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Atlas Monroe is a California-based startup that focuses on delivering succulent plant-based meats with comfort food flavours. Known for its vegan fried chicken, the company was propelled to fame, following founder Deborah Torres’ appearance on Shark Tank.
From founder Torres’ iron-clad will to what many call the best friend chicken, animal or plant-based, that they’ve ever eaten, Atlas Monroe is a company to know, love and support. Here are our top five reasons why you need to get on board:
1. Atlas Monroe is a Black female-owned business
Black female-owned businesses in the food industry are making waves. Focused on recreating dishes that speak of community, heritage and love, these women are determined to add an extra nuance to their recipes in the form of health and democratisation.
Dietary racism is a scourge, particularly in the U.S, where many low-income communities struggle to access cost-effective healthy food. The result is a natural leaning towards cheap convenience meals that exacerbate prevalent conditions, particularly in BIPOC communities. Heart disease, obesity and diabetes are cited. Add in a higher likelihood of lactose intolerance and the need for accessible vegan and vegetarian options becomes clear. Atlas Monroe is one Black female-owned startup that never lost sight of who could benefit most from the products, similarly to Slutty Vegan, headed up by Pinky Cole, and Souley Vegan, founded by Tamearra Dyson.
2. Founder Deborah Torres knows her worth
When offered $1 million to hand over her entire company to Mark Cuban, on Shark Tank, Torres said no. She recognised the unusually high offer as a sign that there was scope for the company and a growing market for the products. She also knew that she had the power and skills to take the company to its full potential, alone. “The fact you guys are even offering a million dollars lets me know you do understand what we are worth,” she said in the episode. Even when faced with aggressive bullying tactics including being told, at volume, that “everybody in America wants to be here you are right now”, Torres did not back down.
3. Atlas Monroe is the world’s largest manufacturer of plant-based fried chicken
What happened after Torres turned down $1 million for her company? She turned Atlas Monroe into the biggest manufacturer of vegan fried chicken in the world. By the end of last year, the company was producing one million pounds of chicken, from its new multimillion-dollar plant in San Diego.
The need for new premises was highlighted by a surge in sales following the Shark Tank appearance. The company reported one year ago that it had topped $2 million in direct-to-consumer sales. Torres has remained humble and wry, telling VegNews, “I think God works in mysterious ways because what was meant to harm me propelled me to where I am today—the proud and sole owner of the world’s largest vegan fried chick’n manufacturing company and 100-percent owner of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility,” in an interview in 2021.
4. Vegan fried chicken was just the start of a groundbreaking menu
Plant-based crispy chicken might be where Atlas Monroe started but it has expanded significantly since. Today, patrons can find crispy chicken sat alongside lasagne, applewood-smoked ribs, bacon, stuffed turkey rolls and Caribbean rice. The company has sought to build on its legacy and offer more comfort and soul food options that many vegans and vegetarians think they have to miss out on.
The company makes its vision clear: to serve food that proves an alternative, healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be bland or sacrificial.
5. The Shark Tank appearance exposed systemic racism and misogyny
Setting food aside for one moment, Atlas Monroe being pitched on Shark Tank exposed the prevailing racism and misogyny that Black and female entrepreneurs face. Torres graduated high school at 15 before completing her first degree at 17. Despite this, the show, she claims, was edited to make her look incompetent. She has been explicit in her damnation of the edit that undermines her intelligence and business acumen.
“I was completely blindsided when it aired and had no idea the effect it would have on my life,” Torres told VegNews. “I mean, if we are going to talk about it honestly, just imagine being a Black woman in America graduating high school at age 15 and receiving your first degree at 17 all to be made to look like an idiot on national television for the sake of views, when you were just trying to pursue your dreams—it was crushing, to say the least.”
All photos by Atlas Monroe.