Jenny Goldfarb, Shark Tank contestant and founder of Unreal Deli, has risen from producing her vegan pastrami sandwich at home to selling her vegan deli meats across the US
Los Angeles, April 11th, 2023 — Among the many iconic things New York City has to offer, one of the most idiosyncratic is the abundance of deli establishments offering a variety of elaborate meat sandwiches. However, those who wanted a vegan deli would have missed that experience, until Jenny Goldfarb came along.
Jenny Goldfarb is the founder & CEO of Unreal Deli, which makes vegan deli meat. Growing up in New York with a family tradition of deli food, she went vegan after seeing documentaries exposing the suffering of billions of animals exploited by the animal agriculture industry. But, then, she found herself craving a classic New York deli sandwich. So, she decided to make a 100% plant-based pastrami sandwich… and it was delicious. What started as a kitchen hobby has turned into a spectacular business, catapulted to success when she appeared on Shark Tank and Mark Cuban invested in her company. Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli products are now available in many major supermarkets and big box stores including Costco, Publix, Whole Foods, Gelsons, Ralphs, Mendocino Farms and more.
UnchainedTV’s Jane-Velez Mitchell interviewed Goldfarb years ago when she was just starting to whip up plant-based pastrami in her kitchen in California’s San Fernando Valley. Now, she’s interviewed her again to discover the secret to her huge success. You can watch the entire, fascinating conversation here:
Shark Tank Investor Loves the Vegan Deli Concept
When Goldfarb participated in the reality competition show Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs pitch businesses to a panel of celebrity investors, she had already a small business going. She explains:
“After going vegan, cooking this way, coming up with Unreal Deli, selling to a handful of local delis in LA, and then we had a Whole Foods that was going to be coming on line, I was like, ‘this is time to go for Shark Tank’. We live in Los Angeles, so that’s the obvious next step.”
During her televised pitch, she managed to convey the vegan message, even as she wondered if it was going to be edited out. She was thankful the producers kept it in.
I could have just been like, ‘I went plant-based, it’s better for the planet. I could have just kept it really baseline, but that’s not my heart. My heart is, ‘I saw these videos because Jane Velez-Mitchell shares what’s really happening, and you can’t unsee that stuff.’ So, I wanted to make sure to get that message out there.”
Her pitch impressed all the “sharks.” One of them, Mark Cuban, decided to invest twice the cash she was asking for. As Goldfarb explains, that was the beginning of a very successful partnership:
“It’s been 3 plus years since I was on that show and I send an email to Mark every single Friday, no matter what, and he always writes me back. We have an amazing rapport.”
“Mark Cuban made a new investment in Unreal Deli a little over a year ago as a result of being so hooked on the success and caring about the story, and hearing from me every single week.” — Jenny Goldfarb, founder & CEO of Unreal Deli
What Makes Unreal Deli so Special?
The curated meats created by Unreal Deli are not only vegan but they contain lots of natural, plant-based, whole foods. This is what probably makes them special. Goldfarb explains what her vegan deli meats are made of:
“As far as what makes Unreal Deli different, each one of our meats has its own signature whole vegetables. So, we’re not just putting in a little shake of celery. We’re actually using, in our roasted Turkey for instance, cannellini beans, celery, onions and garlic and we’re making a full-on vegetable smoothie of those veggies. And now we are pairing them with things like vegetable broth spices and wheat protein to make all of our deli meats. Then, we do a really nice thin slice on that.”
The goal of the company is not just creating delicious New York-style vegan deli food, but helping animals and achieving the vegan paradigm shift. Indeed, she said…
“We have a few new meets coming that are also going to be best in class, and with a lot of humility and love for the animals, and just a lot of enthusiasm and drive, we can make this company a success, close slaughterhouses, and change sandwiches forever.”
“When I got into those first handfuls of delis, and we were seeing reorders, I knew that was the proof of concept because I figured that no one knows good deli meat better than these old school New York deli owners” — Jenny Goldfarb, founder & CEO of Unreal Deli
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Jordi Casmitjana is a vegan zoologist and author.