Oat Haus CEO opens up about appearance in new episode of Shark Tank
Questions and answers
We chatted with CEO Ali Bonar about creating Nut Free Oatmeal Spread, tackling his eating disorders, and introducing sharks as a Philly brand.
When you look the new episode of Shark aquarium this friday night you will see Ali Bonar, a resident of Fishtown, launch her granola butter business, Oat Haus, to the âsharksâ Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary and Barbara Corcoran, as well as to the guest shark Daniel Lubetzky of Kind Bars.
But creating the nut-free spread involved more than just being an entrepreneur – it also stemmed from her struggles with eating disorders. We met her to find out all about her career and Shark aquarium start.
I have to admit I had never heard of Oat Haus until I learned that the company was offering the new episode of Shark aquarium. Are you from Philadelphia?
No. There are three founders: me; my eight year old boyfriend, Eric Katz; and our friend Ari Schraer. We are all from California. In fact, we just moved here in January of this year in order to have a bigger facility. California real estate is so expensive, and we needed something much bigger. We were open to looking anywhere, and both of Eric’s parents lived in Philly for a long time. He has a lot of family here. So we said: Let’s do it.
Presumably, you were able to get a much better deal here?
We were paying $ 6,000 a month in San Diego for 2,000 square feet of space. It was share space out. And here we found our own home in Warminster for the same price for 12,000 square feet. And the three of us live in Fishtown. The drive to Warminster isn’t great, but we realized we had to live in the city to make friends.
California in Fishtown seems like a major lifestyle change.
Oh my God! Night and day. It couldn’t have been more different. I wanted something like New York or Philly that had energy and drive, not a live-to-surf mentality. The people here seem really genuine and genuine. They don’t just say things to seduce you to make you happy. They don’t just tell you what you want to hear.
How old is Oat Haus?
We started the company in 2018, but just changed our name in July of this year. We were previously known as Kween.
Excuse me, Kween?
[Laughs] My personal Instagram account was @AvoKween, because I love avocados. I wanted @AvoQueen, but it was taken. So we called the product Kween. But then I realized most people don’t follow me on Instagram, so it really didn’t make sense.
But Oat Haus does, considering you’re making an oatmeal spread. Where did this idea even come from?
I went to UC Berkeley for the nutrition. And that’s where I developed an eating disorder. Well, the troubles. Binge eating. Anorexia. Over-exercise. And what we now call orthorexia.
What is that?
It is the idea of ââeating perfectly “clean”. I was terrified of eating foods that were processed or containing “bad” ingredients or possible allergens, and developed OCD behaviors around it. My friends saw me eating only salads, and they said I had very good nutrition. But what really happened was that I had created a mental prison for myself.
And where does Oat Haus fit into all of this?
My recovery from all of this really required the introduction of foods that I had terrified for so long. Eventually I turned to peanut butter and almond butter, but my gut just couldn’t handle them after years of restriction and binge eating. So I was in my kitchen in California trying to make a spread of Something. I tried the sunflower butter stuff, but just didn’t like the taste. And finally, I landed on oats, and that’s where Oat Haus comes from.
I just had the chance to try Oat Haus Original Granola Butter. I don’t have any dietary restrictions or allergies, but I could easily see this in the pantry on a regular basis. Are you targeting people who are allergic to nuts or have certain restrictions?
We see a lot of people like you. We’re not trying to be that keto / macro-friendly / gym-bro product. Given my background, I want to give back joy and pleasure to eating – something that is so often lacking in the wellness area. Yes, this is a high quality, healthy, nut free product, but it tastes great too. At the same time, it is important to manufacture them in-house for our customers without allergens. The alone what we produce is granola butter. There is therefore no problem of cross contamination.
You forgot vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO and dairy-free.
And you can pronounce all the ingredients.
I compared the nutrition label of Oat Haus Original Granola Butter to the ânaturalâ peanut butter I had in my pantry, and it looks like you’re pretty close to that in terms of all of those numbers.
We are super comparable.
As for Shark aquarium himself, was this your first time applying to be on the show?
No. We had already applied three times. But this time they contacted us and invited us to reapply. I was like, if we don’t, I am not do that again. I had a feeling that maybe because they contacted us, we might have a better chance of being on the show. We applied in February and shot in Los Angeles in July.
We’ve heard so much about the great worker shortage of 2021. Has it affected Oat Haus?
A. Thousand. Percent. We really struggled to hire. I feel very lucky to have the team we have right now, but it has been difficult to get here. In the tech industry, for example, it’s easy to find people on LinkedIn and other online sites, but for production-type work and manual labor, it doesn’t work as well. We have resorted to posting flyers at bus stops and in Warminster Parks.
And where can we find Oat Haus, and how much does it cost?
We sell it on our website for $ 12.95 for a jar or a pack of three for $ 32.95. We’re at some Whole Foods in New Jersey for $ 9.99 and just launched the Gopuff. You can also find us on DiBruno Bros., Way of the weavers and Reap Mini Mart. We have a smoothie collaboration with the Wellness refinery in the old town – great in smoothies!