For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Court asks: what's the source of Reggae Reggae Sauce?

This Kat admits to indulging in the occasional episode of the BBC's Dragon's Den, both for the (sometimes) inventive products created by the contestants and for their (sometimes) complete lack of commercial awareness. One episode she well recalls involved Levi Roots (right) pitching for an investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce product in 2007. Mr Roots entered the 'Den' by serenading the 'Dragons' with the 'Reggae Reggae Sauce' song on his guitar. The song had such memorable lyrics as 'it's so nice I had to name it twice' and 'put it on your chicken, make burgers finger lickin'. During the course of his pitch to the Dragons, Mr Roots stated that for '15 years he had been marketing the sauce at the Notting Hill Carnival' and it was made from a secret recipe handed down by his grandmother. After a grilling from some of the Dragons, he was able to secure £50,000 in investments from Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.

Shortly afterwards, the Reggae Reggae Sauce was sold through national supermarket chain Sainsburys, where it moved almost 500,000 bottles in the first three months. Mr Roots has been hailed as one of the most successful contestants on Dragons' Den.  Mr Levi's success story has been shattered in recent days, though, following admissions he made during actions for breach of confidence and breach of contract against him in the High Court. Chef Tony Bailey claims that it was his recipe that the pair used on their jerk chicken stall at the Notting Hill Carnival. Bailey claims that he composed the list of ingredients which is the basis of the Reggae Reggae Sauce, while Roots claims that he created the Reggae Reggae Sauce from a basic jerk sauce recipe, before experimenting with adding and removing ingredients until he arrived at Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Mr Bailey and Sylvester Williams also claim that Mr Levi cut them out of a valid contract to launch the sauce together and are seeking more than £600,000. Mr Roots claims that any contractual arrangements between himself and Mr Bailey and Mr Williams had eneded before his appearance on Dragon's Den.

The cross examination of Mr Roots had uncovered the real truth behind many of the claims he made both in his Dragon Den's appearance and on the marketing material for the product. In particular, Ian Glen QC asked him:

'On the bottle of sauce, it says "Our family in Jamaica have been blending home-made jerk sauce since way back, and for years it's been the taste of London's Notting Hill Carnival." Is that true?'
With what sounds like commendable honesty Mr Roots replied:
'No, that's not true. It's a marketing ploy. When I was trying to market the sauce, I thought of every conceivable way that I was connected with music and the Notting Hill Carnival. I cooked all that in a bag together and tried my best to make a story about it.'
On the issue of whether the Reggae Reggae Sauce was made from his grandmother's recipe, Mr Levi also admitted that this was also untrue:
'My way of trying to market the sauce when I started out was to put in all my experience with people in my life and my family. I was trying to create the flavour that my grandmother used to cook for me'.
The hearing continues.

Meanwhile, the IPKat recalls that this is not the first time a recipe has sought to be protected as confidential information/trade secrets, occasionally giving rise to potential myths. He has heard that the original copy of the formula for Coca-Cola is held in the SunTrust Bank's main vault in Atlanta in the United States and that only two executives have access to it. As to the recipe of 11 herbs and spices used by Kentucky Fried Chicken in preparation of their chicken, the IPKat has also heard that portions of the secret spice mix are made at different locations in the United States and the only complete, handwritten copy of the recipe is kept in a vault in corporate headquarters. Are there any others?

Regardless of the outcome of the actions for breach of confidence and breach of contract, Merpel wonders what the Advertising Standards Authority will make of Mr Roots' revelations in court.  Will Reggae Reggae be facing the music by getting into trouble under the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice, the CAP code?

Reggae CAPs here

4 comments:

Mark said...

Interesting line of defence. I candidly admit that I lied in many ways, so you should believe me when I say that I didn't steal the recipe.

"I shot the sheriff, but I didn't shoot his deputy, no, no.."

Peter Smith said...

According to Jamie Oliver in his programme last week, the recipe for Lea & Perrins' Worcestershire Sauce is another closely guarded secret. The company's website states, "only a privileged few know the exact ingredients".

Anonymous said...

The exact ingredients of Worcestershire Sauce may not be known, but we know they put anchovies in it. Which is why Henderson's Relish will always be nicer. http://www.hendersonsrelish.com/

Anonymous said...

The appeal has also now been reported:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/1469.html

No joy for the claimants though.

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