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.

As stated above, Reggae Reggae Sauce is a Jamaican style hot sauce that promises to "put some music in your food" that first came to prominence when featured on Dragons' Den in 2007. Unlike the above noder, I cannot be arsed with any sort of fartarsing around with the morality of this product and am here to tell you what it is like as a sauce.

Given that this is a supermarket sauce, I didn't exactly expect it to be particularly hot. While it is made with lovely fruity Scotch Bonnet chillies, these are way down the list of ingredients on the label and as such neither the heat nor the fruitiness really comes to the fore. Granted, it's a bit hot, more so than tabasco but that's about it really. I couldn't find a source for how many Scovilles it is so I'm going to guess at around 17,500 or so. This means it's 3.5 times hotter than Tabasco but under 10% the heat of Dave's Insanity Sauce and a mere 1.17% the heat of the frankly psychotic Da' Bomb Final Answer. I rather suspect that so as not to scare off the punters the manufacturers de-seeded the chillies before putting them in, thus making the fatal error that heat and taste are mutually exclusive (they are not).

Taste-wise, it's fairly average barbecue sauce. I've had nicer. Claims of authenticity as a jerk spice mix are cast into doubt by the fact it's sold in supermarkets. There is also, as already set out, a disturbing lack of heat herein. There are better jerk sauces out there which are both tastier and hotter, I'm afraid, not least from the mighty Dave's Gourmet or even if you go into any West Indian store or takeaway anywhere in London for that matter.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not repulsive like certain products I can name but I have had better. As it is, it's just a slightly fancified barbecue sauce with a bit of chilli in it. Had it not been for its creator singing on Dragons' Den it would not be so popular. I personally have no real use for it. Sorry.

(IRON NODER 2011 2/30)

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