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Levi talks about business from roots upwards.

Posted by matthew | On: May 29 2012

DRAGONS’ Den helped sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots bring a taste of the Caribbean to the UK in 2007 and he hasn’t looked back since. Diana Pilkington reports.

With a calm nod of the head, the 53-year-old confirms the business is worth £35 million.

“I don’t believe you can imagine that kind of success,” he says in his gentle Jamaican lilt, cutting a striking figure in a green Ozwald Boateng suit and stacks of silver jewellery.

“I knew I had it in me, clearly. I knew the sauce was immense.

“But to be invited to dinner by Prince Charles and to be invited to Number 10 and have Camilla telling me that she knows me – she knew me more than I knew her! Where I was five years ago, it’s impractical to think things like that would take place.”

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Last year, Roots was sued by former friend Anthony Bailey, who claimed that he formed the recipe for Reggae Reggae sauce. Bailey ultimately lost the case and the pair doesn’t speak any more.

Roots says: “I can either look at 2011 as the most horrible year of my life or the greatest year of my life. The worst part was that the whole lot was open, my life was open to the press and it was a lot of stress, and people you knew didn’t think the best of you.

“But the best part is that it’s all behind me and I’ve managed to get the monkey off my back and prove to the world that what was being said wasn’t true. And I stress the latter – I think it was the best year, as divergent to the worst, with all the unconstructive part of it.”

Despite winning the legal battle, Roots admitted in court that some of the sauce’s back story – that the recipe had been handed down by his grandmother and that he’d sold it at the Notting Hill Carnival for 15 years – was created to help market the product.

But he is confident this has not affected his business and insists his grandmother was always “an inspiration behind everything I do”.

“It’s just about the story. And all we have to do now is be careful about how we tell the story. I think everyone in food now has this thing about a grandmother’s recipe, so everybody has to be careful now!” he laughs. “Inspiration and actuality are two different things.”

 

 

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