Keith Valentine Graham, a man also known as Levi Roots, brought joy to millions when he turned his Reggae Reggae Sauce business into a mammoth success. Here was a character who inspired and gave pleasure but here also was a man who had to out himself yesterday in a London courtroom as an utter fraud.
Keith Valentine Graham (AKA Levi Roots) with his Reggae Reggae Sauce
In February 2007, Roots appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den and pitched successfully to get a £50,000 investment from Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh for 40% of a sauce company that he claimed was based on his grandmother’s recipe and had been “the taste of the Notting Carnival for 15 years.” He captivated the nation with his enthusiasm and the result subsequently was the most successful ever investment return for the Dragons.
Dragons' Den's Peter Jones (second left) and Richard Farleigh (far right) pictured with Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Duncan Bannatyne
The memorable television appearance resulted in Sainsbury’s immediately signing up for the sauce and in the coming months Roots had a hit with his “Reggae Reggae Sauce Song” and won a CoolBrand award. The product flew off the shelves and in July 2007 it was revealed Sainsbury’s who had expected to sell 50,000 bottles in year one, were actually selling 40,000 to 50,000 a week. Today the business, which now includes numerous other lines, is said to be worth some £30 million and also has its products carried in Morrison’s and Asada and used by Subway, Pizza Hut, JD Wetherspoon, Domino’s and Birds Eye.
Sadly, the inspiring tale of Reggae Reggae’s mammoth success has now been proven to be nothing other a “marketing ploy.” Roots, yesterday, during a court case with a former business partner, Tony Bailey, had to admit when questioned that the origin of the sauce was nothing to do with his grandmother and that the Notting Hill claim was fictitious:
Roots' colourful former business partner: Tony Bailey
“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.”
He also admitted to lying about his claims to have been selling Reggae Reggae Sauce for fifteen years and when questioned by Ian Glen QC, on behalf of Bailey, who called him a “barefaced liar,” commented:
“It's not about sauce, it's about Levi Roots. It [the carnival stall] was only popular because it was a Levi Roots stall.”
Levi Roots tweets about his court case
Separately, on his Twitter account Roots described those challenging him in court as “angry posidons gorgols and lostrigonian cyclops” before adding: “They can’t harm me.” I’d certainly agree with that: Roots, in Nietzsche-esque fashion, has illustrated that “success is always a great liar” and he is indeed singlehandedly responsible for his current predicament.
Frankly, consumer confidence in Reggae Reggae will most probably deservedly drop through the floor whatever the outcome of this case but will the Gerald Rattner of sauces be able to make a comeback from this terrific own goal?
For more on Levi Roots and his sauces go to: http://www.reggae-reggae.co.uk
Follow Levi Roots on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/levirootsmusic