Energybits: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

From Nature's Wild Berry to Poppi, "Shark Tank" has featured quite a few food, drink, and supplement products with a health slant. Energybits algae tablets, another purported health breakthrough, had the show's investors expressing a few strong feelings. Founder Catharine Arnston brought lots of passion and a unique backstory to her pitch. After her sister was diagnosed with cancer, Arnston began researching nutrient-dense foods to aid in recovery, and delved into the world of algae, which has many ecological similarities to edible seaweed. Arnston's sister survived, and the entrepreneur found her professional calling. However, the Sharks felt that her enthusiasm was misplaced.

When it was founded in 2006, the company was called Bits of Health. It evolved into Energybits by 2009, and appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2016. The Energybits website makes big claims about the benefits of its supplements — which contain the algae species spirulina and chlorella — but proof is scarce, requiring further study. Energybits cites small group studies connecting these algae with reduced muscle fatigue and cholesterol levels, increased athletic performance, and better immune system strength, but while the research is promising, it's extremely limited. 

At the very least, spirulina and chlorella are nutrient-dense, with both serving up 16 grams of protein per ounce and plenty of vitamins and minerals (via Healthline), but the Sharks weren't convinced. All four investors expressed hesitance over Arnston's marketing, her lack of proof that algae is a nutritional miracle, and her success (or lack thereof) before appearing on the show.

Did the Sharks eat up Energybits?

Catharine Arnston opened her "Shark Tank" segment by espousing the benefits of algae-fueled energy, and asked for $500,000 in exchange for 5% equity. A chorus of surprise from the Sharks was followed by grimaces as they tasted the "Energy," "Recovery," and "Skinny" varieties of the algae bits. Daymond John proclaimed the taste as "nasty," though Arnston did specify that they're meant to be swallowed, not chewed.

As Arnston shared further details, the skepticism from Mark Cuban was palpable. She mentioned more than 100,000 studies backing up her claims, but could not name one. At the time of the episode, Energybits was sold at $115 per bag of 1,000 tablets, with a $40 production cost per bag. The Sharks were even more skeptical after learning that sales totaled only $1.5 million over six years. Daymond John strongly questioned the supposed $10 million value of the company. Even Arnston proclaiming that she had sacrificed everything for Energybits, from going bankrupt to having her lights turned off, didn't sway the judges.

Kevin O'Leary cited the overblown valuation and non-proprietary product for his bowing out. Cuban felt Arnston's passion was out of touch with what was actually happening with her business. Lori Greiner cautioned about misleading customers with the branding for "Skinnybits," pointing out that it's unwise to claim anyone could become skinny by eating the tablets. Daymond John and Robert Herjavec also had some harsh criticism before saying, "I'm out," and Arnston left with no deal.

What happened to Energybits after Shark Tank?

After all the Sharks declined to take a bite, Catharine Arnston's confidence was not deterred. In the post-pitch interview, she boldly said, "Sorry, Sharks. There is nothing wrong with the valuation of the company [...] I don't need to convince anybody. If they can't see it, then that's unfortunate for them. It's not unfortunate for me, because I have a growing business."

Clearly, Arnston's resolve was not just for show. She has since appeared on numerous podcasts and programs to speak about Energybits, such as "Midlife Conversations with Natalie Jill," "Better with Dr. Stephanie," "Inside Out Health with Coach Tara Garrison," "Aggie, Your Biohacking Bestie," and "The Dr. Gundry Podcast." The product has also been featured in publications like Vogue, Fast Company, Elle, Vanity Fair, Shape, and Cosmopolitan.

As for the claims about the environmental and health benefits of Energybits, in 2019, the company was assessed by the National Programs National Advertising Review Board, a subset of the Better Business Bureau. When it comes to health claims, the organization found that "the only acceptable evidence would be well-controlled human clinical studies assessing Spirulina Tablets taken as recommended. The panel noted that the advertiser was unable to identify any such studies." Additionally, the board stated, "[Energybits'] environmental claim at best vastly overstates any possible environmental benefit and is not properly supported." Not even this verdict, though, would crush the company.

Is Energybits still in business?

When Catharine Arnston appeared on "Shark Tank," she insisted on the value of the health-focused mission on Energybits. Wth proper branding and investment, she was positive that algae would catch on. Energybits is still privately held, so exact financial data is not available, but the company is definitely still in business — even without the Sharks' endorsement.

Aside from offering the tablets for purchase directly from its website, Energybits are also available through retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and numerous stores that sell supplements and wellness products. This is a dramatic shift, because at the time that the product appeared on "Shark Tank," it was only available direct-to-consumer through the company's website.

As of 2024, there are four lines of bits available — Energy, Recovery, Vitality, and Beauty. It looks like Catharine Arnston did take Lori Greiner's advice and scrapped the Skinnybits line. The different products are all priced the same. Options range from canisters of 1,000 tablets priced at $150 to small bags of 360 tablets priced at $65. All the products only contain algae and no other additives. Vitalitybits combine both spirulina and chlorella, and Recoverybits only have chlorella. The Energy and Beauty products both contain just spirulina, and are actually exactly the same. The only difference is in the branding, as Arnston mentioned during her "Shark Tank" appearance.

What is next for Energybits and Catharine Arnston?

On the "Shark Tank" episode, Kevin O'Leary asked Catharine Arnston if she would finally call it quits after one more year of financial losses, to which she responded, "No, I'm never going to stop." What could be viewed as passion could also be seen as taking it too far. On the site Glass Door, numerous former employees complained about Arnston's management style and behavior, calling her "arrogant," "stubborn," and "unprofessional." One reviewer went so far as to say, "There's no advice in the world that can help this company if Catharine Arnston is still in charge." Others even questioned the ethics of the business, referencing its tenuous health claims and treatment of employees.

Regardless, Catharine Arnston remains active and committed to championing Energybits and an algae-powered lifestyle. Publicly, she continues to interview for programs in the health and wellness space. Most recently, Arnston appeared on a podcast episode of "Integrative Cancer Solutions" in April of 2024. According to her LinkedIn, this is just one of the more than 200 programs she has been on.