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Rebel Cheese

Rebel CheeseHusband and wife team Fred Swar and Kirsten Maitland want a Shark to bite on Rebel Cheese, their line of vegan cheeses, in Shark Tank episode 1509. The couple operates a cheese shop in Austin, Texas where they make and store their cheese. They also have a small restaurant there. Like many businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, business slowed and they turned to eCommerce to drive more sales.

Kirsten and Fred use traditional cheese making methods in all their cheeses. The only thing different is they use nut milks instead of animal milk. They have a bunch of cheeses available. Flavors include: Smoked Cheddar, Brie, Sundried Tomato Fromage, Pepper Jack, Honee Pistachio Chèvre, Gruyere, Balsamic Fig & Walnut Fromage, Parmesan, Truffle Chèvre, Truffle Brie, Spanish Paprika Chèvre, Ash Chèvre and Cinnamon Cognac Gjetost.

Customers can build a box of cheese (minimum 4 flavors) or purchase a curated box for $115 to %158. Individual cheeses range from 5.4 to 8 ounces and they all cost around $20. The cheese is comparable to “gourmet cheese” pricing. Currently, they sell in their store or on their website. They likely want a Shark’s help with customer acquisition and expanded retail sales.

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Posts about Rebel Cheese on Shark Tank Blog

Rebel Cheeses: A Plant-Powered Twist on Tradition

Rebel Cheese Shark Tank Recap

Fred and Kirsten enter the Shark Tank seeking $750,000 for 5% of their company. Fred asks the Sharks “who doesn’t love a cheesy love story?” A boy falls in love; he’s a romantic who loves to create European style picnics. The girl loves the picnics, but it meant the relationship centers around one very important ingredient: cheese. Then, the girl goes vegan and the boy goes vegan. Since there are no truly artisinal vegan cheeses on the market, the boy and girl go into business together and create Rebel Cheese.

It’s THE artisinal vegan cheese company that is inviting vegans back to the picnic. They create real cheese made only from plants. Just like with love, there are no short cuts. They spent years mastering the artisinal vegan cheese technique such as culturing and cave aging to create the most perfect cheeses with textures and flavors that will fool even the most committed cheese lover. Imagine a creamy brie with a real rind or a sharp cheddar smoked with mesquite chips. With over 20 different varieties, they’re here to revolutionize the vegan cheese game. They ask the Sharks “who’s ready to take a bite out of the vegan cheese market?”

Samples and Questions

The Sharks have the 5 top selling SKU’s: brie, honey pistachio spread, sun-dried tomato fromage, sharp cheddar and pimento. Lori LOVES it. Kevin wants to know if they’re primarily cashew and Kirsten says they use multiple ingredients. What sets them apart is their technique. They have caves which they cave age the brie in. Robert thinks the brie is incredible. There are 4 ingredients in the brie: water cashews, salt and culture which makes it “super clean.” All the Sharks love their cheese and Mr. Wonderful says the one they nailed it on is the brie; there’s no way too tell the difference. Emma thinks the textures on the different flavors are all the same: mushy and pasty. The texture is throwing her off a little bit.

Robert wants to know if they’re the only vegan cheese makers; they aren’t. Kirsten says there is nobody making artisan vegan cheese at the scale they are. Their production facility can make 8 million wheels of brie per year. They have 3 sales channels: eCommerce through a subscription model which is 16% of their business, a wholesale program which is 17% of their business and their restaurant which is 67% of their business. During Covid, the restaurant suffered which is when they went into eCommerce. That’s when their wholesale program took off and now they are in over 100 retailers.

Let’s Talk Numbers

Kevin wants to know the price versus a traditional high end brie. Their brie costs $4.67 to make, it’s wholesaled for $9 and the MSRP is $15-$20 per wheel. Real brie runs between $10-$20, so they’re right there on price. Last year (2022) they did $2.5 million in sales. This year (2023) they’ll do $3.5 million. They’ve been profitable all 4 years in business, but this year they’ll break even due to the efforts they put into scaling. Next year they’ll be in 500 stores which will put them at $7 million just in distribution revenue.

Kevin thinks that at a $15 million valuation they asked for too much money. He says if anybody here should invest in this it’s him, but he’s out. Mark abruptly offers $750,000 for 10%. Lori mentions her deal with Boarderie, which will surpass $30 million in sales this year. They have no vegan cheese. Lori is happy to go in with Mark. Robert interjects and says he’s out. Emma goes out too.

Mark says $750,000 for 10% and they get 2 Sharks. Fred counters with 6% and Mark says no. Kirsten counters with $1 million for 10% and Mark says no. Mark says he’ll go to a grocery store in Austin and hand out samples. Lori touts her instant distribution with Boarderie. When Fred counters with 7.5%, the Sharks laugh. After they ask to step into the hall to chat, Kevin admonishes them for worrying about 3%. After some hesitation, Fred and Kirsten accept.

Rebel Cheese Shark Tank Update

The Shark Tank Blog constantly provides updates and follow-ups about entrepreneurs who have appeared on the Shark Tank TV show. The company saw a major uptick in online sales after the original air date. A popular seller was their “Shark Tank Box” which featured the 5 flavors they gave to the Sharks on the set. As of the first re-run of this episode in June, 2024 (6 months after the original air date), there is no evidence the deal with Mark and Lori closed as the company doesn’t appear on either of their websites. Reliable revenue figures are unavailable at this time.

The Shark Tank Blog will follow-up on Rebel Cheese & Fred Swar and Kirsten Maitland as more details become available.