Alfonso Tejada made a pasta that fits every diet needs, from anyone who’s on a keto diet or allergic to gluten.
It’s so good, the UF alumnus said, his wife eats it three times a week. So he decided to to pitch the idea on one of his favorite shows, “Shark Tank.”
Eight months later, the UF alumnus and his product, Palmini, will be featured on “Shark Tank” at 10 p.m. Sunday on ABC. He will pitch the “sharks,” famous investors, to invest $300,000 to own 10 percent of his company. Tejada graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2009 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2011.
When he applied to the show through email in June, he didn’t expect to hear back. But the next day, he got a call.
“I was extremely excited,” he said. “I started jumping around because it’s one of those things that you don’t think is possible until it happens.”
Tejada said he founded his company, O.A. Foods, in 2012. It sells quinoa and chia products online, as well as the main product he marketed on the show, Palmini, which he created last year.
It’s a noodle made out of the vegetable heart of palm, Tejada said. It’s a pasta alternative for those looking for a healthy option or people with dietary restrictions preventing them from eating pasta.
He said a 75 gram serving has 15 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates, no sugar and is gluten-free. Seventy-five grams of Barilla, a popular pasta brand, has about 275 calories and 56 grams of carbs.
He filmed his pitch and conversation with the sharks in September and was told a week ago that his episode would air Sunday.
Tejada said he knew his pitch had to be creative and unique because only about half of the pitches that the sharks hear get aired.
He had his friend dress up as a can for the pitch to get the investors’ attention, particularly Mark Cuban. The multi-billionaire has experience in food and is the most recognizable out of the five sharks, he said.
Tejada came up with the idea for his product when speaking with a restaurant owner about the popularity of zoodles, noodles made from zucchini. He then asked his cousin, a heart of palm farmer in South America, if the product could be made with hearts of palm. Even though his cousin thought it was impossible, Tejada made it a reality by creating his own noodle machine.
Although Tejada said he couldn’t reveal if he got a deal with a shark, he wants to encourage entrepreneurs to apply for the show.
“It was an awesome experience, and I had a lot of fun while doing it,” he said.
Jack Renaud, a 22-year-old UF political science senior, said he watches “Shark Tank” a few times a month and thinks it’s good publicity for UF to have an alumnus on the show.
“It’s good for the university because it’s good to have aspirational people going out and doing things, especially in the popular entertainment world,” he said.
He said he thinks Tejada’s product is a good idea and plans to research it after the show airs. He recently became a pescatarian and is interested in products that bring awareness to healthy eating.
“It’s good to be conscious of what you’re eating,” he said.