Dragons’ Den favourites revealed

Ahead of the new series of BBC 2's Dragons' Den, business data site Company Check analysed all 187 businesses that have appeared on the show. Here are the top trends

Ahead of the new series of BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den, business data site Company Check analysed all 187 businesses that have appeared on the show. Here are the top trends

The Dragon lineup has much changed over the 13 series to date, however one thing has stayed the same: the Dragons have a real liking for food businesses.

In preparation for the start of the new series, the business data website Company Check has conducted new research into which industry has most success in the Den.

The results show that food businesses have been offered investment on the show more times than any other industry.

The research analysed all 187 businesses that have the sought after “I’m in” nod from the Dragons over the show’s history and revealed that almost a fifth  (17.11 per cent) of this investment went to food businesses.  

So apart from the free tasters, what’s behind the Dragons’ insatiable appetite for food based companies?

Jane Milton’s consultancy firm, Jane Milton Food Industry Expert, has worked with Dragons’ Den food businesses alongside Deborah Meaden. Jane cites the Dragons’ networks as a driving factor for the popularity of food businesses, saying:

“The Dragons work with food businesses because they already have experience in this market, they connect to experts in different fields who can offer advice, contacts etc and because you can make real changes, often without major investment.

“Food and drink are fast moving sectors where you can quickly see the effects of changes made. Because the Dragons have great contacts with retailers etc, they can open doors.”

Food businesses haven’t always been top of the menu in the Den; earlier series saw this sector receive the same amount of investment as other industries, such as technology, homeware and clothing.

It was in the first episode of series four that the heat was turned up on food business popularity; the musical entrepreneur Levi Roots pitched his ‘Reggae Reggae Sauce’ business and won investment from Richard Farleigh and Peter Jones. The rest is history; today, Levi Roots is worth an estimated £30 million.

From that point forward, the Dragons’ hunger for food businesses has continued to grow, with ice cream specialists Yee Kwan; manufacturers of authentic Indian sauces, Vini and Bal; and cakebaker ProperMaid all exiting the Den with the promise of investment.

However, for some entrepreneurs, the Dragons’ money isn’t everything and a positive reaction from the floor can be enough to inspire a foodie entrepreneurial venture. In series 13, Chikka Russell successfully received and accepted an offer of investment from the Dragons, however she later turned it down citing that very reason. 

“Food and drink businesses work on Dragon’s Den for a few reasons: first, there are major changes in consumer eating patterns and the large players are just not set up to innovate to meet the demand for new, contemporary food products. Second, the Dragons are inevitably all consumers of food and drink and can immediately have their own view as to whether it can be successful in the market place,” she theorised.

The Michelin listed chef and owner of The Ambrette restaurants, Dev Biswal, agrees. The Dragons are consumers too – if they’d like to eat that chocolate, drink that craft beer or eat in that restaurant, the chances are that their friends and family would too – it’s this gut feeling that can often mean be the difference between an ‘in’ or an ‘out’,” according to Biswal.

“Food has one of the largest profit margins of all commodities, and packaged foods especially have great returns. This sector of the market is constantly growing and changing – it’s an exciting place to be. It’s also an area that is dictated by trends – if the product is right at the time, the Dragons will strike while the iron is hot!”

Dragons’ Den returns to our screens on Sunday: how will the entrepreneurs fair against the Dragons’ tastebuds? 

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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