Dragons’ Den appetite for food businesses puts industry at top of the investment tree

Dragons' Den

While the Dragon lineup has changed over the years, one thing has remained consistent; their appetite for a food business. As the new series prepares to air, new research by business data website Company Check shows that food businesses have received investment more frequently on the show than any other industry.

The research, which analysed all 187 businesses to have been promised investment in the Den in its 13 series, shows that almost a fifth (17.11%) of all investments went to food companies.

Jane Milton heads up Jane Milton Food Industry Expert, a consultancy firm that works closely with Deborah Meaden and the Dragons’ Den food businesses, suggests this popularity comes from the Dragons’ ability to connect with a wide range of contacts to help them make the business a success. She said:

“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 so popular on the Den. In earlier series, other business types like clothing, technology and items for the home were equally popular.

In series four, however, things changed when Levi Roots pitched his business ‘Reggae Reggae Sauce’. Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh bought into the musical entrepreneur and today, Levi himself is worth an estimated £30 million. Interest in food businesses rose thereafter, with many food companies including Yee Kwon, Vini and Bal and Propermaid hearing the infamous ‘I’m in’ words.Chikka Russell appeared in the Den in series 13. She accepted an offer from the Dragons for her food business but later turned it down, feeling that the reaction of the Dragons gave her confidence to go-it-alone. She said:

“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.

“It was a great experience going on Dragons Den to have our business model challenged in that environment and be vindicated with five offers.  Although I accepted Peter Jones’ offer initially, during the whole process I gained the confidence to realise that while it might be easier to get outside help from a Dragon I could go it alone. And, ultimately, knowing how hard it is to build this business I didn’t want to share it with anyone who wasn’t going to sweat it in the same way as I do.”

As the new series of Dragons’ Den airs this weekend, it will be interesting to see whether the taste of the Dragons has changed, or if food businesses will still win out.

Company Check also analysed the most common traits of successful pitches. You can see their infographic which visualises these traits at http://hub.companycheck.co.uk/anatomy-successful-dragons-den-pitch/