are "one of the most sustainable ingredients." According to the American Mushroom Institute, the mushroom growing process makes the versatile fungi one of the most sustainable foods in the U.S.

Product image of Meat The Mushroom's plant-based SHROOMACON on a wooden surface
Source: Courtesy of Meat The Mushroom
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In an exclusive interview with Green Matters, Marvin Montegue discussed Shroomacon, the (non-psychedelic) abilities of mushrooms, the magic of plant-based eating, and "the Shark Tank effect."

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Meat The Mushroom co-founder Marvin Montegue scored an impressive deal on 'Shark Tank.'

On Season 15, Episode 12 of Shark Tank, which aired in January 2024, Marvin and Aleah Rae Montague secured a $150,000 investment from sharks Lori Greiner and Kevin O'Leary, which gave said sharks a 33.3 percent stake in Meat The Mushroom.

"Everything hasn't been finalized just yet," Marvin Montague tells us over Zoom. "But the little time that we have talked to them and worked with them, they've been nothing but nice and great people."

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Meat The Mushroom co-founders Marvin and Aleah Rae Montague standing in front of panel on ABC's 'Shark Tank'
Source: ABC

GREEN MATTERS: Can you tell us about your personal veganism journey?

MARVIN MONTAGUE: I went vegan almost nine years ago, for spiritual reasons. After a few months, my asthma went away. But also, I had a heart condition. It wasn't a huge problem at the time, but my doctor had said it could become an issue.

But a year after going vegan, I went back to that same doctor who initially told me I would have the heart problem for the rest of my life. During the checkup, he looked for the heart condition, and it was gone. I started doing research and found that the right plant-based diet can heal heart disease.

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GM: You originally planned on opening a plant-based restaurant, pivoting to a product instead. Can you tell us about Meat The Mushroom’s journey?

MM: I was creating a menu for a potential vegan restaurant in my neighborhood and I didn't want to use soy and other processed ingredients found at some vegan restaurants to create a meat alternative. I started to experiment with mushrooms, trying to think outside the box, using some techniques usually used on meat. When I first tried to make a vegan chicken, I cut the mushroom up into chunks. It came out tasting like bacon, like pork fat. So I said, "What if I slice it thin, crisp it up?"

Shroomacon was strong enough so that it could not only help my neighborhood with a restaurant, but it could help the world.

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GM: Shroomacon claims to be “the only bacon alternative not made in a mold.” Why was that important to you?

MM: Most products that are made in a mold are highly processed and use chemicals and binders. Our product contains only five all natural ingredients. We wanted to make sure our product not only tastes like meat, but that it was healthier than meat.

GM: What has business been like since appearing on Shark Tank?

MM: The Shark Tank effect is real. Leading up to Shark Tank, we were probably doing about $40,000 to $50,000 a month in sales. The morning after our episode, I think I woke up and we made $60,000 in just 12 hours. We've seen sales increase and sustain since the show.

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GM: Aside from being clean and plant-based, how does Meat The Mushroom prioritize sustainability?

MM: We have clean ingredients, many right here in Baltimore, but we do want to eventually use less plastic. In the future, we're going to try to make the product as sustainable as we can. We're already using one of the most sustainable ingredients, which is mushrooms. They're shaping up to be the the future, not just in relation to food, but people are making leather, shoes, and packaging out of mushrooms.

GM: What’s next for Meat The Mushroom?

MM: Right now we're trying to get Shroomacon into more grocery stores and restaurants. But bacon bits might be coming, we might stay in the breakfast category with sausage.

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