Dragons' Den: It wasn't a wrap for Kath Austin
Kath Austin has responded to the criticisms of BeeBee Wraps on Dragons' Den last night (Sunday).
The Cambridge-based entrepreneur, who started the ethical food wrap company from her kitchen in 2017, was pitching the five dragons on the BBC2 show for £60,000 investment.
It all started out really well, when dragon Peter Jones revealed he already used the sustainable cling film alternative to cover the food in his fridge at home, and Deborah Meaden sharing that she makes her own beeswax wraps using a homemade formula perfected over many years.
However, Deborah didn't like the smell of the BeeBee product, and founder Kath Austin has since responded to that criticism by adapting the formula of her wraps to reduce the smell - and she's done this by not using beeswax sourced from bees who live near heather.
"We have changed the ingredients and then tested the smell of the wraps," says Kath, who notes that filming took place in May. "What we found is that the beeswax makes the difference to the smell and not actually the resin.
"We batch code every single pack so know where every ingredient originated. We now know that the wraps that appeared in the Den were made using wax from beehives located around heather on heath land. We noticed this carried a much more astringent aroma than beeswax from hives near for example rapeseed or wild flowers.
"BeeBee Wraps are a natural product that rely on natural ingredients and so there will be some variation in scent and colour. Having said that, the honey scent of our wraps tends to get a hugely positive reaction from customers. When out at stalls people always rush over exclaiming at how wonderful it smells. We understand that for some people, the fragrance isn’t for everyone so, if you’re sensitive to it, we recommend washing the wraps a few times with cold soapy water and the smell should diminish."
Following on from the smell, the dragons raised concerns about the margins. The wraps - they last up to a year - sell for £14 a set, but the difference between the cost of production and the price to wholesalers is only a couple of pounds and this caused some consternation among the more bottom-line focussed dragons (which is all of them).
"Our business is a social venture and run to benefit the environment and people," Kath retorts. "We care about creating a financial viable business so we can achieve our the environmental impact that sits at our core, benefit our shareholders and reward our staff."
At the same time, however, there was a move to cut costs.
"We realised we needed to make some cost savings to maintain a healthy margin," Kath says. "Our production processes have been reviewed and streamlined, we have reviewed our supply chain to ensure we order above the price breaks to benefit from the discounts available and we are looking at further ways to cut out laborious aspects of the manufacturing process.
"Overall, the exposure proved beneficial, if only because it kickstarted other processes which have improved the product and service. In the time since filming took place BeeBee Wraps has grown further, we have signed a contract with Green Pioneer to distribute our products across Europe, we've outgrown BBHQ and are moving to premises twice the size, and we are working with Abel & Cole and Milk & More to deliver BeeBee Wraps to doorsteps across the UK."
Also on Dragons' Den last night were Cranes Drinks, the supplier of upmarket drinks based on cranberries. Founders Dan and Ben Ritsema, whose company is based in Croydon in South Cambs, were less than distraught to have not received any investment from the TV stars.
"It was a great experience," Ben, the managing director, told the Cambridge Independent. "Obviously they edited it with out showing our side of the story. We have already crowdfunded twice with a valuation of £3million. So have over 500 investors that thought the valuation was fair. The fact we are also stocked in Asda nationally, Morrisons regionally - around east Anglia - and we're launching into Ocado this week as well as Co-Op east of England means that we are getting some great traction.
"The dragons don’t have a great foothold in the alcoholic drinks market so always going to be a bit of a challenge. They always want a large percentage in the business, even though we didn’t get the investment the exposure for the brand will be great."
Kath Austin concluded of the process: “My experience in The Den was very intense, it’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once. When the lift doors open and five Dragons are quietly sat looking at you expectantly you realise it is a once-in-a-lifetime performance.”