MUSH: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

A new type of overnight oats called MUSH got its start in the unlikeliest of places — Wall Street. The company's founders Ashley Thompson and Kat Thomas were both working for Goldman Sachs in 2015 when they decided to make the jump from finances to the food industry. Motivated by the lack of nutritious food options that would fulfill and fuel them through their work days, they tapped into their entrepreneurial skills to create their own. They zeroed in on a favorite treat Thompson used to make for herself as a kid — oatmeal soaked in milk — and transformed it into a wholesome, ready-to-eat product that could be sold in stores. The pair quit their jobs and moved to San Diego to focus on MUSH full-time, and developed it into a protein-rich, high-fiber, dairy-free, and gluten-free breakfast food with no added sugar.

They began by selling small batches at local farmer's markets, collecting customer feedback along the way, and eventually got the product into Whole Foods. While still making MUSH by hand with limited resources, demand was high, but the company had reached its limits. Thompson and Thomas were aiming beyond just expanding and making sales; they sought to start a revolution in the food industry and help sever America's dependency on sugar.

When the brand was approached by the producers of "Shark Tank" with a chance to be on the show, the two founders took it as the perfect opportunity to meet not just their financial but also their aspirational goals.

What happened to MUSH on Shark Tank?

On November 26, 2017, Thompson and Thomas appeared on "Shark Tank" in season 9, episode 12 seeking $300,000 for a 10% stake in MUSH. Their pitch introduced the product, and then they offered samples. The original vanilla bean is made with rolled oats (which are the best type of oats to use when mixing up overnight oats), soaked in house-made almond milk, flavored with vanilla bean, and California's freshest dates. The Sharks also tried dark cacao, Michigan blueberry, and cold brew.

The company's first year of sales generated $70,000 with $120,000 the following year once in Whole Foods. The next year was projected at $900,000. The average unit cost $0.70 to make but sold for $3.99. The episode was remarkable in that the Sharks began circling the waters immediately, intent on making a killing.

Rohan Oza made the first offer of $400,000 for 20%. Mark Cuban counteroffered $300,000 for 10%, plus an unlimited credit line, and then Barbara Corcoran offered the same. An argument ensued, with Mark insisting that the valuation wasn't important since the women weren't looking to sell their company; they were interested in revolutionizing the food industry. Oza claimed that he could make MUSH into the next PopChips, at which point Cuban shut him down by sarcastically quipping, "Yeah, PopChips changed the world in ways we can't imagine" (per YouTube). Thompson and Thomas laughed out loud at the smackdown and didn't hesitate to accept Cuban's offer.

MUSH after Shark Tank

The deal turned out to be a good one for both Mark Cuban and the owners of MUSH. Right after the show aired, the company experienced the well-known "Shark Tank" effect, when they were thronged with orders via their website — so much so that they had trouble keeping up with the massive amount of emails and ended up running out of their oatmeal containers.

A far more difficult situation arose when co-founder Kat Thomas had to leave the company due to serious health concerns, as revealed in a 2019 update episode of "Shark Tank," in season 11, episode 2. While she still has equity in the company, she is no longer part of its operations. Ashley Thompson was left to the challenges of a growing business on her own, but as she said in her update interview, "Mark Cuban couldn't have come at a better time" (via YouTube). 

With Cuban's investment, MUSH acquired machinery that allowed production to soar from an output of 6,000 daily to 50,000 (via Instagram). Distribution had blown up from the product being in 150 stores to over 3,500 throughout the United States, and within a year and a half of being on "Shark Tank" with $200,000 in sales, earnings had grown to $5 million by the time of the update. Cuban proudly boasted that next would come "seven million, to twenty million ... this is a rocket ship, and I'm glad to be part of it" (per YouTube).

Is MUSH still in business?

MUSH is still going strong and has become a multi-million dollar force to be reckoned with, spearheading major changes in the overnight oats category. On the three-year anniversary of his investment in the brand, Mark Cuban gushed that "literally, it is one of my favorite 'Shark Time' companies of all time" (via Instagram). As of May 2024, it's available in more than 11,000 retail stores, including Bristol Farms, Costco, Erewhon, Kroger, Publix, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, Wegmans, and many others. It's also available online through sites like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, as well as on its company website and its Amazon storefront. Options there include single flavors along with variety packs.

The brand has expanded its flavor options, which now include apple cinnamon, maple cinnamon, PB&J, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, and strawberry. Along with its standard flavors, MUSH gets released in seasonal favorites like pumpkin pie as well as in limited edition store exclusives. Carrot cake, peaches and cream, and snickerdoodle were only available on the MUSH website and at Whole Foods while the cinnamon roll flavor was released as a limited edition only on the website and at Alfred Coffee locations in Los Angeles.

Positioning itself as a better-for-you convenience food, the brand puts a spotlight on fitness content through its social media channels, and in 2023, partnered with Dot Foods to get product placement in gyms, coffee shops, colleges, and other smaller format locations.

What's Next for MUSH?

Visible signs of MUSH's continued growth include the fact that the company is actively seeking wholesalers. Its relationship with Mark Cuban continues, with the brand listed on Cuban's website along with other successful "Shark Tank" companies such as Pan's Mushroom Jerky.

Along with continuing its push to be stocked in more stores nationwide, the company hinted on social media about its latest innovation in March 2024, which eagle-eyed commenters on Instagram noticed as new convenient pouch packaging. MUSH and its CEO have continuously received awards and accolades. In 2020, Ashley Thompson made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and in 2021, MUSH was chosen as the official breakfast of the Chicago CUBS. In 2022, MUSH made People Magazine's 65 Best Supermarket Products of the Year list, and it also won the top honor of the Mindful Awards' Breakfast Product of the Year. 2023 put the company at number one on Instacart's Fastest-Growing Emerging Brands list, and in 2024, Good Housekeeping gave the Best Snack Award for Best Overnight Oats to two MUSH flavors (maple cinnamon and peanut butter).

To further entice new fans to try its overnight oats, the company offers one free cup via rebate through its website. To participate, you just have to agree to receive marketing messages, purchase your MUSH from a local store, and then upload your receipt as proof. The company provides refunds through a variety of online payment apps like PayPal or Venmo.