The long-running show, which has expanded across 15 European countries (under different names), involves entrepreneurs pitching business ideas to a handful of wealthy businessmen and women.
Nearly a fifth (17%) of the successful pitches across the 13 UK series aired so far came from food and drink companies – significantly more than any other category.
Detailed figures from shows across the EU were not available but Company Check, which carried out the study, said ‘Dragons’ in other countries have also shown a leaning towards food and drink concepts.
Chika Russell, who secured an investment for her Chika’s Snacks business in the Den, said new food products are so popular because the big players aren’t set up to meet the major changes in consumer eating patterns.
Ireland’s Aruna sauces, free from gluten and additives, and Denmark’s Chriis, made with soya not dairy, are cases in point.
Food industry expert Jane Milton, who works with a number of the Dragon food businesses, said the investors work with food businesses because they already have experience in this market – and what’s more they have the contacts at supermarket headquarters.
“Food and drink are fast moving sectors where you can quickly see the effects of changes made,” she added. “Because the Dragons have great contacts with retailers they can open doors.”
The backing of a wealthy Dragon or Lion isn’t the be-all and end-all. Hot chocolate brand Koawach’s €120,000 backing in the German version of the show, Die Höhle der Löwen (The Lions’ Cave), fell through. Still, 10,000 orders were placed in the 48 hours after the company had appeared on TV.
Sixty seconds in the spotlight was also enough for Hungry House. A deal for the UK-based takeaway service collapsed but it has proved to be the most successful food business to appear on the show with a net worth of £1.8M (€2.1M).
The UK Dragons’ interest in food and drink brands was boosted by the backing of Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae sauce in series four (2007), said Company Check. Two backers invested a combined £25,000 for a stake in the company, which is now worth an estimated £30m.
Into the dragon’s den
In Ireland, husband and wife Sarajit Chanda and Sarah Nic Lochlainn secured €30,000 in return for an 8% stake in their Aruna Sauces business.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, Christina Jorgensen and Regitze Ericcson, both 21, secured an investment of kr. 450,000 (€60,500) on the Danish version of the show, Løvens Hule (The Lion’s Cave). They went in asking for kr. 350,000 (€47,050) for their soya ice cream company, Chriis, and investor Ilse Jacobsen liked the product enough to offer €11,900 more than they asked for, in return for a stake of 30% (rather than the 15% they asked for initially).
In Germany, where the series is also called The Lions’ Cave – Die Höhle der Löwen – spiced hot chocolate company Koawach, pitched by Heiko Butz and Daniel Duarte, saw their deal involving a €120,000 investment fall through after the show. Nevertheless, 10,000 orders were placed in two days following the show.