KidsLuv: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

When stay-at-home mom Ashi Jelinek was tending to her sick son back in 2017, it occurred to her that there were no kid-friendly drinks available that offered hydration and vitamins without added sugar. She wasn't happy with the choice between sugary fruit juices or gummy and chewable vitamins that were also filled with sugar and can cause cavities.

That was when she decided to create a nutrient-rich beverage for children that would provide nutrients without any additional sweeteners. She started experimenting in her own kitchen, but eventually sought out the assistance of a formulator to help her achieve her vision. After a year of trial and error, the first two flavors were perfected, Flying Fla-Mango and Starstruck Coconut. She called her new product KidsLuv and began marketing it as "the first zero-sugar, functional drink for kids that has certified vegan vitamins and hydration" (via YouTube).

In 2018, Jelinek founded The Luving Company and began seeking out funding in earnest while simultaneously working on new flavors of KidsLuv and developing the drink's branding and packaging. She eventually settled on sustainable, recyclable, and straw-free Tetra Pak containers that are shelf-stable, allowing the product to be stored without refrigeration for up to a year.

Having done the work to set manufacturing and distribution in motion, and attracting interest from a few large retailers, Jelinek was ready to take things to the next level. She sought a financial boost from a "Shark Tank" investor to help launch her business in a big way.

What happened to KidsLuv on Shark Tank?

KidsLuv appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2020, on season 11, episode 15. Jelinek sought $200,000 for 8% equity. Her pitch featured her young son Phoenix, who wore a motorcycle helmet. She stated that the sugar hidden in a daily glass of juice equaled 20 pounds per year. Pulling a rope attached to a sugar-filled bucket perched over the boy — she dumped it onto his helmeted head. To show how much sugar is in KidsLuv, she overturned another bucket, which was empty. She offered drink samples, with ingredients including the hydration powerhouse of coconut water, juice, water, and stevia. Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner liked it — although Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran mentioned a stevia aftertaste.

Since 2018, there had been $55,000 in sales, but $200,000 had gone toward development. Jelinek had raised $1 million through investments, most of which had been spent on licensing and IP rights — leaving just $50,000. Cuban exclaimed, "Just listening to this is so painful."

The hurting continued when Corcoran noted that it was unknown if the product would even sell. There were too many mistakes, and she wasn't interested. Cuban thought money had been wasted on marketing rather than sales, and he too was out. Kevin didn't like the lack of sales data, and the idea of giving her money made Herjavec nervous. Greiner summed up by saying that Jelinek had gotten into a trap. Ultimately, there was no deal made.

KidsLuv after Shark Tank

Undeterred by the disappointing outcome, Jelinek benefitted from the experience and the exposure. In a 2021 interview with The What Would U Ask podcast, she confirmed that "the 'Shark Tank' effect is real even if you don't get a deal," especially in the form of "invaluable exposure." Even though she felt the Sharks had been unfair in their assessment of her business strategy, she didn't allow the experience to knock her off of her path, and after the show, her business experienced a big expansion.

Within six months after the episode aired, KidsLuv was being stocked in Walmart and CVS stores, and could also be found on Amazon, Thrive Market, and GoodEggs, as well as purchased directly from the company's website. A crowdfunding campaign had begun on the StartEngine Marketplace — with which, ironically, "Shark Tank's" Kevin O'Leary is involved as a strategic advisor, shareholder, and spokesperson. By 2022, the product was subsequently available in Target, H.E.B., Central Market, King Soopers, Stop & Shop, United Supermarkets, and Vitacost.

Two new flavors were added to the brand's certified non-GMO, vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and sugar-free lineup. Beary Berry was released as an immunity booster made with vitamin D and zinc, and Peach Me, I'm Orange, with both peaches and oranges — considered to be among the best fruits for hydration.

Is KidsLuv still in business?

Despite the upward momentum and sales volume of KidsLuv after "Shark Tank," The Luving Company appears to have gone out of business. The brand's website is no longer available online, and its previously active social media channels are also no longer accessible, with the last posts on Facebook and Instagram being from 2022. While its storefront homepage on Amazon is still up, all of the products in its catalog show up as "currently unavailable" and can no longer be ordered. The beverages received mostly positive reviews on Amazon, with an average of 3.9 stars out of 5, so it does not appear to be that there was simply no demand.

The sudden disappearance of KidsLuv is surprising, considering the brand had survived the difficulties of operating through the early days of the pandemic. Strategic moves such as expanding its online presence and re-branding its product from being called a "juice infused water" to a "vitamin enhanced beverage" had helped it to stand out from its competitors and further define its messaging to consumers.

What's Next for KidsLuv and Ashi Jelinek?

There have been no official statements or explanations given as to what brought about the apparent end of KidsLuv. Ashi Jelinek has seemingly gone quiet about the endeavor, at least in public, as there is no recent news to be found either about her or her company. Jelinek's LinkedIn profile still lists her as the present-day CEO of KidsLuv, but there's little else there to go on, which might explain what happened.

The company had previously been researching new products, hinting at non-beverage multivitamin products and cutting-edge supplement formats, aiming to position itself as an innovator and disrupter in the health and wellness, children's beverages, and pharmacy verticals. While it's possible these are still in development, we may never know what they may have entailed.