Slate: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

It's not often that the moguls on "Shark Tank" unanimously disagree with entrepreneurs about the taste of their company's foods and beverages, but when that does happen, it becomes a pitch that viewers remember for years. Even rarer is the occurrence of the same company staying afloat and finding tremendous success in the future. Such is the story of "Shark Tank" contestants Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky, who wanted to reinvent an iconic beverage: chocolate milk.

Lubin and Belinsky had a vision to make chocolate milk that was different from the nostalgic drink of childhood. They described their product as "better-for-you," geared more toward adults, and packaged using the same canning process as lattes, making the drinks shelf-stable (via YouTube). The true kicker, however, was that Slate claimed to have more protein and 75% less sugar than regular chocolate milks on the market, packing no more than 130 calories per can.

Even better, Slate's chocolate milks were made using an ultra-filtration method, which filtered out the natural lactose sugars in the milk, making the milks entirely lactose-free — a big win for lactose-intolerant dairy lovers. Slate's better-for-you chocolate milks for adults certainly seemed like they would be a quick winner in the tank. Alas, they were not.

What happened to Slate on Shark Tank?

There were several red flags that the sharks saw in Slate, leading them to back out in quick succession. For one, the taste of Slate's chocolate milks didn't impress the sharks. Mark Cuban was the first to react negatively to the dark chocolate version's flavor, despite being a consumer of dark chocolate himself. Barbara Corcoran felt that the milk had an unpleasantly dry mouthfeel, whereas Kevin O'Leary, known as "Mr. Wonderful," noticed a "funky chicken thing going on" in the drink — something no one wants to associate with creamy chocolate milk.

Slate's cans were also just prototypes when they appeared in Season 11, Episode 23 of "Shark Tank," meaning their business was at the pre-sales stage. To add to that, the entrepreneurs were seeking $400,000 in exchange for 10% equity, bringing Slate's valuation to a staggering $4 million without any revenue to show for it.

Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky tried to justify the valuation based on the industry connections of their alleged third partner, who they claimed was a food broker who had invested capital in exchange for a share of equity. The entrepreneurs argued that their mysterious partner had already arranged meetings for Slate with "four major retailers" at its prototype stage. But with no profits or sales to demonstrate, the sharks were far from impressed. The result? Slate walked out with less-than-favorable reviews from the sharks and without a single offer on the table.

Slate after Shark Tank

It's hard to go wrong with a childhood classic like chocolate milk, especially when it's transformed into a healthier form that adults, or even those intolerant to lactose, can enjoy. However, Slate seemed to have done just that. Fortunately, the entrepreneurs took the sharks' feedback to heart and turned things around for their canned chocolate milks. Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky decided to rework the prototype, spending a year improving the milk's formulation after their "Shark Tank" appearance. After that, Slate finally launched with three flavors of canned chocolate milk: dark, classic, and espresso classic.

Hoping to "give chocolate milk a clean slate," as Lubin told FoodNavigator-USA, the entrepreneur found that there was plenty of demand for the lactose-free, protein-rich drinks when they launched, despite the negative feedback from the sharks. If anything, the show helped raise awareness about the company and aided Slate in getting through the doors of key retailers. Sales soared by 300% from 2020 to 2021.

While Slate found no investors on "Shark Tank," the company went on to raise $1.7 million in early 2021 from outside financiers. Lubin and Belinsky also brought on board Lawrence Norman, a former executive at Adidas, and Laura Derba, a former regional president at Whole Foods, as advisors.

Is Slate still in business?

Not only is Slate still in business, but the company has also massively expanded since its appearance on "Shark Tank." After the $1.7 million funding round, Slate went from being in 300 stores at the end of the third quarter in 2020 to a whopping 3,000 stores later that year, including retailers like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. The entrepreneurs raised another $3.3 million in October 2021 and added more retailers to Slate's existing roster, with stores like Publix, Market Basket, and Wegmans selling its chocolate milks.

Slate has come a long way since its appearance on "Shark Tank," where the company was still at the prototype stage. In February 2023, the company raised another $10.5 million in a Series A funding round, bringing NBA player Terance Mann on board, among other investors, to finance Slate's rapid expansion. Slate has also extended its range of low-sugar, high-protein chocolate milks since "Shark Tank." New flavors like mocha latte, vanilla latte, and French vanilla milk have been added. The entrepreneurs have used the recent investment to expand beyond canned milks and into powdered mixes, too. Slate now sells milk chocolate and vanilla cream drink mixes — each with 20 grams of protein and no sugar — that can be whisked into milk, water, or any other liquid, and guzzled down.

What's next for Slate?

Looking at Slate's track record, the company's journey truly began to take off after its appearance on "Shark Tank." Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky have raised multiple rounds of funding, launched their chocolate milk prototypes commercially, introduced new products, turned Slate into a plastic-neutral company, and brought an impressive panel of investors on board. If these achievements are any indication, there's likely plenty more in store for the protein-packed chocolate milks.

In June 2023, Slate and UFC became official marketing partners, meaning the milk company's branding will be featured on certain pay-per-view events and Fight Nights. Slate's branding will also be seen on all episodes of "Dana White's Contender Series," as well as on all episodes of Season 32 of "The Ultimate Fighter." The company's focus for the coming years appears to be on expanding its retail presence, introducing new products, and increasing its awareness through significant marketing campaigns. While the sharks may not have wanted a sip of Slate's canned chocolate milks, their remarks certainly seemed to have spurred Lubin and Belinsky into improving their drinks and finding investors elsewhere, scaling their business tremendously.