May 19, 2021
In late 2019, an apron-clad Jenny Goldfarb appeared on Shark Tank and used her fast-talking New York hustle to convince Mark Cuban to invest in her nascent business. Today, Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli products have been recognized by Thrillist, the New York Times, and cows everywhere—who have deemed them “A TOTAL LIFESAVER!” This summer, Unreal Deli will release its third product: plant-based Steak Slices, which Mrs. Goldfarb says are Mark Cuban’s favorite of the line.
Mrs. Goldfarb is a self-described native New Yorker who loves a good deli sandwich. After being born in New York City, the young Mrs. Goldfarb and her family moved to southern Florida. Still, she retained her thick accent until age ten, when she trained herself out of it just in time to start liking boys. “I have so much love for New York,” says Mrs. Goldfarb. “I grew up eating all sorts of deli sandwiches as a kid. Corned beef pastrami was in my bloodline.”
Although she wasn’t a vegetarian growing up, everything changed when she first started seeing videos of factory farming as an adult. “I was so upset,” she says. “I felt heartbroken and then duped. My whole life, I’d thought [meat production] was humane and acceptable.” She began trying to cook plant-based meals for her family and they slowly transitioned to a vegan diet.
“There were a lot of lousy meals and trial-and-error,” says Mrs. Goldfarb. “But eventually it got better.” She then realized that while there were a lot of great vegan burgers out there, she couldn’t find a classic New York deli-style sandwich. She made her first one by pairing brines and flavorings with vegan meats. “My friends and family thought it was unbelievable,” she remembers. “Even the ones who thought I was a lunatic for bringing my family down the vegan road.”
Sensing she was onto something, Mrs. Goldfarb found a commercial kitchen in Los Angeles and rented it for $25/hour while she developed her first product: Corn’d Beef. She spent her days cooking and washing dishes alone, before packing up and driving around Los Angeles selling her product to delis. She ended up with so many reorders that Whole Foods asked for a premade sandwich—which became one of their most successful sandwiches to date.
“We use fresh organic local beets from a farm here in California,” says Mrs. Goldfarb of Unreal Deli’s products. “We use beans, whole onions, and garlic. There are real vegetables in all of our meats. We make a smoothie out of the veggies and pair them with dry ingredients, like spices, and then bake it.” Unreal Deli’s main production facility is actually a bakery, which means that unlike many of the popular plant-based burgers out there, their process is not at all lab-like.
After gaining some traction, Mrs. Goldfarb set her sights on Shark Tank. “It wasn’t in the plans from the outset,” she says. “But I was in Los Angeles and I started selling to movie studios and old-school delis, so I felt like there was something story-worthy happening. I also created this company in response to factory farming and I felt like I was coming from the right place, so it was worthy of Shark Tank.” The application process, she remembers, was long and strenuous. But then: “The sharks were eating my sandwiches! It was a beautiful experience. The most exhilarating of my life so far.”
After Mark Cuban decided to invest in her business, Mrs. Goldfarb had the capital to continue expanding. She was just getting into foodservice when COVID hit and Unreal Deli was forced to pivot to retail items in order to stay in business. After several months, Mrs. Goldfarb created Unreal Deli’s second product, their delicious Roasted Turk’y.
In June 2021, Unreal Deli will release its third product, and possibly Mrs. Goldfarb’s favorite: Steak Slices. “It’s this really incredible [vegan] roast beef with charbroiled edges,” she says. “It has totally exceeded all expectations. Honestly, I think it could rival a Beyond or Impossible Burger because it’s really meaty in every way.”
And the innovations don’t stop there. Mrs. Goldfarb is currently developing a line of premade sandwiches that she hopes will be a hit. “I’m hoping to sell them everywhere in the world,” she says. “Airlines, universities, grab-and-go grocery stores. Anywhere people are getting food on the go.” As for the company, Unreal Deli currently has a team of eight full-time workers and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop expanding anytime soon. Says Mrs. Goldfarb, “We’re growing in a lot of ways. It’s an amazing thing to see come to life.”
If you’re interested in ordering Unreal Deli’s products through Ace, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (718) 784 6000. We can’t recommend them highly enough. Enjoy!