It's been two years since Deborah Torres turned down a $1 million dollar offer for her vegan chicken on Shark Tank. But despite that, her Black-owned, woman-owned business Atlas Monroe's plant-based fried chicken has become a cult favorite amongst vegans and non-vegans alike over the past four years.
In fact, the previously direct-to-consumer, online-only company is about to debut in grocery stores, Torres tells Green Matters exclusively.
Keep reading to find out how you can buy Atlas Monroe's incredible vegan fried chicken, to learn more about the company's Shark Tank appearance, and for why Deborah Torres feels a responsibility to protect the Black community, as well as the animals and the environment, with her food.
Atlas Monroe's vegan fried chicken is made of all plant-based ingredients.
Atlas Monroe’s vegan fried chicken recipe is top secret, but it is made with a base of seitan, aka vital wheat gluten. The chicken is flavorful, crispy, and has just the right amount of kick. A six-piece order of Vegan Extra Crispy Fried Chick’n from the website costs $22.99, plus priority shipping (which costs $18.49).
In addition, Atlas Monroe makes Vegan Extra Crispy Fried Chick’n Popcorn Pieces, a Vegan Deep Fried N’ Stuffed Turkey, Vegan Cured Bacon, Vegan Apple Wood Fried Ribs, Extra Crispy Fried Chick’n Strips, Smoked Ground Philly Cheesesteak “Beef,” and various homemade dipping sauces.
‘Shark Tank’ just reaired the episode featuring vegan fried chicken company, Atlas Monroe.
In mid-August 2021, CNBC reaired the episode of Shark Tank featuring Atlas Monroe. Deborah Torres founded the company in California in 2017, and the business quickly began to grow. Even more impressive than getting on Shark Tank is possibly Atlas Monroe’s appearance at the 2018 National Fried Chicken Festival, where one judge crowned Atlas Monroe’s chicken — the only plant-based one there — the best of the fest.
In October 2019, Torres appeared on Shark Tank (along with her co-founder, who is no longer involved in the company) asking the sharks for a $500,000 investment in Atlas Monroe in exchange for a 10 percent stake. Mark Cuban and guest shark Rohan Oza actually made a joint $1 million offer — but they wanted to buy 100 percent of the company, with Torres receiving 10 percent in royalties going forward.
Though it’s hard to say no to $1 million, Torres turned it down. “The fact you guys are even offering a million dollars lets me know you do understand what we are worth,” Deborah Torres told the sharks, as per VegNews.
Atlas Monroe is finally heading to grocery stores.
And now, nearly two years later, it’s clear that Atlas Monroe has done just fine without Cuban and Oza’s cash. As Torres tells Green Matters, Atlas Monroe's vegan fried chicken is set to debut in Bristol Farms, a California-based grocery chain, this month. And, in time for Easter 2022, Atlas Monroe will be entering a major American grocery chain with markets all across the nation — but Torres can't publicly reveal the store just yet.
It's no surprise that Atlas Monroe is finally expanding into brick-and-mortar stores, considering the company recently opened a new manufacturing plant in San Diego. Additionally, Atlas Monroe has made over $2 million in sales since 2017, more than $1 million in 2021 so far, and is projected to make $2 million in 2021 alone.
Torres is passionate about the impact the vegan lifestyle and diet can have on the world — especially the Black community.
"The fastest growing group of vegans is the Black community," Torres tells us, adding that many people of color go vegan for health reasons and to combat life-threatening illnesses, from Type 2 diabetes to heart disease.
"Our lives are at stake," she continues. "A lot of it has to do with food, but veganism is so much bigger than that. We're in it to save the animals, we're in it to save the environment, and I feel like, especially now, Atlas Monroe really has a responsibility to be that gate of: OK, yes we have this gorgeous, really delicious vegan fried chicken, but look at the bigger picture — we're not only saving our bodies and saving our health and saving our families, but we're saving our future and our community. And I just really feel like that's so much bigger than Atlas Monroe, and it's so much bigger than food."
Jada Spices' vegan chicken mix and chicken salt also made waves on ‘Shark Tank.’
In November 2020, Khasha Touloei and Maynard Okereke, the founders of Jada Spices, pitched their collection of spices and mixes on Shark Tank. They make a unique product called the Plant-Based Chick'n Mix, which is dry mix that simply needs to be mixed with water, oil, and spices; this forms a mince that you can use to shape into nuggets, tenders, meatballs, or any shape you want, before frying them up. The company also sells a plant-based pork mix, various chicken salts, and more.
According to Business 2 Community, Touloei and Okereke made a deal in the tank with shark Barbara Corcoran, who invested $250,000 in Jada Spices in exchange for 33 percent equity of the company.