Dragon's Den and Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae Sauce
UK-based TV aficionados will have spotted the burgeoning phenomenon that is Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce, the BBQ jerk sauce fast becoming a stellar success thanks to the likeable reggae singer's appearance on BBC2 venture capital show Dragon's Den. Levi won over viewers, and the Dragons, when he dispensed with the traditional approach to pitching, got out a guitar and strummed the praises for his product - 'so nice I had to name it twice… Reggae Reggae Sauce'.
Levi (real name: Keith) is likable, but he did not come across on the show as having a strong business head. Normally someone who made a mistake like he did with the figures (confusing millions with thousands) would be kicked out the Den with their tail between their legs. The Dragons evidently spotted the 'internet phenomenon' potential lent to the product by the song and by Levi's charisma, and thought they could make it a success as a result.
The product may taste good, but as the Dragons themselves say, that's not really enough if you don't have a strategy for selling it in the crowded market place.
Now does anyone else feel a little bit uneasy about some rich white guys using their contacts to push the product out there, and making a lot of money out of a figurehead who represents a black stereotype - i.e. a guy who is good at music and cooking but can't be taken seriously as a businessman?
I don't know what Levi Roots is like personally. Maybe he really is as laid back as he seems. Maybe in reality he has a ruthless business brain. Whether the character we see is really him or not doesn't matter. It is his persona that is selling the sauce, along with Peter Jones schmoozing with his best mates and getting it into Sainsbury's.
I know that exploitation is the name of the game on Dragon's Den, as it probably always is with venture capitalists. They have the money, the business nous and the contacts to extort a large share of the profits from the inventors. But in this instance it bothers me more than usual. Firstly, this is because there is a faint whiff of racism around the phenomenon. Secondly, it's because they are using the TV exposure in itself to make the product a success, removing the realism from the programme. What we are left with is yet another example of rubbish, phoney television, not worthy of BBC2.