McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

There are many different types of vinegars, but ready-to-drink vinegars (also known as shrubs), made from vinegar combined with sugar and fruit, are not your standard fare. The history of drinking vinegars dates back centuries: Romans and Babylonians mixed vinegar with water, and the word 'shrubs' stems from the Arabic word for drink.

The flavorful liquids, considered by many to have health benefits, have seen a resurgence in recent years. This is partly due to the inventive ways they can be used in craft cocktails, as well as mixed with soda or used in culinary preparations, such as dressings and marinades. The growing market was one that Detroit-based Jess Sanchez McClary wanted to be part of in 2012 when she founded McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars, which she named after her twin sons.

McClary, who comes from a culinary background, first launched her namesake enterprise as a home bakery, called McClary Bros Bakehouse. A desire to use natural and seasonal produce led to her researching traditional preservation methods, including drinking vinegars. From this, the idea for a new business was born.

The entrepreneur spent several months developing the products and branding, with the help of small business loans. Made from unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with natural flavorings, the brand could be found at over 300 restaurants, bars, and other retailers across 17 states by the time McClary appeared on "Shark Tank" in September 2015. These included Busch's Fresh Food Markets and Whole Foods.

What happened to McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars on Shark Tank?

Jess Sanchez McClary appeared on season 7, episode 1 of "Shark Tank" asking for a $100,000 investment for a 15% stake. She wanted to use the investment to create her own facility and office space since everything was made at a metro Detroit food rescue, Forgotten Harvest. This organization rescues and distributes surplus food to help fight food insecurity, and McClary Bros partnered with it to help the nonprofit serve more meals as well as provide training for food manufacturing jobs. 

McClary Bros vinegars came in flavors such as beet and carrot, Thai basil, and a signature apple pie flavor. None of the locally sourced produce used to flavor the vinegar was cooked, which McClary believed made it more natural and nutritious. The company saw sales of $305,000 since launching and sold its 16-ounce containers of drinking vinegar for between $18 to $25. 

But the Sharks struggled to see the market demand. Lori Greiner understood the appeal but didn't drink liquor, so she was out. Mr. Wonderful thought it would be too difficult to invent an entirely new category. Guest Shark Ashton Kutcher described the bottles of old-timey vinegar as being stunning but, like a few other Sharks, felt the business was not exploring its full potential. This was mainly due to too much focus on cocktails and mixed drinks rather than broadening the appeal by exploring other options such as culinary usage. McClary Bros left without securing an investment.

McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars after Shark Tank

Despite not getting a deal, McClary Bros saw a huge boost in sales following its appearance on "Shark Tank." The impact was immediate: 1,000 new orders rolled in via the company's website the very next day after the show aired. Not only that, but web traffic was up 15,000%, and three days' worth of orders brought in $50,000 in sales. Within just a few days following the TV appearance, online sales matched what they had been for the entirety of the previous year.

There was a longer-term impact, too. Jess Sanchez McClary was able to double the number of staff she employed (from three to six) in the three months following the TV appearance. The increased publicity in the few months following the show, helped by repeated airings, drove sales of over $200,000, which was twice the investment she was initially seeking from the Sharks.

McClary Bros gained additional exposure in the media after "Shark Tank," too. Jess Sanchez McClary appeared on local TV interviews, and the drinking vinegars were featured in Forbes in 2016 as a must-try product for Fourth of July barbecues since they offer an opportunity to add depth and sweet-yet-tangy flavor in marinades or sauces. With the success, McClary had plans to open a second production facility in New Orleans with a focus on developing new flavors using fruits and vegetables grown in Louisiana.

Is McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars still in business?

Jess Sanchez McClary had big ambitions to grow her company after the appearance on "Shark Tank." As well as the increase in online sales, more retailers and distributors showed an interest in stocking the drinking vinegars, including all Michigan Meijer stores. McClary also opened a tasting room in Farmington, Michigan, where customers could seek expert advice on how to use and mix the products. 

But all signs suggest that the business was not able to find success in the long term. The McClary Bros website is no longer active. The Amazon storefront shows all products as unavailable. The company has not been active on X (formerly Twitter) since 2017. And Yelp has flagged the tasting room as being permanently closed following customer feedback.

Though the company shared its excitement about forthcoming collaborations, such as creating a new cocktail cube using the Michigan cherry-flavored drinking vinegar with Detroit bar Castalia as late as June 2020, the last Instagram post came in July of that year, showing a batch of apple pie shrub being prepared.

The lag in social media posts since has led many to comment on the last Insta video, with a good number of people asking whether McClary Bros was still operating. Some also appeared frustrated that they had not received their online orders and that the company was not responding to customer complaints and concerns about the lack of tracking numbers on puchases.

What's next for the McClary Bros Drinking Vinegars founder?

Although McClary Bros saw a boost after "Shark Tank," it was not enough to sustain its longer-term legacy. This could be due to the large number of new competitors entering the market at a similar time to McClary Bros as the popularity of the flavorful and versatile vinegars began to grow. 

It appears that founder Jessica Sanchez McClary has left entrepreneurship altogether — although she may still be involved in helping others in the food industry. A website for Detroit Startup Week 2017 listed Sanchez McClary as a speaker, noting her then title as co-founder of In The Business of Food. The success of her drinking vinegars brand apparently led to her involvement with the Detroit-based organization, which offers support, development, and consultancy services to other food entrepreneurs with a focus on workshops and advice for POC-owned businesses and nonprofits.

However, she is no longer listed on the company's website. Instead, it appears she has since moved into sustainable farming. The McClary Bros company also worked closely with local farmers to source ingredients for its drinking vinegars, so it's likely an industry Sanchez McClary knows well. But after the publicity whirlwind that followed the "Shark Tank" appearance, she has kept a much lower public profile in the years since, so her precise plans for the future — and her current position — remain unclear.