Why Dragons’ Den £50,000 Jar of Beans is a Great Investment

Let’s make no bones about it – the cost of living crisis means it’s hardly the best time to launch a premium grocery product, let alone seek investment for such a business idea. But last night, Amelia Christie-Miller, fresh from persuading UK consumers to part with up to £3.50 for a jar of Bold Bean Co’s upmarket legumes, managed to convince the Dragons’ Den investors to stump up a £50,000 stake in her business.

I’ll not lie, when I first heard about Bold Bean Co, upon their application to the Startups 100, I was a cynic. Beans. In water. For £3.50? And then I tasted them – and I can’t go back.

I like beans. I’m pretty sure that my gran made me baked beans on toast for my tea every day for years on end. A tin would have cost pence back then, and in my head, it’s still pence now. But, a tin of Heinz costs £1.40 at most supermarkets today – food inflation strikes again.

Still, you can get unflavoured chickpeas or butter beans for about 50p a can. Though a jar of Bold Beans is bigger by net weight, is Christie-Miller onto a hiding to nothing asking consumers to spend seven times as much for one of her products?

£3.50 a jar isn’t as crazy as it sounds

On Dragons’ Den last night, Christie-Miller appealed to a largely unconvinced panel of Dragons. Many of them were promptly “out”. Deborah Meaden, however, who professes to follow a plant-based lifestyle, seemed more interested.

Christie-Miller had Meaden taste Bold Bean Co’s product, alongside a standard supermarket bean. From my own experience, I can tell you, the difference is night and day.

Plenty of consumers won’t be persuaded. After the Dragons’ Den episode aired, The Daily Mirror rounded up a scathing series of viewer reactions from Twitter/X. Most called out the cost difference of Bold Bean Co’s products versus Heinz and the like.

Cards on the table, I think Bold Bean Co’s giant-sized chickpeas and colossal butter beans are so good, they’re incomparable to a 50p can of the same. But, I wouldn’t bother spending Bold Bean money on its smaller beans, myself. The black beans seem no different to what you can get for well under a pound, for instance.

But, perhaps bean-on-bean isn’t the right comparison. Christie-Miller and her business’s mission statement is to get consumers “obsessed with beans.” She argues they shouldn’t be viewed as an upgrade on cheaper beans, but as a regular substitute for meat. Compare the cost of those butter beans (frequently discounted, in my experience, to around £2.70) to the price of a chicken breast, and you’re more in the ballpark of why this business makes sense.

Sustainable startups getting investment

In the end, Deborah Meaden was fully on board, putting up £50k for 7.5% of the business, to Christie-Miller’s delight.

Meaden saw the potential for huge further growth in Bold Bean Co’s future. The business has already demonstrated amazing progress. It started life as a “kitchen table” business idea only a couple of years ago, then became operationally profitable in 2023, and gained B Corp certification, while growing 100% year-on-year. It also won a book deal for its recipe collection, “Bold Beans: recipes to get your pulse racing”, which became an instant Amazon bestseller.

This year’s Startups 100 list suggests that climate-conscious eating is here to stay. Fighting climate change begins from our dinner plates. To hit ambitious emissions-reductions targets, we’re going to have to tackle a meat-eating culture that’s been built on a foundation of intensive farming.

Bold Bean Co was just one of the eye catching sustainable brands that made it into our 2024 Startups 100 rankings. Others include:

  • Better Dairy – Hackney-based ‘brewer’ of dairy products that are 100% animal-free
  • THIS™ – meat alternatives so realistic that even meat-eaters can’t tell the difference
  • Hoxton Farms – a food tech firm that’s “growing” cultivated fat for meat alternatives
  • Julienne Bruno – delicious vegan-friendly cheeses inspired by the Italian Burrata
  • Milky Plant – a machine to make plant-based milk from the comfort of your own home

As these startups continue to grow, they will play an increasingly important role in transforming the food industry. Brands like Julienne Bruno are already stocked in popular food joints like Pizza Pilgrims, while Hoxton Farms is preparing to sell its cultivated fat product as a B2B ingredient to enable the growth of meat alternative companies.

Of course, you may not yet feel persuaded by plant-based burgers (which have to fight a growing backlash against ultra-processed food), nor want to try products based on lab-grown animal cells. And that’s where good quality beans come in.

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